By Professor Matodzi
Harare, November 22, 2016 – POLICE on Tuesday arrested Pastor Philip Mugadza after the cleric had chained and padlocked himself on some fencing rails at Africa Unity Square in protest against President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Africa Unity Square is a popular park adjacent to the parliament building in central Harare where activists have been staging several anti-government protests.
Police details sent to arrest him had a torrid time trying to unshackle the firebrand preacher who protested the alleged violation of his constitutionally guaranteed rights to demonstrate and express himself.
Mugadza was taken to Harare Central Police station by uniformed police officers who later handed him over to detectives at the Law and Order division.
Detectives preferred criminal nuisance charges against him for allegedly contravening of Section 46 (2) (v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
“In less than one week, ZLHR has had to deploy its lawyers to offer emergency legal services to Pastor Philip Mugadza, who was arrested for simply exercising his fundamental rights and freedoms related to freedom of assembly and association, freedom to demonstrate and petition and freedom of expression as guaranteed in Zimbabwe’s Constitution,” reads part of a statement released by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights whose lawyer Gift Mtisi is representing the clergyman.
Mugadza’s arrest on Tuesday is the second in less than one week after he was first apprehended last Friday at Africa Unity Square and charged for allegedly wearing the country’s national flag without first seeking permission from the country’s authorities.
Prosecutors claimed that Mugadza, who has, since last year been staging protests against Mugabe’s government, contravened Section 6 of the Flag of Zimbabwe Act by unlawfully and intentionally wearing or displaying the national flag without securing prior permission from the “secretary” as required by the controversial law.
The prosecutors charged that Mugadza insulted, showed disrespect for the flag and brought the flag into disrepute.
Mugadza was set free last Saturday on $50 bail, which was granted by Harare Magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe who remanded him out of custody to November 29.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of an agonising economic and political crisis which critics blame on Mugabe and his administration.
However, the Zanu PF leader denies the charge and accuses western government for imposing sanctions against himself and some of his lieutenants and working with opposition political parties to undermine his administration.