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3 Kenyan activists detained


THREE civil rights activists from Kenya came face-to-face with Zimbabwe’s hostile environment on Sunday after they were detained for more than three hours at the new Victoria Falls International Airport.

The three, Rachel Kagoiya, Josephine Ireri and Nimmo Osman were in Victoria Falls for a week-long training session hosted by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (Femnet) in partnership with Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA).

Femnet is one of the largest pan-African women’s rights networks recognised across the continent and globally. It was established in 1988 to promote women’s development in Africa through many initiatives including strengthening the capacities and expertise of national and regional non-governmental organisations to share information and approaches to women’s development, equality and other human rights.

The trio’s branded information, education and communication (IEC) materials and memorabilia comprising banners, notebooks and pamphlets, mugs and tokens of appreciation for the participants were confiscated and are yet to be released.

Zimra officials are demanding duty for the items, which the tax authority has classified as consumables that will be used in Zimbabwe.

“The IEC materials that include notebooks (50), banners (2), thermal mugs (34), African baskets (30), kikoi/ khangas (30), publications and training stationery, are visibility IEC materials for the training to be given to the participants from different African countries and not for resale in Zimbabwe,”  Femnet executive director Memory Kachambwa told NewsDay yesterday.

The trio — while detained at the airport was asked by Zimra to get a letter for exemption from the host organisation WLSA. The letter was provided the following day. However, the materials are still at the airport.

“Initially they asked our host organisation to write a letter for exemption and WLSA wrote the letter. They then asked us to provide the cost of the materials, send receipts and give an estimated weight of the IEC printed material to determine the cost. Now, the items have been labelled pending clearance by Zimra,” Kachambwa added.

Femnet has hosted a series of trainings and carried IEC materials across the continent and beyond including countries such as Ghana, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, and the United States, which have different tax regulations but has never been humiliated before.

“As a proponent of progressive taxation and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), such treatment is an  affront to what the continent is striving for and more so, Zimbabwe which claims to be open for business had a recent mission with the government of Kenya on strengthening business relations.”

“One of the major and constant barriers women face is such treatment by officials at borders regardless of the type of business.  Why is there a notion that women do not know trade or tax law that they are subjected to such misogynist acts? Surely there are processes that are followed and there are discretions made,” Kagoiya said.

She said once Zimra releases their items, they would return them to Kenya, which will deny them an opportunity to give branded items to other IEC women.

Efforts to get a comment from Zimra spokesperson Francis Chimanda were fruitless yesterday.

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