Zimbabwe court releases 26 arrested in police raid against opposition

Archive – Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa – Tafadzwa Ufumeli/ZUMA Wire/dpa

A court has ordered the release of the 26 people arrested during a mid-month police operation in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, during a meeting of the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party.

The operation took place on January 15 at the home of MP Costa Machingauta in Budiriro, a southwestern suburb of the capital, in the middle of the run-up to the presidential elections, scheduled for the end of the year, in which the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa is the favorite amid a climate of repression and threats against his critics, denounced the CCC.

The activists, as well as Machingauta and the also deputy Amos Chibaya have been released on bail after the magistrate Yeukai Dzuda, ruled that the meeting raided by the police had a private character, as the accused claimed, according to the portal ‘The New Zimbabwe’.

The police have justified the operation alleging that the meeting had not been authorized, while the opposition party has accused the government of using the police against political opponents.

On Friday, the NGO Human Rights Watch called on the Zimbabwean government to re-register hundreds of civil society groups whose organization has been invalidated, and to amend its Private Voluntary Organizations Act to bring it in line with its obligations to protect freedom of association.

The NGO has also called on the government to withdraw a controversial amendment that would prohibit groups from engaging in «political» activities under threat of criminal sanctions.

The repression of civil society organizations in Zimbabwe must stop, especially in light of this year’s general elections,» lamented Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

«The government,» she added, «should stop using the Voluntary Private Organizations Act as a tool to silence the exercise of fundamental democratic rights.»