«L’OBSERVATOIRE EL OBSERVATORIO pour la Protection des Défenseurs para la Protección de los Defensores de des Droits de l’Homme Derechos Humanos ...»
On the morning of February 14, the officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Law and Order agreed to release all but seven of the detainees, who were due to be charged under the Criminal Code and to proceed to Court on February 15, but this decision was overruled, and the 138 activists spent two nights in arbitrary detention. However, on February 15, the police officer made it clear that he had decided to charge all 138 activists and would thus take them to court as soon as 138 warned and cautioned statements were recorded from the detainees and sets of fingerprints obtained from them. In light of the grave concern that surrounded the safety of Ms. Magodonga Mahlangu, who had been detained separately, an Urgent Court Application for her release was immediately drafted and filed with the courts.
Whilst the group was not taken to Court on February 15, 2007, Detective Assistant Inspector Mathe, Officer in Charge of the Law and Order section of the police force proceeded to take the docket to court of the Senior Public Prosecutor’s for directions, where he was advised to immediately release the detainees and if necessary to proceed with the case in future if there was sufficient evidence that the detainees had committed a crime by way of summons. At about 5 pm, all activist where duly released, five hours after the 48-hours deadline specified by the law had passed.
There were complaints of assault at the time of arrest, constituting an excessive use of force. Injuries included various bruises, welts and contusions and a broken tooth. None of the injured was permitted medical attention.
Police at Mzilikazi police station went as far as denying accused persons access to Anti-Retro-Viral treatment for HIV and AIDS related conditions! Further to this, police allowed unidentified persons suspected to be from the intelligence operatives to shoot videos and group photographs of the arrested.
Joyce Chando and 25 other members of WOZA
On March 5, 2007, members of WOZA engaged in a peaceful protest along Robert Mugabe Way in Gweru to celebrate Women’s day, were dispersed by the police, who indiscriminately beat them upon arrest. The 26 WOZA members who were arrested were charged with contravening Section 37 (1) (a)(i)(ii) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Cap 9:23. In addition, there were complaints of abuse at the hands of the police. In particular, Mrs. Joyce Chando was seriously assaulted and suffered swollen head and facial features. Mrs. Theresa Nyeve was also severely assaulted. Police refused to refer those with visible injuries for medical treatment.
Lawyers liaised with police to secure the release of women with babies and young children, which the police eventually yielded to. However, they were particularly adamant in their denial of food, only allowing the persons in custody to have a meal late into the night. Moreover, eight family members and friends who brought food for the accused persons were detained and accused of complicity. The 26 detainees all appeared in court on March 6, and were remanded out of custody on March 21. The eight persons who had delivered food had their charges altered on the court day from section 37 of the Criminal Law Code and offered release upon payment of admission of guilt fines, which they refused. They were further detained and charged with criminal nuisance as defined in section 46(2)(f) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Cap. They were released on bail and remanded on March 22.
Rosemary Siziba and five others WOZA members - Bulawayo
On August 24, 2007, at around 4 am, CID officers in Bulawayo raided the homes of five WOZA activists, including Mrs. Rosemary Siziba, who was arrested with her one-year old baby. Lawyers spent the better part of the day searching different police stations, trying to locate them. It eventually emerged that they had been taken to Khami Prison, more than 22 km out of the city of Bulawayo. They were later released the same day and subsequent interviews revealed that the police wanted to question them about the operations of WOZA and Ms. Jennifer Williams’ whereabouts. The activists declared that they ignored everything about the issues they were being questioned about.
Praise Mlangeni - Bulawayo
On September 12, members of the Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) raided the home of Ms. Praise Mlangeni, a WOZA activist, without a search warrant and proceeded to confiscate paint and other instruments for painting graffiti. Several other items were taken including a WOZA membership card and flyers. Ms. Praise Mlangeni was then instructed to report to Nkulumane police station the following day. Lawyers accompanied the activist to the police station where they managed to secure all items except the WOZA membership card, which the officer indicated required permission from higher authorities. Lawyers found out that their client was alleged to have undermined the security of the State by inscribing graffiti in public places. They threatened to make her disappear if she continued to undermine the government.
Ms. Magodonga Mahlangu, Ms. Rosemary Siziba and Ms. Sitshiyiwe Ngwenya20
On September 18, 2007, three members of WOZA, Ms. Magodonga Mahlangu, Ms. Rosemary Siziba and Ms.
Sitshiyiwe Ngwenya, were arrested and taken to the Bulawayo police station where they were charged under sections 140 and 143 of the Criminal Codification Act for “malicious damage to property owned by the State”. The charges relate to messages reading “choose love over hate” that have been written on roads around Bulawayo. Ms.
Mahlangu was reportedly brought to a police station located 30 kilometres away from the city. While she was in detention, Law and Order officers subjected her to intensive interrogations and threatened her with death. The three activists were then brought to court on September 19, 2007, where lawyers facilitated their release. However, they remain prosecuted for “malicious damage to property owned by the State”.
