SW Radio Africa (London)

28 March 2014

Zimbabwe: 47 Bindura University Students Arrested

Police on Thursday arrested 47 Bindura University students, on allegations that they held an illegal meeting.

By Friday afternoon the students were still being held at Bindura Central police station and had not been given any food.

A statement from national students body, ZINASU, said the arrests breached its members' right to freedom of association.

ZINASU spokesman Avoid Masiraha said the agenda of the meeting was to map out a way forward on the student representative council elections to be held sometime this semester.

"We find the government's reaction to students very worrying. We have 12 other students from Harare Poly who have been charged under the country's security laws which interfere with our constitutional right.

"Students have a right to associate and exchange ideas about things that they need and require the government provide," Masiraha told SW Radio Africa Friday.

MDC-T youth assembly secretary-general Promise Mkwananzi said those arrested were all members of the party's students council and included the head of the group, Ian Makone Jnr.

Mkwananzi said the students had gathered to discuss the prevailing economic hardships in the country in connection with the plight of university students.

"We condemn the arbitrary arrests being carried out by the police. But what we are seeing is a panic in the regime, precisely because of the worsening macro-economic situation in the country.

"The ZANU PF regime promised people 2.2 million jobs, but in reality people are losing their jobs daily, civil servants have not been paid and the liquidity crunch is out of hand.

"And as the regime panics, we are seeing the escalation of repression, arrests and other forms of intimidation," Mkwananzi added.

The MDC-T youth official is himself facing arrest over a party meeting held in Bulawayo Sunday.

Bulawayo-based SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said city police were keen to question Mkwananzi about the meeting, which was attended by about 50 MDC-T youths at the Plaza hotel.

However police managed to arrest only three people following a tip-off from unnamed MDC-T supporters who thought the meeting was about ousting Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mkwananzi said the meeting was a private affair held in a private place, attended by members of the party's youth assembly and was not open to the general public.

"We have long said it is abnormal to arrest people for exercising their right to meet, and the Public Order and Security Act which the police use is undemocratic and unconstitutional," Mkwananzi added.

The ruling ZANU PF regime has in place an arsenal of repressive security legislation which the country's partisan police force use to stifle criticism or perceived dissent.

The party continues to resist and ignore efforts by human rights activists and opposition political parties to have these laws repealed in line with the country's new constitution.

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