Pro-democracy group officials arrested

Gift Phiri

POLICE this week arrested four officials of a pro-democracy group as repression of perceived government critics intensifies ahead of next year’s legislative poll.



ce=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Tony Reeler, Kuda Chidzike, Teddy Nemeroff and Heather Steenkamp of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) were arrested on Monday in connection with an inter-denominational prayer meeting held in Gweru last week. Police said Idasa facilitated an illegal meeting that violated the draconian security law, the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).


“The meeting was not cleared by the police,” police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said.


The four were picked up on Monday morning and taken to Harare Central Police Station’s Law and Order section where they were interviewed about their work with Idasa. They denied any involvement with the prayer meeting and were later released without charge.


The arrest of the four comes ahead of a large meeting convened by the South African Council of Churches and the South African Catholic Bishops Conference to be held in South Africa next week. Idasa is providing the logistical support for the conference which has the theme “Minimum Standards for the Zimbabwe Election”.


The Idasa officials’ legal counsel, Beatrice Mtetwa of Kantor & Immerman, said her clients were arrested over “trumped up charges”.


In a statement this week, Idasa said it was “an independent public interest organisation committed to promoting sustainable democracy in South Africa and elsewhere in the region by building democratic institutions, educating citizens and advocating social justice”.


“It is therefore regrettable that the Zimbabwean government is treating Idasa as an outlaw that is bent on subverting the democratic processes in Zimbabwe.”


l Meanwhile, the leader of the human rights group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) Jenni Williams and seven other women activists were still in custody at the time of going to press last night. The women were arrested on Wednesday in Harare after completing an epic march from Bulawayo.


The eight were rounded up and bundled into a police truck. They were taken to Harare Central police station. Bvudzijena said the eight were arrested for “participating in an illegal demonstration.”