Mtetwa said police changed charge of NCA demonstrators

Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said police had originally wanted to charge about 70 National Constitutional Assembly demonstrators under the Public Order and Security Act but were advised by the attorney-general to change this to contravening the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

The demonstrators were, part of a group of between 180 and 300,that were arrested when they marched through Harare calling for a new constitution.

Police charged the demonstrators for conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and under the Traffic Code for obstructing traffic.

NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku and an unknown number of the 70 were released after paying fines and a signed admission of guilt statement.

Those who refused to pay fines were held.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE2124, 70 NCA ARRESTEES CHARGED, SOME STILL DETAINED,

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

03HARARE2124

2003-10-24 10:12

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002124

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

DS/OP/AF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: 70 NCA ARRESTEES CHARGED, SOME STILL DETAINED,

MANY RELEASED

 

REF: HARARE 2100

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On October 22, police arrested over a hundred

NCA demonstrators, beat some, and released up to a hundred

without charge on October 22. Seventy were charged on

October 23. Many of those paid a fine and signed an

admission of guilt statement; some refused to pay or sign and

were still in police custody on October 24. The swift

crackdown demonstrates that ZANU-PF has no intention of

allowing public opposition to the regime gather momentum.

The MDC has been quietly absent from this and other recent

events, focused instead on its election petition, the treason

trial, and grass-roots efforts to build party unity in

outlying areas. END SUMMARY.

 

¶2. (U) On October 22, police arrested over a hundred

demonstrators, including National Constitutional Assembly

(NCA) Director Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, during a demonstration

organized by the NCA along Sam Nujoma Street near Africa

Unity Square in downtown Harare (Ref). On October 23, Police

charged 70 of the demonstrators under the Miscellaneous

Offenses Act for conduct likely to cause a breach of the

peace, and under the Traffic Code for obstructing traffic. A

prominent lawyer representing some of the arrestees, Beatrice

Mtetwa, said that police originally intended to charge the

arrestees under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), but

the Attorney General intervened and told police to charge

them as above.

 

¶3. (U) The police reportedly released NCA Director Madhuku

and an unknown number of the 70 late in the evening of

October 23; those released paid a fine and signed an

admission of guilt statement. Of the 70 charged, those who

refused to either pay the fine or sign the statement were

still being held on October 24.

 

¶4. (U) Late in the evening of October 22, police released up

to a hundred demonstrators without charge. On October 22,

lawyers were denied access to the demonstrators for several

hours until late in the evening when police allowed one

lawyer in to speak with the arrestees. By October 23,

lawyers were given full access.

¶5. (U) The Herald reported that the demonstrators were

arrested in downtown Harare while they were singing songs

denouncing the government and marching along Sam Nujoma

Street from Africa Unity Square. Observers said the

demonstration was peaceful until riot police started to

disperse onlookers and arrest demonstrators.

 

¶6. (U) In statements carried in government-controlled The

Herald, NCA information officer Ernest Mudzengi said that his

organization had not sought police clearance for the

demonstration.

 

¶7. (U) Doctors reportedly were examining some of those who

were released for injuries sustained while in police custody;

however, Embassy has no figures on casualties.

 

¶8. (U) NCA officials said they would release a formal

statement on October 24 concerning the events.

 

¶9. (SBU) Ben Zulu, a stringer for the Voice of America (VOA),

was arrested as part of the NCA demonstrations. According to

his attorney, Zulu attempted to explain to police that he was

not a demonstrator but just a reporting journalist; however,

he was arrested anyway. One of the lawyers said police had

roughed up Zulu.

 

¶10. (U) Two Herald journalists and one from the Independent

were held briefly on October 22 but released without charge.

 

¶11. (U) Lawyers said they intended to file a petition

complaining that they were initially forcefully denied access

to the arrestees.

 

¶12. (C) COMMENT: The swift crackdown against these NCA

marchers demonstrates that the ruling ZANU-PF has no

intention of allowing any public opposition to take hold and

potentially spiral out of control. Indeed, police readiness

to act quickly against regime critics has been effective:

there has been no meaningful public outcry, or expression of

outrage at recent repression including the arrest of Zimbabwe

Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders, or the closure of

The Daily News in September.

 

¶13. (C) Throughout all of this, the MDC has been quietly

absent, or at least staying out of the limelight. This may

be attributed in part to the absence of The Daily News. The

MDC did issue public statements in support of ZCTU, and

condemning the closure of The Daily News, but it seems

inwardly focused and absorbed with its election petition, due

to get underway in court on November 3; the treason trial of

its President, Morgan Tsvangirai; and grass-roots efforts to

build party unity and consolidate municipal gains in outlying

areas.

SULLIVAN

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