Police launch massive manhunt for national student leader

By Lance Guma
21 December 2006

Police have launched a massive manhunt for the President of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), Promise Mkwananzi. In copies of a police memorandum made available to Newsreel, The Officer in Charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (Law and Order section) alerted all stations, patrols, roadblocks and deployments to be on the lookout for Mkwananzi. The memo says the ZINASU leader is wanted ‘in connection with a case of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry (sic).’ It further states that Mkwananzi is moving around colleges in the country meeting students. The registration number of the vehicle in use was also listed. ‘If arrested, detain and advise loc (location)’ the memo ends.

A defiant Mkwananzi told Newsreel he had been advised by his lawyers not to hand himself in until the police had laid out the charges. Police officers in Harare told lawyers that the police inspector dealing with the case is away on holiday and will only deal with the matter when he comes back. Surprisingly the police memo is dated 17 November 2006 and up until now Mkwananzi has evaded the police attention. He says the police are trying to criminalise all forms of activism in Zimbabwe as a way of blocking political reform. Several other student leaders have been expelled or suspended with others like Mkwananzi and his Vice President Gideon Chitanga being barred from writing exams.

The ZINASU president told Newsreel that as students they could not ‘confine themselves to the ivory tower of academic freedoms,’ since bread and butter issues also affected their welfare. He conceded that his mother and father were clearly worried about his welfare and safety but in his own words, ‘we are a contemporary generation, fighting beyond the Zanu PF era, beyond the vision which they have and they now understand the need for leadership renewal.’ The police meanwhile betrayed their determination to catch Mkwananzi in the memo posted to all police stations around the country. A note added to the memo and written in red ink close to the date stamp read out, ‘all members, take note and arrest this suspect please.’

NB: For the full interview with Promise Mkwananzi tune in to Behind the Headlines with Lance Guma.