VII. A Politicized and Partisan Police Force

Despite the strictures of the Police Act, since 2000 the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)—especially its senior officers—has become increasingly partisan on matters of a political nature. As long ago as January 15, 2001, Police Commissioner Chihuri stated openly that he supported ZANU-PF because it was the party in government, and that he would resign if another political party came to power.73

Beyond statements, however, this partisanship manifests itself in repressive, politicized policing. When a judge or a magistrate rules contrary to the government in “political” cases, the police frequently ignore court orders. Even well-intentioned prosecutors who have sought to prosecute all offenders have been undermined by the police, who as a matter of policy in “political” cases only arrest MDC activists. ZANU-PF activists and their allies who commit crimes in the context of political matters go free.

In a report following a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe in June 2002, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights condemned the ZRP’s partisan stance and its routine abuse of human rights. The Commission noted that the Law and Order unit was the worst problem and called for it to be disbanded. It said that the unit seemed to “operate under political instructions and without accountability to the ZRP command structures.”74 The Commission urged Zimbabwe to “avoid any further politicization of the police service.”75

Human Rights Watch investigations into subsequent police behavior show that this advice went unheeded. The ZANU-PF-led government has never condemned partisan policing nor taken action against police abuse of power. The cue has come from the highest level. In September 2006, following police beatings of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) leaders while in custody, President Mugabe said “when the police say move, move. If you don’t move, you invite the police to use force.”76

By 2007 Zimbabwe’s police force had become notorious for supporting ZANU-PF and harassing and torturing opposition and civil society leaders. For example, police and state security officers arrested and severely beat opposition and civil society leaders on March 11, 2007, in an attempt to prevent a prayer meeting at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare.77 President Mugabe boasted about these beatings and publicly supported the police’s conduct. Addressing a ZANU-PF rally on March 29, 2007, Mugabe said, “of course he [MDC leader Tsvangirai] was bashed. He deserved it... l told the police to beat him.”78

Police Inaction when ZANU-PF and Allies are Implicated in Political Violence

Human Rights Watch interviewed serving police officers who spoke of a national-level policy to not pursue ZANU PF militia and other allies of ZANU-PF implicated in political violence. Such a policy violates Zimbabwe’s obligations under international law to ensure that victims of human rights violations “have an effective remedy.”79 According to the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors state compliance with the ICCPR, “[a] failure by a State Party to investigate allegations of violations could in and of itself give rise to a separate breach of the Covenant.”80

A detective inspector in the Law and Order Section (Criminal Investigation Division) based in Harare explained to Human Rights Watch the approach of the police in “political” matters:

You do not deal with a political or politically sensitive case without first getting clearance from your superior on duty, and usually these superiors are members or active supporters of ZANU-PF who decide the matter and give directions based on their political affiliation. In fact, it is classified as misconduct for a junior police officer to deal with a political matter without consulting a superior. For instance, you cannot just extract information from a witness in matters involving MDC without clearance and directives from your superior.81

A police constable serving in Mashonaland East province told Human Rights Watch how senior police officers addressed several police camps in Mashonaland East on April 7, 2008, and in each case issued clear instructions on how to handle political violence cases:

Senior police officers came to address us. We knew by the rank displayed on their clothes that they were senior, but they were not introduced to us. They probably came from police headquarters in Harare. One of them said, “You are under instruction not to arrest ZANU-PF supporters who may be implicated in political violence or whom you may come across committing acts of political violence. Do not use force when dealing with them. At most, you may, when you find them in the act of committing political violence, gently disperse them, but make no arrests, I repeat, do not arrest ZANU-PF supporters.”82

Not only did senior officers announce this directive, they also said that ZANU-PF supporters were fully aware of this position and acted in the full knowledge that law enforcement agents were not going to act against them. A member of the ZANU-PF militia, operating a base in Epworth in Harare, openly boasted to Human Rights Watch that no ZANU-PF member spends a night in police custody no matter what crime they committed.83 He told Human Rights Watch:

