HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has condemned the arrest of five members of his Communications Office who were picked up from their homes in Harare on Sunday in the morning.
Lawyers representing Thabani Mpofu, Councillor Warship Dumba, Felix Matsinde and Mehluli Tshuma on Monday filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking their release from police custody. A breastfeeding mother, Anna Muzvidziwa was also detained.
Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was also arrested for demanding that the police produce a search warrant and an inventory of the property they had seized during the raids. The police did not have a warrant and scuffled with Mtetwa while trying to take away her cellphone which she was using to film the incident.
In a statement issued Monday Tsvangirai said “I understand that despite a High Court order being granted for her (Mtetwa) release, the police have ignored the order, in breach of the Constitution and in total disregard to the rule of law.”
“I notice from some press reports that our Communications Office in Avondale is now being referred to as the office of some non-governmental organization. The motive for that is certainly sinister.
“As we speak, our detained staff members and their lawyers are yet to be told of the charges they are facing, even though the ZBC and the police press and public relations unit are telling the world that they are facing charges of impersonation, without elaboration,” Tsvangirai said.
Tsvangirai said their staff members are still to be charged and “the police force should investigate to arrest and not arrest to investigate.”
“This morning, I met with the acting President, Amai Mujuru, to update her on this needless swoop on my Office as well as the attempt to stop the Zimbabwe Anti- Corruption Commission from executing its Constitutional mandate.
“I expressed concern on both the police behavior on my staff and what is now appearing to be a well-orchestrated move to prevent an independent Commission from doing its work. The Acting President assured me she would meet with the Commissioner-General of Police.
“The targeting of my Office is reprehensible and is meant to harass and intimidate the nation ahead of the election, now that we are done with the referendum.
“Last night, I met with the SADC observer team, led by Dr Salamao and I impressed upon the region, as guarantors of our agreement, to ensure that we implement all the reforms that we agreed four years ago, particularly security sector and media reforms.
“I urged the observer team to go and see our staff in detention and to make their own assessment of the current environment and to draw up their own conclusions as to whether as a country we are ready for a free and fair election.
“We certainly cannot have a police force that arrests people with impunity and then fails to charge them, even though the alleged charges have been told to the media. We cannot tolerate this unwarranted arrest of innocent staff of an executive office by the police, who then fail to charge them.
“We are working hard to improve the electoral environment to make it conducive to a free and fair election, even in the wake of the recent heinous acts, ranging from the murder of Christpowers to this wanton and undignified arrest of innocent staff in my Office, including a breastfeeding mother, Anna Muzvidziwa, who was picked up at church yesterday.
“What we are seeing are signs of fear. These are signs of a police force that has become an appendage of a political party, which party is now showing signs of panic and fear in light of the imminent prospects of losing the forthcoming election.
“When I spoke to the SADC observer team last night, I told them that now is the time to call for an urgent SADC summit to check on compliance and implementation of agreed issues and to set the ground rules for a peaceful and civilized electoral contest.
“SADC is a curator and guarantor of the GPA and now is the time for the region to play a more active part in charting the way forward. My thoughts are with our detained staff members.
“My thoughts are with their families as well as with the people of Zimbabwe, who remain the true victors because in 2008, they defeated in an election this demon of violence and repression which is now rearing its ugly head again.”