Ms. Jennifer Williams and 74 others WOZA/MOZA members
At noon on October 15, 2007 male and female (some with suckling babies) members of WOZA/MOZA were arrested at Parliament Building whilst carrying out a procession to Parliament to hand over a report on violence against WOZA members to the Speaker of Parliament. Police deployed at the scene initially ordered everyone to disperse but a police officer accosted Mrs. Jennifer Williams and told her that she was being detained. At seeing this, other members of WOZA/MOZA handed themselves over to the police. They were taken to Harare Central Police Station where they were detained at the V Section of the police station. Officers from Harare Central Operations, led by Assistant Inspector Shumba and under overall supervision of Superintendent Tenderere began drafting their Arrest Sheets for the detained defenders. Meanwhile, Mr. Nyakutombwa, the lawyer deployed, was denied access to his clients and was refused to be advised of the charges his clients were facing in violation of domestic and international law which always requires that anyone being deprived of their freedom need to be advised promptly of the reason of their arrest in a language that they understand. Another Lawyer, Mr. Tafadzwa Mugabe, also joined in to assist the detainees but faced police in an uncooperative spirit.
At around 3 pm, Superintendant Tenderere arrived and asked police officers if the two lawyers had been attended to. He was advised that they had been assisted whereupon he summoned two baton-wielding officers and approached the two lawyers in a visibly aggressive mood. He confronted Mr. Mugabe and said that he had told him that he did not want to see him in his police station. He hurled several abusive insults and claimed that he was not afraid of any court process that Mr. Mugabe would file and issue as he had loads of court papers in the office.
According to him there was nothing special about Mr. Mugabe and his colleague being lawyers. He then physically tugged Mr. Mugabe and pushed and shoved him towards the exit whilst saying that the lawyers were only welcome at the station at his pleasure. He kept gesturing at assaulting Mr. Mugabe and eventually hit him on the right cheek.
He proceeded to poke his finger into Mr. Mugabe’s cheek and continued with more verbal insults, threats of assault and gestures of assault. All this was in full view of dozens of police officers milling around the area out of curiosity and also because it happened at the fuel bay. The two baton wielding riot officers then escorted the two lawyers out of the police station and instructed two other policemen manning the main entrance not to let them back in.
At 7 pm, the defenders were released without charges. Food that had been taken into the police station and received by police officers disappeared and is believed to have been gobbled by the hungry police officers whose conditions of employment are believed by the human rights defenders to be pathetic earning less than USD 20 per month.
They returned the following morning to collect their cell phones and other personal belongings and only found six packs of food out of a total of 55 packs. No explanation was given by the ZRP.
See Observatory Urgent Appeal ZWE 006 / 0907 / OBS 117, issued on September 21, 2007.
Meanwhile formal charges were levelled against Superintendant Tenderere at Harare Central Police station’s Charge Office for the assault on lawyer Mr. Tafadzwa Mugabe. A further formal complaint against police and a suitable civil claim will also be pursued as against the perpetrator.
During a mission’s interview with WOZA in Bulawayo, Jennifer Williams informed the chargés de mission that since December 8, 2007, a number of their members have continued to be kidnapped, interrogated and taken to police cells where they are continuously assaulted and abused. One of their colleagues who was abducted in the cold passed away last year as she never recovered from the pneumonia.
Because of these constant police raids of WOZA members’ homes, WOZA does not have an office. They meet in ‘safe houses’, which are usually the homes of its members. Once they suspect that they are being followed, they move to another home.
5. National Constitution Assembly (NCA) Created in 1997, the National Constitution Assembly (NCA) mandate focuses on the development of a new Constitution for Zimbabwe in a participatory and democratic manner. NCA has both individual and institutional members including trade unions, youth movements and workers in the formal and informal sector among others21.
As the elections draw nearer, the National Constitutional Assembly message, “Genuine elections are only possible under a new, democratic and people driven Constitution”, has grown louder and more agitating to the Government22. And for this, NCA members have continued to organise themselves and demonstrate in order to send their message to the Government as well as the entire country. As a result, NCA members have continued to be harassed, physically assaulted and intimidated by the authorities in total impunity, and under the pretext that they are, as the Government has labelled it, “inciting violence”23.
Mr. Manex Mauya and seven others NCA members - Mutare
On February 28, 2007, members of the NCA congregated in Mutare in order to demonstrate for a new people driven Constitution. Eight members, including Mr. Manex Mauya, were arrested and detained at Mutare Central Police Station. The accused persons were taken to court on March 2 and released on bail. The matter was remanded to April 30, 2007. Charges were later dropped.
Mr. Bernard Dube - Mutare
On July 11, 2007, members of the NCA staged a peaceful protest for a new people driven constitution in Mutare.
Members of the police force apparently failed to apprehend the actual demonstrators, thereby summarily arresting Mr. Bernard Dube as the leader of the NCA in Manicaland. The police predicated their arrest on a Z$13 million withdrawal from the organisational account that they claimed was meant to sponsor the demonstration. Mr. Dube denied the allegations, asserting that the funds were for a workshop the NCA were planning to hold. He was released upon furnishing the police with relevant documentation to support his claim. This practice of arresting to investigate by the police which is in the category of arbitrary arrests is commonplace in Zimbabwe.