Chiadzwa Police, Army Victims Remembered

By Professor Mutodzi

Mutare, October 20, 2016 – A LOCAL civic group has organised a meeting to commemorate the deaths and maiming of hundreds of citizens by the state in Marange diamond fields 2008.

Meanwhile, a Mutare magistrate has barred a police attempt to interfering with the commemorations scheduled for next month.

The event is being organised by a local empowerment and pressure group, Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT).

The discovery of rich alluvial diamond deposits in Zimbabwe’s eastern area 2006 led to thousands of unemployed Zimbabweans invading Chiadzwa to pan for the precious mineral.

But in efforts to secure the area for the resumption of formal mining activities under government supervision, the state dispatched members of the national army, the para-military police wing and dogs to drive out the panners.

Several deaths were reported in the area during the so-called Operation Hakudzokwi although government has denied any such occurrences.

The Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT) has since organised annual commemorations for the tragedy.

The NGO October 13 wrote to the police notifying them of their intentions to hold a non-political meeting to commemorate the period on November 01 at Bambazonke Business Centre in Marange in Manicaland province.

But last Friday, CCDT was informed that the ZRP did not approve of the holding of the meeting and had issued an oral prohibition order to that effect.

The reasons advanced were that CCDT was supposed to furnish the Member in Charge of Bambazonke Police Station with a Memorandum of Understanding entered into with Mutare Rural District Council to facilitate the holding of the meeting.

This prompted CCDT to engage Peggy Tavagadza of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who filed an urgent application challenging the police ban and seeking to set aside the ZRP’s oral prohibition order.

In the urgent application filed at Mutare Magistrates Courts, Member In Charge of Bambazonke, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo were cited as respondents.

Tavagadza argued that the conduct of the Member In Charge of Bambazonke Police Station as the responsible authority was unlawful for failure to comply with the law he purports to be administering.

Tavagadza charged that CCDT is exempt from notifying provisions of POSA as it is not a political grouping, thus the notice itself to ZRP was just on courteous grounds rather than seeking authorisation the police who appeared to be awarding themselves unjustified powers.

Tavagadza further argued this was an attempt to infringe on Section 58 of the national Constitution which guarantees freedom of assembly and association.

But the presiding magistrate on Wednesday set aside the police oral prohibition order and interdicted them from disturbing or interfering in any way with the meeting.