Chingwizi villagers granted bail

Chingwizi transit camp was the scene of violent police and army reprisals

By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
08 August 2014

On Friday a Chiredzi magistrate granted bail to 25 Chingwizi villagers who were arrested and detained by the police for public violence, during protests in which two police vehicles were burnt down.

However four other villagers will remain in police cells after they were denied bail and will appear again in court on September 5th.

A spokesman from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Kumbirai Mafunda, said they will be appealing to the High Court for the release of the four. Mafunda said among the four were community leaders and those suspected to have been directly involved in last week’s violent incident.

The incident happened after police officers who were sent to evict the villagers from the Chingwizi Transit Camp started assaulting people with batons. Irate villagers fought back and in the process disarmed the officers who fled leaving behind their vehicles.

Earlier this week the police, together with the army, launched a violent witch hunt during which the accused were captured and tortured.

But the villagers, who include an 84 year old headman, two teenagers, a woman with a baby and two terminally ill men, argued in court that the state had failed to submit compelling reasons to justify their continued detention. Through their lawyers the villagers said their rights were violated during their capture by the police.

As the accused appeared in court human rights groups reported that the crackdown on the villagers was still ongoing and the Chingwizi community leaders had fled.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said security forces were still forcibly loading families at the camp onto vehicles to take them to the one hectare plots to effect the forced relocation. The coalition said the soldiers had cordoned off the camp and only government officials are allowed in.

The villagers, who were relocated to the camp to escape flooding at the Tokwe-Mukosi basin, want monetary compensation for their displacement and also five-hectare plots which the government promised. With the government broke the villagers have vowed to stay put, a situation which has led to a rise in tensions between the police and the camp dwellers.

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