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Kazembe, Matanga face Z$12.5 million lawsuit over unlawful arrest

A human rights lawyer and four pro-democracy campaigners have sued Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for RTGS$12.5 million as damages for wrongful and malicious arrest and prosecution on charges of plotting to foment civil obedience in Zimbabwe.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe

The five namely Douglas Coltart, a human rights lawyer, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Secretary-General Robson Chere, Jessica Drury, Munyaradzi Ndawana and Precious Ndlovu were arrested by ZRP officers in April 2019 after they were allegedly caught in possession of a book entitled “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

During trial which commenced on 19 August 2020, prosecutors claimed that Coltart, Chere, Drury, Ndawana and Ndlovu plotted a rebellion by gathering unlawfully at Zambezi Roots Lodge in Harare’s Greystone Park suburb on 27 April 2019, where they held a training workshop to strategise on ways of “spearheading a host of civil disobedience in Zimbabwe.”

Prosecutors charged that some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers who arrested Coltart, Chere, Drury, Ndawana and Ndlovu recovered some material which were being used during the alleged training and which included a book titled “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” authored by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, five paper sheets with various messages, some crayons, assorted pens, a cup, point markers and sticky notes among other materials.

But Coltart, Chere, Drury, Ndawana and Ndlovu, who were represented by Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), were acquitted at the close of the prosecution case after a Magistrate ruled that prosecutors had failed during trial to establish a prima facie case against the accused persons.

Now Coltart, Chere, Drury, Ndawana and Ndlovu have filed summons at Harare Magistrates Court seeking an order compelling Kazembe, Matanga, the NPA, Detective Sergeant Lovemore Marwisa, and Detective Constable Dennis Muroiwa to pay them compensation amounting to RTGS$12.5 million as damages for wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution, affront to dignity, embarrassment and humiliation.

Coltart, Chere, Drury, Ndawana and Ndlovu, who are represented by Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of ZLHR, are each demanding RTGS$2.5 million from Kazembe, Matanga, NPA, Marwisa and Muroiwa. Zim Morning Post

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