BY FARAI MATIASHE
POLICE yesterday ruthlessly crushed a demonstration organised by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) at Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s offices and arrested the union’s eight top leaders together with human rights lawyer Doug Coltart and a journalist, Leopold Munhende.
The protesters, who were carrying a mock coffin to signify the death of their earnings through inflation, were severely assaulted by riot police officers soon after handing in a petition to Ncube’s aides.
Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who is representing Coltart and the Artuz leadership told NewsDay Weekender yesterday that her clients were detained at Harare Central Police Station.
“The police at first tried to charge them with disorderly conduct in public, but they now appear to want to charge them with public nuisance. They are still in police custody at the Law and Order Section,” she said.
Artuz president Obert Masaraure is among those arrested.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said eight Artuz members were facing charges of contravening Section 46 of the Law and Order (Codification ) Act. He said Munhende, who was arrested
for filming the protest, was released without charge.
In the petition delivered to Ncube, Artuz secretary-general Robson Chere said they were calling for the government to restore the value of teachers’ United States-dollar salaries in terms of the prevailing
The petition read: “We, the teachers of Zimbabwe, organising under the banner of Artuz, determined to restore the dignity of our teaching profession, committed to deliver quality and uninterrupted service to learners,
hereby demand the restoration of the value of our salaries by converting our old US dollar-denominated salaries using the obtaining interbank rate.
“Failure to restore the value of our salaries spells doom for our education sector. Our members will not be resuming their duties at the opening of the third term.”
Amnesty International Southern African researcher Lloyd Kuveya urged Zimbabwean authorities to respect human rights.
“Amnesty International urges the Zimbabwe authorities to respect human rights. In particular, lawyers should be allowed to do their work without any interference and intimidation by the State. The government must
respect the right to legal representation. Everyone in this country is entitled without discrimination to protection of the law. The right to liberty should not be violated and the police should only arrest any person
upon reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed,” the human rights group said in a statement.
It also called on law enforcement agencies to respect lawyers and allow them to conduct their duties without hindrance.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe director Thabani Moyo said the increase in the arrests and harassment of journalists on duty was worrisome and unacceptable.