ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

Zimrights acquited over torture exhibition as magistrate quashes police ban on Bulawayo Agenda meetings

Human Rights Defenders (HRD)'s Alert

23 January 2012

Masvingo Magistrate Dorothy Mwanyisa on Monday 23 January 2012 acquitted the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and its senior official Joel Hita on charges of organising a photo exhibition in Masvingo in Masvingo Province showing the 2008 election brutality. Zimrights is a partner to AAI Zimbabwe under the governance theme.

Magistrate Mwanyisa upheld an application for exception to the charges filed on Monday 23 January 2012 by the ZimRights lawyer Blessing Nyamaropa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

In his application Nyamaropa argued that the section under which ZimRights and Hita were being charged did not disclose an offence as it was repealed in 2007.

The State conceded to Nyamaropa’s application and Hita and ZimRights, which was represented by the organisation’s national deputy chairperson Pelagia Razemba Semakweli and who had entered a not guilty plea when their trial commenced were duly acquitted by Magistrate Mwanyisa.

ZimRights and Hita were charged under the harsh Public Order and Security Act for organising a photo exhibition in Masvingo in 2010 entitled “Reflections”, which showcased pictures depicting how Zimbabweans, particularly those viewed as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s supporters, were brutalised in 2008.

Meanwhile, Bulawayo Magistrate Tancy Dube on Monday 23 January 2012 quashed a police ban on some public meetings organized by Bulawayo Agenda in Tsholotsho and Lupane in Matabeleland North Province. Bulawayo Agenda is a strategic partner to AAI Zimbabwe under the governance theme.

Bulawayo Agenda had on Monday 16 January 2012 gave notification to the police regulatory authority for Lupane District notifying them of their intention to hold two public meetings, whose agenda involved giving an update to the community on the ongoing constitution making process. The first meeting was scheduled to be held on Sunday 22 January 2012 at  District Development Fund (DDF) Training Centre in Tsholotsho with the second one planned for 28 January 2012 at Matshabalala Hall in Lupane. 

But on Friday 20 January 2012, two days before the first scheduled meeting, the police advised Bulawayo Agenda that they did not approve of all the two meetings without giving any reasons for the ban of the meetings.

The police ban on the Bulawayo Agenda meetings compelled ZLHR senior projects lawyer, Lizwe Jamela to institute urgent proceedings in the form of an ex-parte application challenging the police veto of the meetings as they did not state cogent grounds for the prohibition.

Jamela also sought to interdict Lupane police and its agents or anyone acting under their instructions from disturbing or interfering in any way with the meetings to be held at Matshabalala Hall in Lupane on Saturday 28 January 2012 convened by Bulawayo Agenda, which was granted by Magistrate Dube.

Magistrate Dube sanctioned Bulawayo Agenda to proceed with the public meeting scheduled for the weekend and to reschedule and convene the meeting that did not take place on Sunday 22 January 2012 without giving any notice to the police and promote the organisation’s right to freedom of assembly and association as set out in Section 21 of the Constitution and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Section 20 of the Constitution.

ENDS

Editors' notes

Please contact the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on e-mail: dziechimbga@gmail.com for more details.