Police arrest members of civic organisation
(Freedom House/IFEX) - March 30, 2012 - Police in the district of Lupane, Zimbabwe early this morning disrupted a training that was being conducted by a well-known and widely respected civic organization, the National Youth Development Trust (NYDT). Police arrested five NYDT employees and one senior staff member, Bhekumusa Moyo, remains in police custody where he has been repeatedly denied access to his lawyers and colleagues. NYDT was initially denied permission to hold the workshop, but the police were forced to allow it to proceed after the organization successfully obtained a High Court order. The police, who interrupted and dispersed the meeting—at which 30 Lupane youth were discussing life skills, focusing on issues of gender, career guidance, and HIV/AIDS—said they “did not recognize” the court's order. Freedom House calls for the immediate release of Mr. Moyo and for authorities to respect the right of Zimbabweans to free assembly.
Zimbabwe, which is rated Not Free in the Freedom of the World 2012, has a long and infamous history of restricting space for public meetings. While legally, civic organizations are only required to obtain police clearance for expressly political meetings, others are frequently visited by police and intelligence officials who may monitor and interrupt proceedings or intimidate and even arrest organizers on spurious charges. As national elections approach, which are expected in early 2013, civic activists are increasingly warning that the frequency of such arrests could rise substantially.