There has been a widespread and angry reaction to the police raid on the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) offices in Harare on Monday, and fear of a general crackdown on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's), ahead of the elections due next year.
Several NGOs in the country issued statements condemning the arrest of Fidelis Mudimu, Zachariah Godi, James Zidzimu, Tafadzwa Gesa and Penn Bruno - CSU employees who are being detained at Harare Central Police Station.
The raiding team of about 20 police officers was led by Detectives Inspector Henry
Dowa and Inspector Murira, who were armed with a search warrant allowing them to recover "offensive and subversive material" from the CSU offices.
CSU provides psychological and medical assistance to traumatised victims of torture. It is not quite clear what the police are accusing them of, but there is general consensus that the raid is part of a ZANU PF crackdown meant to intimidate human rights and political activists, ahead of elections next year.
Kumbirai Mafunda, communications officer at Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights, who are assisting the accused, said two of them were released late on Monday but three remain in custody.
Mafunda said the police were specifically looking for material that "defaces any house, building, wall, fence, lamp post, gate, elevator without the consent of the owner or occupier thereof", in contravention of section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
"We have been made to understand as police were preparing state papers, that this had to do with a banner or a building that was defaced recently. We are not quite clear what they will be charged with but we know they are going to spend another night behind bars," Mafunda told SW Radio Africa.
Close sources told SW Radio Africa that all the police found at the CSU office were three cans of spray paint.
Mafunda pointed to the recent police raids at the offices of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), the crackdown against NGOs in Masvingo earlier this year and the arrest of Abel Chikomo from the Human Rights NGO Forum, as signs that the government is intensifying its campaign against rights activists.
In a statement, the MDC-T condemned the arrests saying: "The MDC notes with great concern the upsurge in the arrests, intimidation and harassment of civic society members, political activists and journalists across the country by ZANU PF members and State security."
The party has said they will not participate in any election if the atmosphere on the ground is not conducive to holding a free and fair poll.