18 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Police Arrest Two for Voter Awareness Meeting Held in Church

Two people arrested for holding a voter awareness meeting in Chegutu have been released on bail after spending the weekend in custody.

The two were arrested along with Reverend Deve, an elderly leader at the Church of Christ. He was released without charge on Friday.

George Makoni and Gift Konjana were accosted by plainclothes police officers soon after the meeting held at the Church of Christ in Chegutu on February 15th.

The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe, organisers of the meeting, said the meeting was an education exercise to encourage Zimbabweans to register to vote in the forthcoming constitutional referendum and the general election.

According to Phillip Pasirayi, the group's national coordinator, Makoni and Konjana are accused of holding an illegal meeting and are being charged under the notorious Public Order and Security Act, which prohibits political gatherings without police clearance.

However Pasirayi said the meeting, which is part of a series, was neither political nor subversive and slammed this latest crackdown on civil society by the state.

He said: "We are not lobbying for a 'yes' or 'no' vote in the referendum but simply sensitising people about the contents of the draft. It is up to Zimbabweans to either embrace or reject the new constitution."

Pasirayi also condemned the three parties in the GNU, saying their attitude seemed to suggest they thought they were the only ones who should be engaging Zimbabweans on the constitutional process.

"Looking at the prevailing environment, we seem to be heading towards an unfree and unfair election, where civil society is not able to meet and discuss issues of national importance, as demonstrated by the meeting in Chegutu."

Makoni and Konjana are being represented by Jeremiah Bamu, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and are expected back in court on March 15th.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai's MDC-T party continues to condemn the ongoing attacks on civil society. The party has called for the security laws to be repealed ahead of the polls. An official in the Prime Minister's office said the issue was expected to form part of the agenda during the Principals' meeting held Monday.

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