Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association general secretary, Victor Matemadanda, was arrested today at the Harare Magistrates Court where his organization’s national spokesperson Douglas Mahiya was being arraigned on charges of insulting or undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe.
Matemadanda was arrested by heavily-armed police details as he walked out of the courtroom where Mahiya’s case was being heard.
Police officers whisked him away to some offices at the court building while ordering all the people, mainly war veterans and civil society activists who were getting out of the courtroom, to leave the place.
At the entrance of the court building, some war veterans and civil society activists sang revolutionary songs in solidarity with Matemadanda and Mahiya while some were crying.
The police details then used the prisoners’ entrance at the back of the court-building to exit with Matemadanda and sped off as the singing former freedom fighters were approaching the vehicle that was used by the police to whisk Matemandanda away.
Matemadanda’s attorney, Beatrice Mtetwa, told Studio 7 by phone from Harare Central Police Station that her client was being held at the station but no formal charges had been levelled against her client.
Francis Nhando, another top war veteran, was also arrested today. There were no details of his whereabouts. He is linked to a damning communique issued by war veterans last week, which condemned President Mugabe for running down Zimbabwe.
At the same time, magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe granted Mahiya a $300 bail and ordered him to report twice per week at Harare Central Police Station’s Law and Order Division until the matter was finalized.
Mahiya is being accused of insulting or undermining Mr. Mugabe through a communique issued by the war veterans’ body last month calling on the head of state to address key issues affecting ordinary Zimbabweans.
After the magistrate delivered his ruling, state counsel Tapiwa Kasema applied for the suspension of magistrate Chikwekwe’s ruling for 48 hours pending an appeal of the judgement by the state. But this was opposed by Mahiya’s attorney, Harrison Nkomo, who argued that the judge’s decision could not be suspended without giving concrete reasons or without the prosecutor general filing a formal application.
The magistrate agreed with the defense and ordered Mahiya’s immediate release.
Nkomo welcomed the magistrate’s decision.
Nkomo gave notice in court that at the next remand on the 12th of August, the defense would be applying for Mahiya’s refusal of further remand saying the state papers in their current form do not disclose an offence.
Meanwhile, war veterans’ chairperson, Chris Mutsvangwa, who was also at the courts, criticized the arrest of former freedom fighters.
Also at the courts was former vice president and leader of the Zimbabwe People First party, Joice Mujuru, who echoed Mutsvangwa’s sentiments.
Several human rights activists and politicians, including one of MDC-T’ leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s deputies, Nelson Chamisa, attended the court session today.