Twenty seven leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), who were arrested Thursday while planning to stage a peaceful march over government proposals to increase electronic money transfer tax and serious shortages of basic commodities, are expected to appear in court Friday to face charges under the country’s dreaded Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
They include ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, secretary general Japhet Moyo and others who were picked up by the police at the ZCTU offices and shoved into police trucks.
Human rights lawyer Lizwe Jamela, affiliated to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which is representing all the leaders and members charged with disorderly conduct and committing public violence, says their arrests are unlawful as the Zimbabwe Constitution grants locals the right to stage peaceful protests.
Jamela says the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act is normally utilized by the state to punish opponents of the government.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba was not available for comment.
The ZCTU was angered by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s proposals to increase electronic transfer tax from 5 cents per transaction to 2 cents per dollar for transactions above $10 and below $500,000.
Economists say the proposed tax increase resulted in the devaluation of bond notes leading to a hike in prices of basic commodities and crippling shortages of fuel, bread, cooking oil and other items.
Jamela told VOA Zimbabwe Service that police arbitrarily arrested ZCTU leaders and members in various towns and cities a couple of hours before the labor body staged peaceful protests.