By Tererai Karimakwenda
08 November 2012
The three employees from the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) in Harare, arrested on Monday after police raided their offices, were on Thursday released on bail by a Bulawayo magistrate.
Fidelis Mudimu, Zachariah Godi and Tafadzwa Gesa had been “illegally” transferred from Harare to Bulawayo on Wednesday, without any charges specified against them. The trio were reportedly transported in the back of an open pickup truck, exposed to the blazing sun.
The bail was granted after they were detained much longer than the 48-hour period stipulated by law for police to either charge or release suspects. Lawyers said their transfer and continued detention in Bulawayo was illegal.
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the three were being held under a fresh detention order that was written and signed in Harare. The bail conditions they received Thursday include a $500 fine and surrendering their passports.
CSU has no offices in Bulawayo, where the police allege that the accused defaced some property using spray paint.
CSU director, Frances Lovemore, told SW Radio Africa police found three small cans of spray paint in their Harare offices, which are used to mark the separate areas of the office, in compliance with environmental health regulations.
Lovemore explained that the CSU provides a non-partisan service to victims traumatised by political violence and torture. But their service was disrupted on Monday when the riot squad surrounded their building and threatened to fire teargas.
“The tragedy was that many people at our offices had travelled far and from outside Harare to receive treatment. But they were kept waiting inside the building for four hours, without food or water,” Lovemore said.
CSU managed to reopen their offices and restore full service on Tuesday.
In a statement Wednesday the global rights watchdog, Amnesty International, condemned the arrest of the CSU employees. Amnesty’s southern Africa director, Noel Kututwa, said: “This flagrant bullying and intimidation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe must end.”
He added that Amnesty, “believes the unlawful detention of the three men is part of a pattern of systematic harassment and intimidation of civil society by the government, as it attempts to stifle dissent ahead of elections in 2013”.