I can assure you that no member of ZANU-PF, no son of the revolution gets to spend a night in police custody no matter what crime they commit, the police belong to ZANU-PF so they cannot arrest their comrades. If they do, ZANU-PF leaders will order immediate release of any ZANU-PF member arrested.84

Lack of Investigations into Extrajudicial Killings after the March 29 Elections

Human Rights Watch investigations have already documented widespread state-sponsored political violence in Zimbabwe after the March 29, 2008 elections.85 This violence claimed at least 163 lives—nearly all of whom were MDC supporters—in extrajudicial killings perpetrated by ZANU-PF supporters and their allies. Thousands of MDC supporters were also brutally assaulted. Since then, Human Rights Watch is unaware of a single prosecution, let alone a conviction, for any of the killings.

Police have made arrests in only two cases; even in these, the accused were quickly released without charge.86 Police made arrests in the cases of Tapiwa Mbwanda from Hurungwe, who was killed on April 5, allegedly by ZANU-PF youths and self-styled war veterans and in the case of former police officer Kingsley Muteta from Mashonaland East province, who died at a private hospital in Harare on July 26 following an attack by 12 suspected ZANU-PF youths at his home in Mudzi. In the Mbwanda case, the four accused were set free after a local ZANU-PF leader had demanded their release; while in the Muteta case, those implicated were released under unclear circumstances.87

Although police reports were filed in all the other cases, Human Rights Watch is not aware of the police conducting even a rudimentary investigation, let alone making arrests. In most of the cases, victims’ families or eyewitnesses even supplied the names of suspected perpetrators to the police.

A survivor of attacks by ZANU-PF militia and “war veterans” on Chaona village in Mashonaland Central province on May 5 that left six men dead88 told Human Rights Watch:

[The] perpetrators…are well known.  We made several reports to police and gave the names of the perpetrators to police but no arrests have been made. These people who tortured me and killed my uncle and five other villagers are still roaming freely in our community, boasting about their evil deeds with not a single word from the police. In fact these killers are walking as “heroes” in the community, seemingly above the law.89

On June 20 a group of ZANU-PF supporters killed MDC Councilor Gibbs Chironga, and three others in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central province.90 Gibbs’s sister told Human Rights Watch that the police had neither investigated nor arrested anyone in connection with the death of her brother and three others.91

Deputy Mayor for Harare and MDC Councilor for Ward 42 Emmanuel Chiroto, has been unable to get police to investigate the abduction and subsequent murder of his wife by a suspected ZANU-PF militia on June 16.92 Chiroto told Human Rights Watch:

The police have not been cooperative at all. [They] refuse to follow all the leads. For instance, at Borrowdale police station they are aware that when my wife was abducted on the fateful day, the people who abducted her also took a bag containing various certificates. A certain man recently brought back the certificates but police have not questioned him on where he found [them].93

Human Rights Watch interviewed Philimon Chipiyo, MDC deputy mayor of Chitungwiza, about progress in the investigation of the killing of his son and three other young men in Chitungwiza on June 19. Chipiyo told Human Rights Watch:

When ZANU-PF supporters came to attack my house on… June 19—when they also shot and killed my son and three other young men—I was able to identify a community police officer who came driving his truck. I only know his first name, Farai. When I went to report the case at Chitungwiza police station the following day, the team that came to investigate came in Farai’s car with Farai driving the same car that I had seen when my son was killed. One police officer who came to my house said, “Your report is false, we shall conduct our own investigations in due course.” They never returned to carry out investigations and no one has been arrested in connection with the murders that took place at my house.94

Likewise, police refused to investigate the killing of Joshua Bakacheza, an MDC driver who was abducted on June 24 by suspected ZANU-PF supporters and whose body was later found on July 5 dumped in Beatrice (about 50 kilometers south of Harare) in an advanced state of decomposition.95 Despite reports of his abduction, police insisted that Bakacheza’s death was “non-political.” No arrests have been made.

