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Jitters as shutdown leader locked up

by Staf reporter
13 Jul 2016 at 08:43hrs | Views

Zimbabwe is expected to shut down again today and tomorrow in protest against President Robert Mugabe's ruinous policies, but the police have descended heavily on the strike's supposed leader, cleric Evan Mawarire of #ThisFlag campaign, in what is seen as a pre-emptive strike.

This came amid reports that top Zanu-PF officials and government security agents had threatened to brutally clamp down on workers and companies found complying with the planned mass stay away.

Mawarire was caged after he handed himself at Harare Central Police Station's Law and Order section in the company of his lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, following summons sent to him the previous day.

"He handed himself over to the police at 8.30am this morning (yesterday) and he was immediately charged with contravening section 187 as read with section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, or inciting people to commit public violence. That is all we can say at the moment. He is detained at Harare Central Police Station," Nkomo said yesterday, adding his client was likely to be brought to court this morning.

After charging Mawarire, the police ransacked his Avondale home and His Generation Church offices in Milton Park, where they reportedly confiscated his mobile phone.

A police warrant, seen by NewsDay, said they were looking for a "stolen police helmet, button stick (sic) and other subversive material, which he used to incite violence on July 6, 2016 and others for intended use on July 13, 2016 for public violence".

Sources close to the developments said, while other police officers were interrogating Mawarire, Law and Order section head, Assistant Commissioner Crispen Makedenge was frantically fighting to secure a warrant to access messages on the clergyman's mobile phone.

Although Mawarire's wife, Samantha, said police did not take anything from their home during the search, reliable sources told NewsDay the law enforcement agents took his mobile phone so they could gain access to his messages.

"I can confirm that there was a team of gentlemen and one lady, who came with a search warrant, and they had my husband in handcuffs and they explained that they had arrested him under a certain section of the law," Samantha said.

"He then requested for his lawyer to be present for the search and they then searched the house and once they were satisfied that they were done, they said their next stop was at the church premises and office to conduct similar searches and they would then return to the police station."

Before his arrest, Mawarire posted an online video late on Monday, saying: "We have broken no law, so I take it that it's just routine questioning, but in the event that I'm arrested, I want you to understand that even if they arrest Mawarire, the issues remain the same. We are in the clear."

The arrest has been condemned by members of the public, opposition parties and civil society groups, who yesterday vowed to forge ahead with the mass action to bring Mugabe's government to its knees and force him to urgently address the country's deteriorating socio-economic environment or step down.

Last Wednesday's protests, co-ordinated by Mawarire with the support of Tajamuka/Sesijikile, Occupy Africa Unity Square and all opposition parties, brought the country to a virtual standstill, although Zanu-PF declared it was unmoved by the action.

The stay away coincided with civil servants' strike over delays in the payment of their June salaries.

But after the mass action, State security agents descended heavily on the organisers, including Tajamuka/Sesijikile spokesperson, Promise Mkwananzi, accusing them of inciting public violence.

The Morgan Tsvangirai-led opposition MDC-T yesterday condemned Mawarire and Mkwananzi's arrests, describing them as an act of desperation by the Zanu-PF regime.

"Indeed, it is the constitutional right of every citizen to be able to engage in peaceful and non-violent demonstrations as clearly enshrined in section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe," the party said in a statement.

"To this extent, therefore, it is wholly uncalled for, and indeed draconian and primitive, for the police to arrest Mawarire for simply calling upon his fellow Zimbabweans to join him in a peaceful and non-violent stay away."

MDC spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi said: "This kind of poor planning and strategy on the part of Zanu-PF will obviously lead to an uncontrollable eruption of protests nationwide. The people are simply demanding their country from Mugabe and no one can stop that."

Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru urged Zimbabweans to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate in a peaceful manner.

People's Democratic Party leader, Tendai Biti said: "The person who should be arrested for inciting violence is (Finance minister) Patrick Chinamasa for deliberately failing to pay civil servants their dues and, therefore, creating anger and disaffection."

"The (other) person, who should be arrested for creating the potential for public violence, is Mugabe, who for 36 years has presided over what essentially is a carcass of an economy, where four million of our people had to look for greener pastures and 76% of our people are living in extreme poverty surviving on less than $1 a day.

"Mugabe should be arrested for inciting public violence because he is responsible for the thousands of jobless school leavers."
Biti said his party would participate in the stay aways.

Activist, Patson Dzamara, whose brother, Itai, went missing 16 months ago following his abduction by alleged State security agents, said no amount of intimidation would stop Zimbabweans from exercising their rights.

However, Apex Council boss, Cecilia Alexander said government workers would not take part in the stay away, as they were bound by a code of conduct prohibiting them to do so.

Source - newsday

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