By Kumbirai Muafunda
Two civil society leaders were on Tuesday 28 May 2019 arrested upon arrival at Robert Mugabe International Airport and immediately detained at Harare Central Police Station amid indications that Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers want to charge them with subverting constitutional government.
Rita Nyampinga, the Director of Female Prisoners Support Trust and Stabile Dewa, the Director of Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence were arrested soon after landing at Robert Mugabe International Airport and taken to Harare Central Police Station, where their lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights encountered challenges in accessing their clients.
The arrest of Nyampinga and Dewa brings to seven the number of human rights defenders who have been arrested since last week when Zimbabwean authorities launched a crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.
Five human rights defenders namely George Makoni, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Nyasha Mpahlo and Farirai Gumbonzvanda have been charged with subverting constitutional government as defined in section 22(2)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. They were remanded in custody to Thursday 6 June 2019.
Meanwhile, High Court Judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi on Tuesday 28 May 2019 postponed the hearing of a bail application for Makoni, Mombeyarara, Mukura and Mpahlo to Thursday 30 May 2019 after the State requested for more time to be allowed to file its response to the human rights activists’ freedom bid.
Makoni, Mukura and Mpahlo were on Monday 27 May 2019 taken out of Chikurubi Maximum Prison, where they are detained on remand and brought to Harare Central Police Station, where ZRP officers told their lawyers from ZLHR that they would want to interrogate them as part of “further investigations” in their matter.