Lack of Investigation into Other Post-Election Abuses

On June 12 during the run-off election campaign period, following a presidential campaign visit to Chegutu by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, several houses belonging to senior MDC officials were petrol-bombed by known ZANU-PF militia members. One house belonged to Gift Konjana who filed a report with the police to no avail. He told Human Rights Watch:

When we went to Chegutu police station to report that our houses….had been destroyed and we gave names of the ZANU-PF militia who had destroyed our houses to police, they did not even bother to take down our statement. One police officer said, “Our hands are tied.  We cannot do anything where ZANU-PF is involved. However, if your case was not political we could have helped you—all political violence matters are off limits for the police.”96

The same sentiments were echoed by a police officer operating in Mashonaland West province who told Human Rights Watch:

We have the dockets ready. We know all the ZANU-PF culprits in this area who are responsible for various acts of political violence. We see them every day. We are ready to arrest if the order is given. Otherwise one cannot just go out and arrest a ZANU-PF supporter without…clearance. It is like walking into a lion’s den; that is just not done.97

The case of Kadombo Chitokwa illustrates the police’s continuing unwillingness to investigate crimes against MDC activists. He told Human Rights Watch:

I was abducted by ZANU-PF youths on June 24 and taken to a base at a Shamva farm where I was beaten, verbally abused and detained for 42 days. I was released on August 7. On August 9 I went to make a report at Shamva police station. The police told me to go home as they would come and investigate the matter as soon as possible. After four days…I went back to the police…since they had not come to my home. This time the police told me, “We cannot investigate your case. Consider it a thing of the past. It is over now. It is time now to focus on the ongoing talks between ZANU-PF and MDC.”98

Harrison Mudzuri, MDC member of parliament for Zaka West in Masvingo province, whose homestead was attacked by alleged ZANU PF militia on August 14, went to a police station in his constituency to inquire about progress on the case, which he had previously reported. He told Human Rights Watch:

At the police station I discovered that the officer-in-charge… had recently been transferred to another part of the country. The new officer-in-charge told me, “I am new at this post, and have no record of any political violence ever being reported at this police station. If you wish to pursue a matter that was reported before I took office…get in touch with the former officer in charge. Unfortunately, I do not know where he has been posted.” No investigations have been carried out and no arrests have been made and l have no hope that the people who attacked my home and my family will ever be brought to justice.99

Police Persecution of MDC Leaders, Supporters and Perceived Supporters

Human Rights Watch has gathered extensive accounts of police arbitrarily arresting and detaining MDC leaders and activists. The systematic nature of these cases indicates intent by the police force to persecute perceived ZANU-PF opponents.

Several activists and their lawyers have also alleged that the police have conjured elaborate and fictional “high-risk security” cases in order to justify the arrest and detention of MDC supporters.100 An MDC lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, told Human Rights Watch that the standard police pattern was to randomly arrest known MDC activists without carrying out proper investigations. If it turned out the person was falsely accused, then a team of police was tasked to create a case against the accused.101

Already in August 2004, Justice Sandra Mungwira had drawn attention to the police’s propensity to arrest MDC activists on trumped-up charges. In acquitting six MDC supporters charged with the murder of a war veteran, Justice Mungwira had found that the 14 police officers tasked with investigating the case had “spewed untruths,” their records were “an appalling piece of fiction,” and they had acted shamefully when they tortured MDC activists to force them to confess to a crime they did not commit.102 A police constable, who was part of a team tasked with fabricating evidence against MDC activists in Harare after the March 29, 2008, elections, told Human Rights Watch:

The officer-in-charge of Law and Order Section, Harare Charge Office, made it clear to all nine police officers in my team that we had to arrest and detain MDC activists by any means necessary, and that it was our responsibility to make up cases against MDC activists since we are “at war” with MDC.103

Marvellous Khumalo, MDC member of parliament for St Mary’s Chitungwiza, told Human Rights Watch:

On four occasions between March and July 2008 l was arrested by police at St Mary’s police station when l had gone there to enquire about detained MDC supporters from my constituency. On each of those four occasions the police accused me of inciting political violence in my constituency. MDC victims of political violence now fear to go to police because the police tend to arrest the victims and not the perpetrators of violence.104

On April 25, 2008, more than 40 armed men raided the MDC headquarters in Harare where victims of political violence from around the country, numbering some 250, had sought refuge.105 Police arrested all the occupants and detained them at several police stations in Harare.

