The High Court is expected to rule on an urgent application by the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) for permission to march through the streets of Harare and other parts of the country.
The arrested students in Harare were taken to the Harare Central Police Station where they are being detained. The police arrested the students under the notorious Public and Order Security Act (POSA) saying that they did not have police clearance to be gathered at a public place.
In Masvingo, however, police made a sudden U-turn and withdrew the police clearance they had issued to ZINASU, only saying that they had “received orders from Harare to do so”. The police arrested 10 students including ZINASU’s secretary for legal affairs, Aleck Tabe.Tabe is also the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) president at the Masvingo Poly-technical College.
“The action by the police to try and stop students from demonstrating shows that there is still much to be done in reforming state institutions in Zimbabwe,” ZINASU said in a statement on Monday.
Students said they were converging countrywide to demonstrate in order to also mark the historic March 29, 2008 elections which saw the opposition parties getting a majority seat in Zimbabwe’s Parliament.
“The behaviour by the police is shocking considering that they were notified of the protests one week in advance. They are using the notorious POSA to suppress the students’ rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. ZINASU President, Joshua Chinyere will hand over a petition to the three principals of the Inclusive Government in the afternoon,” said ZINASU.
Radio VOP witnessed the police beating the protestors, numbering about 100, singing protest songs and with placards written, ‘Restore
Academic Freedoms’ and ‘We demand full implementation of the GPA”
The students-among them a few females-were left scampering for cover as the police rounded up some of them who were on the frontline, including Tabe. They were whisked away to the police cells immediately.
Acting provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Prosper Mugauri confirmed the arrests, but could not release the names of the
other students as he referred further questions to national police spokesperson, senior assistant commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena.
ZINASU co-ordinator, Mfundo Mlilo, condemned the police behavior, saying it further curtails the rights of students to assembly as they are ‘the voice of the voiceless’.
“The behaviour by the police is shocking considering that they were notified of the protests one week in advance.”