Magistrate Learnmore Mapiye on Thursday ended the four-day detention ordeal for the three, Fidelis Mudimu, Zachariah Godi, and Tafadzwa Geza arrested on Monday after police raided their offices.
The three representatives, who were transferred from the capital city Harare to the second largest city of Bulawayo, were however, charged for causing malicious damage to property, in contravention of Section 140 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, four days after their arrest on Monday.
James Zidzimu and Penn Bruno arrested together with the three were later released on Monday evening.
Watson Ofumeli, a photographer with the Daily News was also arrested while covering the police raid of the CSU offices. Ofumeli was taken to Harare Central Police station where he was briefly detained and only released after being forced to delete the pictures that he had taken.
Police claimed that the CSU was in possession of material that “defaces any house, building, wall, fence, lamp post, gate, elevator without the consent of the owner or occupier thereof,” in contravention of Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
According to State prosecutor Marlvin Nzombe, the three CSU representatives together with some unidentified individuals smeared some MDC graffiti on an information centre located in Mpopoma high density suburb in Bulawayo 07 October 2012.The State claimed that the CSU senior staff members inscribed the words “MDC” and “MDC Chinja Ndizvo” on a bill board and on a durawall surrounding the information centre.
Mapiye granted the employees a bail of $100 each after they appeared at Bulawayo’s Tredgold Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon.
As part of their bail conditions, Mapiye ordered the three to surrender their passports to the Clerk at Harare Magistrates Courts and to report once every week on Mondays to CID Law and Order section at Harare Central Police Station.
The lawyers, who represented the three CSU senior officers, registered their complaints against the inhuman and degrading treatment that their clients were subjected to including over detention, being shackled while being moved from Kwekwe to Bulawayo, denial to wear spectacles while in Bulawayo police cells and the raiding of the CSU offices on the strength of a defective search warrant.
The lawyers included Dr Tarisai Mutangi, Godfrey Nyoni, Blessing Gorejena, Lizwe Jamela, Jeremiah Mutongi Bamu and Nosimilo Chanayiwa, who are all ZLHR members.
“We are going to be meeting the Commissioner General today to complain heavily,” said National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) executive director Cephas Zinhumwe.
“The positive thing is to meet and record our complaints with him. We might or we might not get a positive response. The positive response for us is to have our members occupy their social and operational space by being able to work,” he told Radio VOP.
Zinhumwe accused the police of going against President Mugabe’s continued calls for a stop in violence and other violations.
The civic groups also vowed to lodge their complaints with President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai if Chihuri ignores their pleas. They also demanded MDC politicians to come clear on where they stand while NGOs were being harassed.
“The removal of the three staff to Bulawayo after exceeding the required time for a court appearance and the further detention order with no defined charges or substantive evidence of illegal activities constitutes serious and illegal harassment,” read the press statement that was delivered by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Abel Chikomo.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter has also complained of a renewed police harassment of journalists as talk of elections escalates.
This week a Weekly Mirror Editor, Dennis Kagonye, was on Wednesday fined $100 for operating a mass media service without a licence in contravention of Section 72 of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
Kagonye, who had been arrested on Tuesday, was slapped with a further suspended sentence of six months imprisonment on condition he does not commit a similar offence within the next five years.
Prominent media lawyer, Alec Muchedehama castigated the arrest of Ofumeli, noting that laws in Zimbabwe were not friendly to the practice of journalism or the free flow of information.”