7 May 2006

Zimbabwe: 48 Arrested Over Vandalized Mugabe Portrait

FORTY-EIGHT student leaders from universities and tertiary institutions around the country were arrested and detained after they allegedly vandalised President Robert Mugabe's portrait, The Standard has learnt.

Other students were also arrested for allegedly calling Mugabe's official portrait a "poster".

The arrests came in the wake of the Zimbabwe National Students Union's congress held in Harare last week, Harare lawyer, Alec Mu-chadehama, yesterday said the 48 students were arrested on Friday and all but 10 were still detained at Rhodesville Police Station by last night.

He said: "The police are saying the students stole towels and glasses from the Management Training Bureau in Msasa Parkwhere they held their congress but when they were searched, nothing was found on them."

One of the students who had been detained at Rhodesville Police Station was released by police after he collapsed while in the cells.

His condition deteriorated and he was rushed to the Avenues Clinic where he was still hospitalised by late yesterday.

Incoming Zinasu president, Promise Mkwananzi, said when their congress started on Wednesday; students had resolved that they would not hold their deliberations with Mugabe's portrait in the auditorium surveying them.

Mkwananzi said: "Congress delegates resolved to remove Mugabe's portrait because they were convinced that he had lost the 2002 Presidential election and holding the meeting in the presence of his portrait would have been a form of legitimising his loss."

He said after some of the students brought down Mugabe's portrait, "some colleagues went the extra mile in their discontent and removed Mugabe's portrait from the frame."

Mkwananzi said the congress had resolved to reject the latest tuition and examination fees at colleges and universities around the country.

"Our secretary-general has already started writing a letter to the Minister of Higher Education which he will copy to President Mugabe telling them that we reject the new fees because they are beyond the reach of many. If they do not respond within two weeks, then we will mobilise for a national lecture boycott."

Mkwananzi said the government had two options to improve the lot of students.

"Either they drastically reduce the tuition and examination fees or they drastically increase our payouts."

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