Masvingo residents detained over Council levy protest

Femias Chakabuda

Masvingo residents have suffered multiple problems owing to council failures including lack of water and having to live with piles of rubbish

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
30 April 2014

Nine Masvingo residents were held in police detention overnight on Tuesday, after they were arrested and accused of inciting public violence.

The nine were part of a group of residents who had attempted to gather at the Masvingo City Council offices on Tuesday, for answers about levies and other issues.

The residents decided to approach the Council following a meeting addressed by the Masvingo Residents and Ratepayers Trust early Tuesday morning. The group had raised concerns about a number of issues, including the trading levies of $2 per day, imposed by the Council for informal market traders.

After the meeting, residents decided to move as a group to the Council offices to voice their grievances. But they were apprehended by police on the way to the offices, and nine people were arrested for allegedly participating in an ‘unsanctioned’ gathering.

Lawyer Phillip Shumba, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said Wednesday that his clients were also accused of attempting to incite public violence and charged. They were held overnight and on Wednesday were likely to be released after recording ‘warned and cautioned’ statements.

“There are two possibilities now. The first is that they might appear in court tomorrow (Thursday), or they will be released and the docket will be sent to the prosecution for their decision on whether to proceed and set the matter down for trial or not,” Shumba explained.

He added: “From what I gathered from the police, I’m sure they will be released before the end of the day (Wednesday).”

The lawyer meanwhile raised concern about the incident, telling SW Radio Africa that there was no basis either for the arrests or the charges.

“The charges, in my opinion, are unfounded. As residents, where they have genuine complaints against a service provider, they should raise their grievances without fear,” Shumba said.

He continued: “The arrests were not proper because in a democratic society you can’t condone a situation where police use heavy handedness to arrest residents who have a noble intention to air their grievances.”

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