POSA Arrests Irk Rights Lawyers

Victoria Falls, June 30, 2014 – The country’s leading defence group,
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has railed against the police
for continuing to curtail rights activists’ freedoms.
Four Bulawayo Agenda officials Mmeli Dube, Butholezwe Kgosi Nyathi,
Nthombiyezansi Mabunda Tozana and Thulani Moyo over the weekend
endured two nights in police custody in Victoria Falls, in
Matabeleland North province after they were arrested Saturday and
charged with contravening section 25 (1) (b) of the Public Order and
Security Act (POSA) for allegedly failing to notify the regulatory
authority when they held a public meeting in the resort town.
But Dube, the Research, Information and Advocacy Officer, Nyathi, the
Senior Programmes Officer, Tozana, the Community Organiser and Moyo
were freed on Monday by Victoria Falls Magistrate Sheron Rosimani
after their lawyer Thulani Nkala, a ZLHR member filed a bail petition
challenging their arrest.
ZLHR accused the Zimbabwe Republic Police of abusing the country’s
tough security laws to inhibit activists’ right to freedom of assembly
and association after police officers on Saturday arrested and
detained four officials from Bulawayo Agenda (BA) for allegedly
contravening some provisions of the Public Order and Security Act
(POSA).
“ZLHR is concerned by the police’s obsession to continue curtailing
citizens’ fundamental rights by abusing and using some provisions of
POSA as the arrest of the Bulawayo Agenda officials contravenes
Section 58 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of assembly
and association,” the human rights group said in a statement seen by
Radio VOP.
Dube, Nyathi and Tozana, who all reside in Bulawayo were ordered to
pay bail amounting to $100 while Moyo who is based in Victoria Falls
paid $50. Magistrate Rosimani remanded the four BA officials to 31
July. Prosecutor, Takunda Ndovori, of the National Prosecuting
Authority represented the State.
Zimbabwean police have routinely invoked some provisions of POSA to
block civil society meetings and to arrest activists.
But in May, the High Court set aside the conviction of former MDC-T
Chimanimani West constituency legislator Lynette Karenyi who had been
convicted in 2011 for contravening Section 25 (5) of the Public Order
and Security Act Chapter 11:17.
State prosecutors had charged that Karenyi and her MDC-T counterpart
Freddy Dziwande had unlawfully and intentionally held an unsanctioned
political meeting at Zimunda Village under Chief Muusha in
Chimanimani, where she addressed about 50 MDC-T supporters.
The prosecutors claimed Karenyi had no lawful authority to hold a
political meeting without securing authority to do so by the police.
The conviction and sentence irked Karenyi’s lawyers, David Tandiri of
Tandiri Law Chambers, who is also a board member for ZLHR, and
Blessing Nyamaropa of ZLHR to file an appeal against conviction in the
High Court.
In their appeal, Tandiri and Nyamaropa argued that Magistrate Sekesai
Chiundura erred in not considering Karenyi’s defence or explanation
that she was not the convenor of the meeting and that she had relied
on the evidence of state witnesses in convicting the former MDC-T
legislator and dismissed the evidence of defence witnesses.
The human rights lawyers also argued that Magistrate Chiundura lacked
appreciation of the provisions of Section 25 (5) of POSA, which the
ZRP has routinely abused to the extent of making Zimbabwe a police
state.
High Court Judges of Appeal Justice Francis Bere and Justice Charles
Hungwe overturned the conviction and granted the appeal sought by
Karenyi and found the former MP not guilty and acquitted her for
contravening the draconian legislation