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On the persecution trail with Ngarivhume: trailing the harassment of human rights leaders/activists by Zimbabwe regime

12 Jan 2022 at 17:16hrs | Views
I called Jacob Ngarivhume the previous day and asked if I could be with him from morning to end of day. I wanted to get into his world, I wanted to follow up on the stories of harassment he has been complaining about all the time.

I got to his house in Waterfalls just before 8AM. There was a small vehicle parked at the gate, without registration plates. Ngarivhume came out with four people, I asked if l could travel with him so that we could talk on our way to court. He came to sit in my car while the other four used his much smaller car.

I asked if the case he was still reporting to court was the July 31 2020 case and to my surprise, it was! Two years down the line the case was still ongoing. The wheels of justice obviously turn very slowly in oppressive regimes especially when they are dealing with their opponents.

Sadly, this means for two years now Ngarivhume has been reporting to the police three times a week, his passport is still with the courts and his 50 000 rtgs money still locked up as bond. The 50000 rtgs was equivalent to US $602 at the time it was paid but now stands at less than US $240 due to the ever soaring inflation.

When we got to court, there were a couple of more people who had come to show solidarity. His lawyer arrived soon after with another lawyer from his law firm. He started looking for the prosecutor on the case to make sure that the case moved on quicker this morning.

We waited for hours with the lawyer moving from one office to another. He came back to report that the Magistrate did not have Ngarivhume's record!

Stunned I decided to go with the lawyer to the admin office to find out. After waiting for fifteen minutes we were told that the case was slated for the 14th of January 2022 which was two days later! How does that happen?

The prosecutor had confirmed that the case was on today and the defence team, the same thing. How come there was a change without notice? Crazy stuff.

So it meant we had to go back and come back two days later. Ngarivhume then said to me, "You see this is what I have always insisted, that this is more about persecution than prosecution." I was left baffled. This is the stuff of Banana republics!

Ngarivhume gave a brief interview after court, venting his anger and frustration at the delays in his case which he said was all about frustrating him and nothing more.

Ngarivhume had told me as we were coming to court that after court he would go to the Central Registry Office to meet the Registrar General. He wanted to take him to task over the delayed issuance of national IDs to first time voters so that they register to vote.

We got into our cars to head to the Registrar General's office. Ngarivhume and his security detail sat in my car. His car was behind. As we were leaving the gate of Rotten Row Magistrate Court, we were suddenly stopped by a Honda Aria car registration AEP 3230. Two armed guys in civilian clothes instructed us to pull off the road. They were angry and agitated. I panicked.

I asked Ngarivhume and his security detail to move into his car. I was so afraid. One of the menacing looking guys identified himself as Kamoto from Harare Central Police CID Homicide section. He declared that they wanted to check and inspect my vehicle, its papers and contents, with pistols drawn out.

I was scared to the bone. I asked if Ngarivhume could move to his car. As he was about to leave my car, one of them drew out his pistol threatening to fire. Ngarivhume lost his temper and started shouting at him. "Am I under arrest and for what? What is my crime today and who are you and what are you looking for? You surely can't threaten to shoot me for it is a gross violation of my rights and its illegal"

The CID guy pulled back, and allowed Ngarivhume to move to his car since he declined to confirm that he was under arrest.

One of them got into my car and started a very uneasy conversation with me. He asked for my car papers and said they wanted to physically check the car.

Meanwhile, cars had lined up behind us and some were hooting. The police had created a scene. With the recent spate of armed robberies, l feared for the worst.

After questioning me on who I was and where we were going I showed them my press card. They slowed down their tone. They changed their story. They said they were looking for thieves who were appearing in court 19. I was confused.

They left my car and went to Ngarivhume. It was really scary! After a couple of minutes I saw them show Ngarivhume their IDs. In no time we were on the road again.

Ngarivhume came back to my car. He was visibly upset, smiled at me and he asked us to go. I was wondering what the reception at the Registrar General's office was going to be. I kept checking in my mirror to see if we were not being followed again by these state security agents.

We got to the RG's office. It took us ten minutes to get to his office after all clearance procedures. One gentleman who was manning security at the entrance said that we could meet the RG but unfortunately he had just started a meeting together with his deputy and other heads.

He called another office who spoke back to Ngarivhume, advising him that they were not taking meetings from the public due to Covid 19 regulations. They asked him to put his questions and queries in writing and they would respond.

As we were going down from the 10th floor, I had mixed feelings. There was relief that we were leaving the building without another showdown. I had deep worries in me about where the country is going.

From the RG's office, Ngarivhume was going to meet with political activists in Hatfield and Epworth. He would later round up his day with a meeting with his business partners.

I excused myself for the day. I wanted to go and relax at home with my family. The drawn out pistols scared me to bits and I needed to recollect myself.

I watched Ngarivhume get to his car. I was left wondering how he draws strength to keep fighting under these circumstances. His fighting spirit is just inexhaustible. Zimbabwe needs many more like him if freedom is to come.

In discussing with him, he was clear that elections without reforms were a waste of time and resources. His deep conviction was that institutional reforms were needed first before 2023 elections.

Wether the regime moves an inch or not still remains to be seen. I gave Ngarivhume one assurance before he went away that l will be at his trial in two days!

Source - Fungai Muridzo - a freelance journalist
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