The government’s stated aim was to arrest persons suspected of committing acts of assault and arson around the country.106 Yet, among those detained were elderly people, young children accompanying their arrested mothers and mothers who had suckling babies and toddlers. When Evelyn Masaiti, MDC member of parliament for Dzivarasekwa, went to Harare Central Police to find out about the arrested mothers and babies, she too was arrested.107 A lawyer representing the MDC supporters told Human Rights Watch:

Here we have a case where victims are being punished for being victims, a true case of double jeopardy. They escape from the wrath of marauding war veterans and ZANU-PF militia only to fall into the wrath of rampaging armed policemen.108

Police Response to Court Rulings

As noted earlier in this report, police refused to enforce a series of court orders handed down by the High Court and Supreme Court declaring farm invasions illegal and directing police to remove the occupiers.109 On June 22, 2008, police defied a High Court order and banned an MDC presidential campaign rally in Harare from taking place. Police officers beat MDC supporters who had turned up for the rally. The MDC was forced to cancel the rally, one of many incidents contributing to its decision to pull out of the presidential run-off election.110 On the same occasion, police watched as ZANU-PF supporters went on a rampage, beating MDC supporters and seriously injuring scores of them. No arrests of ZANU-PF supporters were made.111

On June 14, 2008, the police defied a High Court order to present detained MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti in court by 10 a.m. that day.112 Instead, the police brought prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General, who told the court that they had not brought Biti because they doubted the authority of the High Court order. Eventually Biti was produced.113

In the case of the arbitrary arrest and detention of lawyer and MDC Member of Parliament Eric Matinenga in June 2008, the police and prosecution repeatedly refused to comply with a High Court order directing his immediate release.114

Police Harassment of Civil Society Leaders and Activists

On August 28, 2008, Assistant Inspector Mwenje of Rhodesville Police Station in Harare issued orders to riot police to stop the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) Annual General Meeting from proceeding on the grounds that the meeting violated section 4 of the Public Order and Security Act.115

WOZA activists have also been subjected to frequent arrests, police harassment and brutality. Since February 14, 2003, WOZA Coordinator Jenni Williams has been arrested and detained by police 32 times, invariably under the Public Order and Security Act. Williams told Human Rights Watch that police routinely assaulted her and other WOZA members during arrest and in custody. On as many as 28 occasions, arresting officers told her they were acting on orders from above and had no knowledge of the crime she was alleged to have committed.116

On June 21 police in Bulawayo assaulted and arrested two WOZA members and held them for two days before releasing them without charge. On August 13 nine women members of WOZA were arrested in Bulawayo; they were released without charge on August 16.117

On June 3 five senior police officers from the Law and Order Section of the Criminal Investigation Division, Harare, visited Abel Chikomo, executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, at his offices in Harare and warned him and his organization not to continue working in the area of human rights advocacy or they would face unspecified consequences.118

On June 11 police ordered several NGOs in Gweru to shut down on the authority of a letter banning food aid operations from Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Nicholas Goche.119 On June 9 armed police, Central Intelligence Organization officers, and soldiers raided a building that houses various church-based civic groups and arrested 10 people, charging them with possessing subversive material. The 10 were released on June 13 without going to court after the attorney general’s office refused to prosecute them, citing lack of evidence.120

Attacks, Harassment and Abuse of Lawyers Taking up Political Cases

According to the president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, most lawyers were now unwilling to take on so-called political cases for fear of the personal hazards associated with confronting the government in representing MDC and civil society activists.121

A small number of lawyers do buck this trend.122 But they have adopted a strategy of not visiting police stations alone, taking at least two colleagues who can alert other lawyers who can trace them following their arrest and detention.123 Lawyers report that such harassment is mainly at the hands of police in the Law and Order unit of the Criminal Investigations Division, which has frequently been accused of abusing the rights of detainees and their lawyers in political cases.124 Previously, the African Commission had criticized the same Law and Order Section for serious human rights abuses.125

According to the Law Society of Zimbabwe, police are frequently uncooperative and hostile to lawyers, and many have long since ceased to respect the country’s legal profession.126 In May 2007 police arrested lawyers Andrew Makoni and Alec Muchadehama on spurious charges of “attempting to defeat course of justice through a falsehood during the course of a bail application.”127 The two often represent the MDC and others in political cases.

