Zim Authorities Intensify Onslaught Against CSOs

By Professor Matodzi

Harare, July 27, 2015 – Zimbabwean authorities on Saturday intensified its onslaught against civil society leaders and activists by ambushing three leaders outside a courthouse for allegedly leading an unspecified revolt.

Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) officers first arrested journalist Edgar Gweshe and activists Charles Nyoni and Don Makuwaza, the mobilisation and membership recruitment officer for Chitungwiza Residents Trust on Friday and handed them over to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, who charged them with contravening Section 5 (2) of the Protected Places and Areas Act Chapter 11:12 for allegedly failing to comply with a directive from an authorised officer regulating conduct and movement.

The three, who are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Legal Practitioners, were arrested at Harare Remand Prison during a solidarity visit by leaders and representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) to some detained informal sector traders and their union leaders.

Prosecutors charged that the activists were part of about 60 vendors who gathered outside Harare Remand Prison and held a meeting whose agenda was not known. ZPCS Superintendent Renias Chiwakaya reportedly ordered them to disperse but they allegedly resisted the order resulting in a police officer firing some warning shots. The prison officers reportedly confiscated a camera and some mobile phone handsets which they claimed had been used by Gweshe, Nyoni and Makuwaza in taking photographs outside the prison complex

On Saturday, some prison and police officers teamed up at Rotten Row Magistrates Court, where they ambushed and arrested three CSO leaders Mfundo Mlilo, the spokesperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, (CiZC), Nixon Nyikadzino, the CiZC programmes manager and Dirk Frey, the deputy chairperson of the Occupy Africa Unity Square, who were following up on the appearance in court of Gweshe, Nyoni and Makuwaza.

At the time of their arrest, the prison and police officers alleged that the three had taken pictures and had led a “resistance” at Harare Remand Prison on where they allegedly led about 60 CSOs representatives and informal sector traders on a solidarity visit to some detained National Vendors Union Zimbabwe leaders and some traders.

Mlilo, Nyikadzino and Frey, who are represented by Gift Mtisi of Mtisi Musendekwa Legal Practitioners, a member of ZLHR, were taken to Harare Central Police Station and were expected to appear in court on Monday.