Police harassment calls for urgent interventions

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) continues with its rogue conduct of targeting and harassing human rights defenders. Since the November 2017 coup, the Mnangagwa regime has gone into an overdrive to target innocent citizens through malicious arrests which are designed to intimidate and frighten any dissenting voices. The latest assault befell Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) President, Obert Masaraure, Poverty Liberation Movement (PLM) Spokesperson, Pride Mkono, former ZINASU President, Archobold Madida, ARTUZ executive member, Takemore Mhlanga and PLM Chairperson Alan Moyo.

The five human rights defenders were arrested in movie style at corner Rotten Row and Belvedere Road. Dozens of heavily armed riot police officers pounced on the activists as they were coming from attending court and were driving back home. There was no justification what so ever for the police to act in the manner they did. Firstly, the activists had come to court for their cases which are on the court roll a fact known to the police. Secondly, the activists did not violate any law and were lawfully going about their business. Thirdly, the police did not identify themselves and did not inform the activists on the reason for the arrest and there rights as required by the law.

After the illegal arrest, the police took the activists to the station in handcuffs without specifying any charges. Upon arrival at the station, the police then started interviewing the activists on why they were at court and what cases they were facing. All this was just plain harassment designed to instill fear as police already have all these details and they constitute any offence at law.

In fact during the interrogations, the police were boasting that they could ‘charge anyone with anything’ as long as they felt like it. They went further to say that they would come after anyone including in homes and would ‘kill’ those detained in jail. After about one and half hours, the police then said they would release the activists with a stern warning that ‘next time’ they would detain them.

This is illegal as they was never any basis for arresting them in the first place and any ‘next time’ mean that police are cooking up cases in order to effect arrests which is illegal. This harassment needs to be challenged through the courts and civil disobedience actions. The police can not become a law unto themselves and violate the very rights and laws they must uphold and respect.

As an immediate action, the activists will petition Police Commissioner, Godwin Matanga, to reign in his officers. Further, the activists will consult with their lawyers on appropriate legal remedies under the circumstances.

Source: Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)