A human rights lawyer told Human Rights Watch how, on June 10, 2008, he was made to search for clients accused of political violence at more than 13 police stations in Harare simply because arresting police officers at the Law and Order unit, Harare Central Police Station refused to give accurate details of where his clients were being held.128 Eventually, after more than 10 hours of searching, driving from one police station to another, he located the clients at Avondale Police Station, where, at the beginning of the search he had been told emphatically that his clients were not there. His clients told him that they were held at that particular police station for the whole day.129

Police arrested MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti at Harare airport on June 12, 2008, on his return from South Africa and immediately whisked him away. His lawyers spent several days trying to locate where the police were holding him. After receiving information that Biti was being moved among several police stations—including Harare Central, Machipisa, Avondale, Goromonzi and Matapi police stations—the lawyers resolved to make a habeas corpus application to force the police to produce Biti in court.130 The court granted an order directing police to produce Biti in court which the police eventually did after initially ignoring the court order.

Police Engagement in Partisan Politics

Contrary to provisions of the Police Act,131 several senior police officers are openly ZANU-PF supporters and act principally in the interests of ZANU-PF.

In Manicaland province in May 2008 the officer-in-charge forced all personnel in a police camp to wear ZANU-PF T-shirts while carrying out their duties.132 In several other camps, police were instructed to refer to each other not by their rank but by the title “comrade”—a term used almost exclusively by ZANU-PF supporters.133

This open support for a political party does not extend to the opposition. At a police camp in Mashonaland Central province, 15 police officers were arraigned before an internal police court on April 17, 2008, to face allegations that they “celebrated an MDC victory” on March 29.134

A police officer based in Harare told Human Rights Watch:

Since March 29 a ZANU-PF branch was set up within the camp and it holds weekly meetings on a Thursday evening. Attendance at these meetings is mandatory. I make it a point to attend each weekly meeting and say a few words each time because if I do not attend I risk being labeled an MDC supporter. Once you are labeled an MDC supporter, you are victimized and you can be guaranteed that you will never be promoted. Promotion in the police now is not on merit, but is based on active participation in ZANU-PF meetings and activities. That is what in police circles is called “defending the country.”135 

According to a police officer based in Mashonaland province, feigning support for ZANU-PF is a crucial survival skill within the police force. He explained to Human Rights Watch:

Most of us low-ranking officers, we are just as fed up with this ZANU-PF government as everyone else, but circumstances force us to obey orders to harass MDC supporters. It is dangerous to appear to be openly professional when dealing with political cases. If…there is even the slightest suspicion that you are sympathetic to opposition forces then you may even lose your job. I know that the officer-in-charge of Mazowe Central Police Station, was forcibly and on short notice transferred to another station in Centenary as punishment for appearing to be sympathetic to MDC supporters. Again, just before end of April 2008, the officer-in-charge for Shamva tried by all means to be professional and non-partisan, but was dismissed from his job because ZANU-PF leaders in the area complained about him.136

According to a police officer present, on April 29, 2008, Assistant Commissioner Musarashana Mabunda of the Law and Order Section of the Criminal Investigations Division called and addressed a meeting of all police officers and their spouses at Mutare Main Camp. He reportedly told the police officers that they must all support ZANU-PF or resign immediately.137

Police Complicity in ZANU-PF Abuses

In several provinces, members of ZANU-PF militia have unlawfully taken up “policing duties,” carrying out arbitrary arrests, investigations and at times meting out punishment on MDC supporters and other Zimbabweans. One militia member told Human Rights Watch of an agreement with the police in the Mbare suburb of Harare that gave the militia exclusive control of vast areas of Mbare where police no longer venture:

We reached a cordial agreement with the police in Mbare through Matapi officer-in-charge, that police will let ZANU-PF Chipangano [a youth militia]138 be responsible for administering justice and maintaining order at the main bus terminus at Mbare Musika, and the surrounding… markets at Mupedzanhamo. Our job is to make sure that the area is free of MDC people; no MDC supporter is allowed to become a trader at Mupedzanhamo or at Mbare Musika.

