WASHINGTON DC —
Several pro-democracy activists, mostly drawn from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai, have appeared in court and granted $400 bail each for participating in nationwide protests over the weekend under the banner if the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA), seeking sweeping electoral changes before the 2018 general elections.
The activists claim that they were severely beaten up by state security during the nationwide peaceful marches in Harare, Kadoma, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Bulawayo, Gwanda, Mutare and other towns and cities.
Attorney Jeremiah Bhamu said the bail is too hefty for the 13 activists who may fail t raise it.
Two MDC-T members -Fani Munengami of Glen View and Ronia Bunjira - and several others were granted bail by Mbare magistrate Stan Mambanje.
They are accused of staging what the state has called an illegal protest under NERA calling for electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 general polls.
Mambanje turned down a request by their attorney to grant them free bail saying NERA is likely to stage more protests in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO Africa), an umbrella association of 184 youth organizations in Zimbabwe, has condemned what is calls the on-going police brutality and blatant disregard of the supreme law of the country, and its dictates as enshrined in the National Constitution. NAYO Africa said the last few months in Zimbabwe have seen a rise in citizen actions voicing out against corruption, governance related issues, electoral reforms, economic challenges bedeviling the country among other issues, which has attracted severe police reactions.
In a statement, NAYO Africa said, “Paradoxically, the police under Section 219 of the constitution are compelled to protect and secure the lives of people and property. Their conduct in the recent waves of civic actions have been marked by the use of brutal force such as assaulting demonstrators with button sticks and setting dogs on them, the use of tear gas to disburse protestors among other forms of force.
“We have noted with concern calls from various senior government officials who have come openly to denounce and threaten citizens engaging in any form of constitutionally guaranteed civic actions – this in violation of the National Constitution, a constitution which was borne out of the diverse views and aspirations of the Zimbabwean citizenry.”
NAYO Africa also noted that they have noted “the increasing use of the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to suppress dissent, even in the face of notices being given and protests cleared by the constitutional court – this again in violation of our local laws and international law.
"ZRP has invoked statutory instrument 101 of 2016, to ban all demonstrations within central Harare. This has come in the wake of constitutionally guaranteed rights to petition and demonstrate under section 59 of the constitution – this defeats the ideals of rule of law and constitutionalism.”
It said Section 206 of the constitution compels security services to respect fundamental rights and freedoms while Section 210 compels members of the public to report cases of misconduct on the part of police and security services.”