SCORES of secessionist Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) activists yesterday stormed Tredgold Magistrates’ Court in Bulawayo protesting the arrest and detention of eight of their colleagues for allegedly doorstepping President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday.
BY SILAS NKALA
Eight MRP youths were arrested by the military police after they confronted Mnangagwa carrying placards demanding he addresses the Gukurahundi issue.
They were on Monday handed over to the Zimbabwe Republic Police after spending a night at Mzilikazi Barracks (formerly Brady Barracks).
The protesters yesterday toyi-toyid at the entrance to the magistrates’ court, threatening to pile more pressure on Mnangagwa’s government to address the Gukurahundi issue.
The protests came as their arrested colleagues were freed without charge after being initially charged with undermining Mnangagwa’s authority.
Their lawyers — Dumisani Dube of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Maqhawe Mpofu of the Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers Network — said their clients were initially asked to pay admission of guilt fines instead of going to court.
The eight activists were initially charged for breach of peace and likely to incite public violence, but the charges were later changed to undermining the authority of the President in terms of section 33(2) (a)(ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act), (Chapter 9:23), or alternatively disorderly conduct in a public place in terms of section 41(a) of the same Act.
The lawyers claimed the activists were brutalised during arrest and denied access to medical attention.
Initially, the activists were expected to appear in court two at 8:30am, but were only brought to court late in the afternoon.
MRP spokesperson, Mbonisi Gumbo hailed the media for exposing what he called the barbaric arrest of its members.
Meanwhile, the Christian Voice Zimbabwe condemned the arrest of the MRP activists.
“As a church, we acknowledge the 1980s Matabeleland massacres and atrocities deserve to be handled in a much dignified manner in order to bring to a closure this moment of madness and dark patch in the history of our country,” the church organisation said.
“Therefore, we implore the newly-appointed President to walk the talk and respect his words ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’ by finding it in his heart to humbly set up a true peace, justice and reconciliation commission made up of unbiased neutral players drawn from mainly the church to look into all the issues of human rights violations that characterised the previous administration.”
The National Ecumenical Forum for Dialogue, Justice and Peace also condemned the arrests saying: “The arrest and detention of people expressing their mind and emotions over a public atrocity that has been constantly given scant attention dampens the spirits of Zimbabweans, who made the long march from Zimbabwe Grounds to State House and harshly reminds us of the previous cruel dispensation under (former President Robert)Mugabe’s rule. The people of Zimbabwe were beginning to think the post-Mugabe era would provide a new spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“We are grossly saddened that the new power-brokers continue to ignore the basic tenets of democracy and continue to ignore genuine opportunities to promote dialogue, justice and peace. We are a few months away from a watershed plebiscite and such wanton behaviour gives very little signals that for the first time we will go through a free, fair and credible election.