We also patrol all blocks of flats… to make sure that all occupants have ZANU-PF membership cards. If a crime is committed in our area, a report is made to us and we deal with the matter, not the police. Only two days ago, a man was caught stealing from a bus and we arrested him and took him to Mbare 3 base. We beat him and “sentenced” him to clean our offices for two weeks as punishment.139

One notable example of the alliance between ZANU-PF militia, the army and the police involves a 23-year-old man from Manicaland province who was kidnapped by ZANU-PF militia on May 27, 2008. They accused him of being an MDC activist and attempted to kill him by throwing him onto a bonfire three times. He told Human Rights Watch:

When I jumped out of the fire for the third time they tied my hands on my back and one of them inserted a burning log into my anus, at which point I passed out. The militia then took me to an army base at Tsanzaguru where I was handed over to members of Zimbabwe National Army who also beat me for two days. After that the… army… handed me over to Rusape Police Station where I was promptly charged with committing political violence, endured a further two weeks in custody before being released on bail.140 

On June 25, 2008, 63 Mbare families were evicted from their homes by the Chipangano militia. The militia told them that they were being evicted because they supported the MDC in the March 29 elections. On June 26 three family members went to file a report at Matapi police station in Mbare. When the report was made, the officer-in-charge allegedly first phoned the ZANU-PF youth leader in the area before directing complainants to go and meet with the youth leader at Mudyanadzo Bar in Shawasha Flats, Mbare.141 One of those bringing a complaint told Human Rights Watch:

When the Chipangano youths came at Mudyanadzo, they said, “We now want to teach you that we are above the police—they can do nothing about us, they cannot help you.” Then they proceeded to beat us using hosepipes, iron bars, knobkerries and sjamboks from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., after which they let us go. They remained in their office laughing. We went to hospital and reported the assault, this time, at Mbare Police Station. Since that day no arrests have been made and yet I know the people who evicted us and beat us and these people are also known to the police in Mbare. Even now, ZANU-PF activists are staying in our homes from where they evicted us.142

A police officer based in Harare told Human Rights Watch that police had no control over ZANU-PF youths operating in Harare:

They go around arresting people for various offenses… and hand them over to us at Harare Central. I have personally witnessed this on a number of occasions. The problem is that they do not know the law at all and they are not authorized to do that. But we cannot stop them because at all times they will be in the company of a senior police officer.143

Police Abuses since the Power-Sharing Agreement

Since the signing of a power-sharing agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC on September 15, there is no evidence that the conduct and attitude of the police towards critics of ZANU-PF have changed.

On the day of the signing, police beat up and arrested several MDC supporters who came to witness the signing ceremony at Rainbow Towers in Harare and who later clashed with ZANU-PF supporters outside the venue.144 The police did not arrest any of the ZANU-PF supporters, while several MDC supporters were arrested and briefly detained.145 The MDC supporters were later released without charge on the same day.

On September 17 riot police violently broke up a peaceful protest march by students at Bindura University (north of Harare) and detained 10 student leaders for more than 12 hours without food or water.146 The students, including seven women, were assaulted by police in custody. The police repeatedly told them that their mission was to “flush out and deal with the little MDC troublemakers at the institution.” The police also said the agreement between ZANU-PF and MDC was not relevant to police work. The students were later released without charge.147

In Masvingo on September 18 police arrested the president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Takavafira Zhou. He was held without charge in solitary confinement for four days without access to water, a toilet or blankets, before being released on September 22.148 An executive member of PTUZ told Human Rights Watch that the arrest was political persecution following PTUZ’s call for a national teachers’ strike to protest low salaries.149

In yet another sign of unchanged attitudes, Human Rights Watch received information that a police disciplinary committee on September 24, 2008, ordered the detention of serving police officer and former national football star Masimba Dinyero for 21 days for criticizing ZANU-PF leader Robert Mugabe in a casual discussion with fellow officers.150

At the same time, media reports suggest that Police Commissioner Chihuri met Mugabe and again threatened to resign if MDC were assigned the Home Affairs Ministry in a new government of national unity, stating that he was not prepared to work directly under any MDC minister.151 A dispute between MDC and ZANU-PF over who should serve as home affairs minister is one reason why the September 15 power-sharing agreement has reached the point of collapse.

