Police in the Zimbabwean capital Harare this weekend detained 11 people taking part in a procession in support of missing activist Itai Dzamara, leading rights group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said on Monday.
The activists were arrested and held for six hours in Glen Norah township on Saturday. They were charged with criminal nuisance, the group said in a statement.
They were part of a group of people travelling together in 22 cars, all headed for Dzamara’s house in the township “where activists wanted to commiserate with his family”, said the statement. The cars had posters of Dzamara displayed on them. Other reports say police alleged the protesters were driving recklessly and sounding their horns. Four cars were reported impounded.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said in a tweet: “[Police] asked why the procession is on the day the #SADC delegation is coming into town…. Clear the streets SADC is in town!!” A SADC summit on industrialisation is being held in Harare this week.
Father-of-two Dzamara has been missing since he was abducted on March 9. Lawyers have obtained a court order obliging police to look for him but critics of President Robert Mugabe and his government suspect they are not trying very hard. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it holds the authorities directly responsible for Dzamara’s disappearance.
Dzamara was arrested and beaten by police in October and November 2014. He had led small protests in central Harare calling on Mugabe, 91, to step down.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said: “The arrested were generally well-treated by the police except for an incident in which seven police officers stormed the holding area to harass [activist] Dirk Frey, after they suspected him and a colleague, Stephen Sibanda of scribbling on the graffiti-infested walls of the holding cell.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said last week that Sibanda believes he is being stalked by unidentified men.
Commenting on the arrests, prominent Harare blogger @joeblackzw tweeted Monday: “I’ll never understand ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police], this is self-defeating.” Former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) journalist Noreen Welch tweeted: “There will be justice one day Itai Dzamara.
The European Union and the US have said they are concerned about Dzamara.