The three government ministers and MDC-N leaders Welshman Ncube, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Moses Mzila Ndlovu, who were stopped and taken to Hwange Police Station on Sunday night, were not arrested, but merely “invited” to the police station “for counselling”, the officer commanding Matabeleland North police, Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai, said yesterday.
Justifying the detention of the ministers and 18 MDC-N senior officials, Veterai said they had “invited” the ministers to enlighten them on the need to observe the law after they held an unsanctioned meeting in Victoria Falls.
Ncube said his entourage had been detained for four hours, but the police chief said the politicians had been at the station for only 30 minutes and that they were happy with the “counselling session”.
“We had a counselling session with them and we let them go after 30 minutes, which is part of the normal day-to-day operations of the police,” Veterai said.
However, Ncube, who is also Industry and Commerce minister and president of the MDC-N, scoffed at Veterai’s assertions, declaring: “I know more law than all police officers in Matabeleland North put together.”
But, Veterai said the police had shared notes with the politicians in a cordial environment and advised them on the need to observe the law “for their own security” adding, “the MDC officials were happy with the meeting”.
“They had a meeting of about 30 people or so in Victoria Falls without informing the police. We invited them to the station so that we could revisit the rules of the game in reference to Posa (Public Order and Security Act). Normally for any gathering of 12 people and above, we want police to be informed,” said Veterai.
Asked why the “counselling” was done at night, Veterai said: “We work 24 hours a day. That’s the nature of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Every second, every minute, every hour we are on the ground and when we hear anything, we act regardless of the time.”
Ncube, however, insisted officers manning a roadblock just after Hwange told them they had instructions from “above” to arrest them.
He said the officers had registration numbers of the vehicles they were travelling in and were under instruction to ensure none of them passed the roadblock. Ncube said he had held a meeting with his party’s Hwange West district executive at an official’s house and said under Posa, there was no need to inform the police.
The Sunday incident comes a few weeks before another Sadc summit in Angola, expected to deal with the Zimbabwe crisis.
It also follows the recent arrest and detention of Jameson Timba, the Minister of State in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Office, on allegations of undermining President Robert Mugabe by allegedly calling him a liar.