By Alex Bell
13 December 2012
An official from the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) is set to spend a night behind bars on Thursday, after he was arrested during a police raid on the group’s office in Harare.
Five police members stormed the offices and arrested Leo Chamahwinya, the ZimRights Education and Programmes Manager. He stands accused of allegedly conducting illegal voter registration, but no charges have been filed.
One of the Chamahwinya’s lawyers, Tarisai Mutangi, told SW Radio Africa that his client is still being held at Harare Central Police station and will likely stay there overnight. He added that investigations into the allegations are still underway and charges will only be filed later.
It is understood that Chamahwinya’s arrest is part of a police operation that has been targeting other ZimRights structures, involved in pre-election education. At least two other officials from other parts of the country are said to have been arrested in recent days.
Phillip Pasirayi, an activist from the Centre for Community Development, told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that the raid on the ZimRights offices is part of a “massive crackdown” on the NGO community in Zimbabwe.
“It is not surprising because ZANU PF is in panic mode and the arrests are in line with ZANU PF’s resolutions made at their people’s conference. They are targeting NGOs because of their access to communities and the education they are conducting about democracy and human rights,” Pasirayi said.
He added that groups like ZimRights are vocal and critical “and they will be targeted ahead of elections.”