More recently, on October 16, police arrested several WOZA supporters in Bulawayo, briefly detained them and later released all but two without charge.152 The two who remain in custody are the leaders of WOZA, Jenni Williams and Magondonga Mahlangu who have been charged with disturbing peace and are being denied bail.153

On October 27 police tear-gassed and beat about 150 activists from the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) and the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) who were holding a peaceful demonstration in Harare. The police arrested 42 women from the WCoZ. The demonstrators were calling for a resolution to the political impasse between ZANU-PF and the MDC so that the country’s leaders can address the severe food shortages in the country.154 The arrested women were forced to pay an on-the-spot fine and were later released the same day.

73 “Chihuri trashes impartiality of police,” The Daily News (Zimbabwe), January 16, 2001.

74 The African Commission Mission Report, Executive Summary of African Commission’s Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe 24 to 28th June 2002, (2002).

75 Ibid.

76 ”You deserve the beatings, Mugabe tells trade unionists,” Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, (accessed November 5, 2008).

77 Human Rights Watch, Bashing Dissent: Escalating Violence and State Repression in Zimbabwe, vol. 19, no. 6(A), May 2007,

78 Ibid.

79 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),G.A.res.2200A(XXI),U.N.Doc.A/6316 (1966), Article 2(3)(a).

80 Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 (2004), para. 15.

81 Human Rights Watch interview with a Police Detective Inspector, Harare, August 28, 2008.

82 Human Rights Watch interview with a police constable, Marondera, August 21, 2008.

83 Human Rights Watch interview with a member of ZANU-PF youth militia, Epworth, August 27, 2008.

84 Ibid.

85 See Human Rights Watch “Bullets for Each of You”; Human Rights Watch “They Beat Me Like a Dog”: Political Persecution of Opposition Activists and Supporters in Zimbabwe, August 2008,

86 Human Rights Watch interviews with Tawanda Mbwanda, Harare, August 22, 2008, and with persons familiar with the killing of police officer Kingsley Muteta, Harare, August 29, 2008.

87 Ibid.

88 Human Rights Watch, Bullets for Each of You, p. 38.

89 Ibid. p.36.

90 Human Rights Watch, “They Beat Me like a Dog”: Political Persecution of Opposition Activists and Supporters in Zimbabwe , August 2008,, p.10.

91 Human Rights Watch interview with Chironga’s sister, Harare, August 27, 2008.

92 The killing of Chiroto’s wife is documented in Human Rights Watch, “They Beat Me like a Dog.”

93 Human Rights Watch interview with Emmanuel Chiroto, Harare, August 28, 2008.

94 Human Rights Watch Interview with Philimon Chipiyo, Chitungwiza, August 24, 2008.

95 Human Rights Watch interview with Bakacheza’s brother, Chegutu, August 29, 2008.

96 Human Rights Watch interview with Gift Konjana, Chegutu, August 29, 2008.

97 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Chinhoyi, August 25, 2008.

98 Human Rights Watch Interview with Kadombo Chitokwa, Bindura, August 19, 2008.

99 Human Rights Watch interview with Harrison Mudzuri, Harare, August 21, 2008.

100 Human Rights Watch interview with Alec Muchadehama, Harare, August 19, 2008.

101 Ibid.

102 “Mugabe moulds pliant judges,” Institute of War and Peace Reporting,(May 30, 2006), (accessed October 30, 2008).

103 Human Rights Watch interview with police constable, Harare, August 29, 2008.

104 Human Rights Watch interview with Marvellous Khumalo, Chitungwiza, August 26, 2008.

105 “Zimbabwe: Surge in State-Sponsored Violence,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 25, 2008,

106 Evelyn Masaiti and others vs. Minister of Home Affairs and others (HC 2381/2008).

107 Ibid.  

108 Human Rights Watch interview with Jeremiah Bamu, MDC lawyer, Harare, August 27, 2008.

109 See section on the judiciary above.

110 Human Rights Watch interview with an MDC official Harare, June 22, 2008.

111 Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, who served the Court Order on the police and witnessed police defying the order, Harare, August 18, 2008.

