By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
12 March 2014
Two volunteers working with the rights group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) were arrested on Wednesday, while attending a media training workshop in Harare.
The police arrested Natasha Dowell and Tawanda Maguze at Bronte Hotel in the capital and detained them at Harare Central police station. The two were attending the workshop organised by GALZ, which focused on using social media and media tools.
Dowell, a local activist and advocate for homosexual rights, was the only one charged by the police for allegedly convening an ‘unauthorised’ meeting.
Her lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara, told SW Radio Africa that she was charged with contravening a section of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), with the police claiming she should have first sought ‘permission’ from the force.
Maguze was profiled by the police before being released without charge. Dowell has denied the charges laid against her, and insisted that her organisation was exempt from complying with the provisions of POSA.
“She was released after charges were pressed against her. The police indicated that they will proceed by way of summons if they intend to pursue the matter,” Bhatasara said.
POSA has for years been used by the ZANU PF government and the party loyal police force to crack down on any individual or organisation deemed to be a ‘threat’. As such human rights groups, activists, opposition politicians and ordinary individuals have all been charged under POSA, which many activists have said must be repealed.
The reforming of the law is one of the many outstanding issues left over from the time of the unity government, despite the reforms being promised as part of a roadmap towards fresh elections. The elections took place regardless, without any meaningful reforms, supporting widespread claims that the polls were illegitimate.