Landmark Judicial Decision As Zim Court Sets Free CSO Leaders

By Professor Matodzi

Harare, July 27, 2015 – A Zimbabwean court on Monday ordered the release of three civil society leaders who were detained beyond the prescribed 48-hour period following their arrest for allegedly contravening one of the country’s tough security laws.

Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) and police officers on Saturday ambushed and arrested three Civil Society Organisations (CSO) leaders Mfundo Mlilo, the spokesperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, CiZC) and the director of the Combined Harare Residents Association, CiZC programmes manager Nixon Nyikadzino and Dirk Frey, the spokesperson of Occupy Africa Unity Square movement and charged them with contravening Section 25 (5) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

The prison and police officers alleged that the three CSO leaders failed to give notice of a gathering that allegedly took place last Friday outside the premises of Harare Remand Prison or alternatively Section 5 (2) of the Protected Places and Areas Act. The police claimed that Mlilo, Nyikadzino and Frey were part of 60 CSOs representatives and informal sector traders who visited Harare Remand Prison on a solidarity visit to some detained National Vendors Union Zimbabwe leaders and some traders.

But the trio’s lawyer Gift Mtisi of Musendekwa Mtisi Legal Practitioners and a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Monday afternoon filed an application seeking the immediate release of his clients and arguing that their rights had been violated and should be set free as they had been detained beyond the prescribed 48-hour period as provided for in Section 50 (2) and (3) of the Constitution.

While the State which opposed Mtisi’s application and which wanted to have the CSO leaders placed on remand in custody to 06 August, the human rights lawyer insisted that his clients must be released as the police had not secured a court order to extend their detention beyond the 48 hours.

Mtisi argued that it would be illegal for Harare Magistrate Tendai Mahwe to entertain the State’s intentions as doing so would perpetuate an illegality. In the end, Magistrate Mahwe agreed with Mtisi and ordered the immediate release of Mlilo, Nyikadzino and Frey in a landmark judicial decision.