112 Court reports on file with Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Associates Legal Practitioners, reviewed on August 25, 2008.

113 Ibid.

114 State vs. Eric Matinenga, Rusape magistrates court (CRB 840/08).

115 Section 4 of the Public Order and Security Act invoked by the police in this case does not require police to grant permission for a meeting, but simply to be notified. CZC had duly sent notification to police. However, as in many other cases involving civil society, police appear to deliberately misinterpret this provision in order to stop civil society meetings.

116 Human Rights Watch interview with Jenni Williams, London, September 16, 2008.

117 Ibid.

118 Human Rights Watch interview with Abel Chikomo, London, September 16, 2008.

119 “Zimbabwe: Crackdown Intensifies on Opposition Leaders and NGOs,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 14, 2008,

120 Ibid.

121 Comments made by Law Society of Zimbabwe President Beatrice Mtetwa, in an address to the England and Wales Law Society, London, October 2007, on file with ZLHR, reviewed August 29, 2008.

122 Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, Harare, August 24, 2008.

123 Human Rights Watch interviews with lawyers taking up political cases, Harare, August 21, 22, and 23, 2008.

124 Human Rights Watch interviews with lawyers, Marondera, August 27, 2008.

125 The African Commission Mission Report, Executive Summary of African Commission’s Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe 24 to 28th June 2002, (2002).

126  Arnold Tsunga and Otto Saki, Persecution of Lawyers in Zimbabwe, Law Society of Zimbabwe, 2007.

127 Human Rights Watch interview with Lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, Harare, August 18, 2008.

128 Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer, Harare, August 29, 2008.

129 Ibid.

130 Court reports on file with Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Associates Legal Practitioners, reviewed August 25, 2008.

131 Police Act [Chapter 11:10] Schedule of Offences, sec. 48 (1) provides: Actively participating in politics constitutes and offence. This includes wearing clothing bearing political messages. 

132 Human Rights Watch interview with Police Officer in Manicaland, August 26, 2008.

133 Reports of such instructions were received in several provinces across the country.

134 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Mashonaland Central, August 19, 2008. The police officers were issued with written warnings about their “alleged conduct” and were informed that they would be kept under surveillance.

135 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Harare, August 27, 2008.

136 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Bindura, August 19, 2008.

137 Human Rights Watch interview with a police officer present at the Mutare police camp, Marondera, August 27, 2008.

138 ZANU-PF Chipangano is a youth militia group that operates in the Mbare suburb of Harare. The group was largely responsible for spearheading the ZANU-PF 2008 election campaign in Mbare. Chipangano has been accused by local human rights groups of waging a terror campaign against MDC supporters in Mbare since 2003.

139 Human Rights Watch interview with ZANU-PF Chipangano member, Harare, August 29, 2008.

140 Human Rights Watch interview with victim, Marondera, August 25, 2008.

141 Human Rights Watch interview with victim, Harare, August 23, 2008.

142 Ibid.

143 Human Rights Watch interview with a police officer, Harare, August 29, 2008.

144 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with eyewitness to the arrests, September 15, 2008.

145 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an eyewitness, September 15, 2008.

146 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with one of the arrested student leaders, September 21, 2008.

147 Ibid.

148 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an executive member of PTUZ familiar with the case, September 27, 2008.

149 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an executive member of PTUZ, September 27, 2008.

150 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a police officer familiar with the case, October 4, 2008.

151 “Chihuri threatens to resign,” The Zimbabwean, October 2, 2008, (accessed October 10, 2008).

152 “Williams and Mahlangu remain in custody in Mlondolozi Prison – third week,” WOZA Press Statement, November 3, 2008, (accessed November 3, 2008).

153 Ibid.

154 “Zimbabwe: End Crackdown of Peaceful Demonstrators,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 28, 2008,