By Professor Matodzi
HARARE, January 5, 2016 – Zimbabwean authorities have freed three union leaders who were arrested on Monday after police suppressed an anti-government protest.
Police on Monday stopped a group of protesters outside Parliament Building in central Harare as they marched towards two key ministerial portfolios-the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare-to present a petition over the government’s delay in remunerating civil servants.
Police arrested Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) President Obert Masaraure, Secretary-General Robson Chere and Programmes Officer Pride Mukono during a demonstration which commenced from Market Square, a bus terminus in downtown Harare.
Masaraure, Chere and Mukono were taken to Harare Central Police Station, where their lawyer Gift Mtisi of Mtisi Musendekwa Legal Practitioners battled with police officers to secure the release of his clients after arguing that they needed medical assistance as they had sustained injuries from police assault during the protest.
The RTUZ leaders who were charged with participating in an illegal demonstration and who denied the charge were eventually released into the custody of their lawyer and the police indicated that they would summon them to appear in court if needed.
Meanwhile, Lynette Mudehwe, the coordinator of the Zimbabwe Activists Association told Radio VOP that one activist Rutendo Kawadza had to be hospitalised at a local medical facility after she sustained injuries from the police assault.
Masaraure and Mukono’s arrest is the second one in less than one week after they were detained and prosecuted last week for allegedly plotting to stage Monday’s anti-government protest.
The two will return to court next week on their first charge of resisting arrest and participating in an illegal gathering.
President Robert Mugabe’s administration failed to pay most civil servants their salaries for the month of December including bonuses for 2015.
The government only promised the government workers to expect payment of their December salaries on Tuesday, a decision which prompted nurses and doctors to down tools beginning last Friday.
Tension is rising in the troubled southern African country, where political and human rights activists protest that President Mugabe and his ZANU PF government have presided over the collapse of a once prosperous economy through mismanagement and corruption.
The mismanagement worsened last month with Harare’s failure to remunerate government workers who had to endure a “dry” festive season. Critics warn that economic hardships are likely to worsen in 2016 as the government battles to fix the agonising economic crisis.