Eight opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials in Bulawayo were arrested on Saturday while mobilising supporters for the second phase of protests set for the city.
MDC National Chairperson, Thabitha Khumalo, Bulawayo Provincial Organising Secretary, Helen Mpofu, Bulawayo Provincial Women’s Chairperson, Luba Masotsha, Elliot Mujeri, Tinashe Matimbura, Meliqiniso Sithole, Shelton Tembo and an unidentified female MDC member, were yesterday afternoon arrested by police details in Tshabalala.
According to MDC Bulawayo Provincial Spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza the eight officials were arrested “while peacefully conducting an awareness campaign for the next People’s Free Zimbabwe March that will be held at Bulawayo on Monday.”
“The Law & Order Department, at Bulawayo Central Police Station, later charged them with Contravening Section 31(b) ii (A) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act i.e. publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State that (ii) he or she does not have reasonable grounds for believing to be true,” Chirowodza told Nehanda Radio.
“The detained MDC leaders are expected to appear in court on Monday. Nosimilo Chanaiwa and Godfrey Nyoni from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights are representing the accused. So far comrades, family, relatives and friends have been denied access to the leaders,” he said.
After police on Friday violently dispersed protesters in Harare, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa later told reporters; “Today we didn’t want to risk people’s lives by continuing to be confrontational because if we had chosen to be confrontational there will be blood in the streets.
“We will continue to mobilise but what you are going to see is a mutation of our strategy because when you are facing a confrontational regime you must also use tactics that are going to be above them,” Chamisa said, without elaborating.
Police said in a statement that 91 people were arrested for various offences. “The police is firm on the ground to ensure that law and order is maintained,” the statement read.
Outside the court that rejected the appeal to lift the ban on protesting, MDC Vice President Tendai Biti said: “The constitution guarantees the right to demonstration … yet this fascist regime has denied and proscribed this right.”
“We have jumped from the frying pan into the fire after the (anti-Mugabe) coup of November 2017… We don’t accept the conduct of this regime, the conduct of Mr Mnangagwa.”