Zimbabwean SCMers cleared amidst escalating attacks on civil society
14 June 2008
WSCF is pleased to report that all five Zimbabwean SCMers detained following the armed police raid and subsequent arrests on SCM Zimbabwe headquarters last Monday, have been released and cleared of charges.
At the same time, WSCF notes with increasing concern that the SCMers have returned to their homes in the context of escalating attacks on civil society, which through the past week that have seen numerous acts of violence, intimidation, destruction of property and illegal arrests directed towards civil society organisations across the country.
SCM Zimbabwe Vice Chairperson, Langelihle Manyani has told WSCF she and her colleagues are now living in fear as state agents in unmarked vehicles continue to follow and intimidate student leaders. Early this week SCMZ’s Gender Secretary Matsiliso Moyo and her baby were the first to be released from detention (on the evening of the raid) along with Gladys Mabuto, a senior staff member of the Christian Alliance.
SCM’s Zimbabwe’s General Secretary Prosper Munatsi was released from the police cells at Harare Central Prison on the night of Tuesday June 11, along with SCM leaders Langelihle Manyani, Precious Chinanda and intern Sandra Dzvete and the three other detainees from the Christian Alliance and Ecumenical Support Services. Seven of the arrested Harare Ecumenical Centre staff had charges made against them under the Criminal Law Reform and Codification Act, claiming they had published falsehoods and distributed subversive information.
According to defence lawyer and SCM member Jeremiah Bamu, the charges against the SCMers and other ecumenical workers have now been cleared after the Attorney General refused to prosecute. The Zimbabwean police have however refused to return property confisticated from SCM offices including, a minibus, two laptops, computer, 300 t-shirts and pamphlets. An urgent motion to have the property returned has been filed at the High Court in Harare.
WSCF continues to be concerned at the increasing threat to democracy-supporting civil society in Zimbabwe, as it receives reports of widespread incidents of armed police raids, destruction of property, attacks and illegal arrests of leaders and members of civil society.
According to the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), students and other stakeholders in civil society are being accused by the Mugabe regime of supporting the opposition. This accusation has led to the suspension of operating licenses of all Non-Governmental Organisations.
The Federation has received reports of increased intimidation and violence against more than ten different national and local Zimbabwean civil society organisations situated in Harare, Bulawayo, Kwekwe, Bindura and Masvingo. The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), the National Association of Non Government Associations (NANGO) and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) have all released statements this week identifying members, leaders or officials who have come under attack from government forces and have been threatened, beaten, had property seized or destroyed or have been illegally detained by police.
WSCF continues to work closely with the international ecumenical movement and at UN events in Geneva to develop new ways of providing tangible support to ecumenical and civil society groups and the people of Zimbabwe. This Wednesday at the WSCF-YWCA organised Zimbabwe weekly focus meeting at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, human rights defenders from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights are expected to make presentations on Zimbabwean issues to resource the ecumenical movement on further appropriate actions to take in support of Zimbabweans in the current crisis.