AT noon today, 600 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe marched to Parliament in Harare to mark International Peace Day. 25 members were arrested at Parliament (most of them handing themselves in) and taken to Harare Central Police Station. 58 more handed themselves in in solidarity with their arrested comrades after marching from Parliament to Harare Central. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have confirmed that the total arrested is 83, both women and men. They will spend the night in custody even though police officers are still not sure what charges to prefer or if they even have a case against the activists as most handed themselves in.
The aim of the peaceful protest was to highlight community safety issues and police behavior in communities. When the peaceful group arrived at Parliament, they handed over a list of demands for members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Police Commissioner and the co-Ministers of Home Affairs to police officers stationed outside Parliament. The full list of demands can also be found below.
Two members addressed the peaceful group outside Parliament explaining that tomorrow (21st September) is International Peace Day and using the example of the violence at COPAC consultations over the weekend to illustrate how Zimbabweans have little experience of peace. They called on the Zimbabwe Republic Police to allow Zimbabweans to be able to give their views of what they want in a new Constitution without violence and called on police to arrest those that threatened others or used violence.
Bystanders were overheard supporting the protestors – commenting on the violence shown by police officers in recent weeks and how police officers should be ashamed of themselves for not being the ones to keep the peace.
WOZA members have been worried about the performance and professionalism of our police officers for some time. As a result, WOZA has observed their behavior in select communities in Bulawayo and Harare for four months.
WOZA members observed police officers beating suspects in public; harassing vendors and taking their goods for their own use, without any receipting; demanding and accepting bribes, both in public and at police stations; drinking in uniform in public, sometimes stopping to drink while escorting suspects who will be under arrest and making people under arrest ‘run’ in front of their motor bikes and/or horses to the police station. In Bulawayo, many police officers refuse to respond to citizens’ complaints if they speak in the Ndebele language, insisting they speak in Shona.
75% of people whose rights were violated during arrest reported damages, injuries and or loss of property. These incidents are common when one is arrested by the plain-clothed and municipal police.
A more detailed account of our findings can be found in the Woza Moya newsletter below. The investigations done during the four months is just a small part of what is happening and are a reflection of a poor relationship between police and the community. It is clear that police officers routinely violate human rights and do not follow proper protocols of arrest and detention. In this regard, they are not following the Zimbabwe Police Act, the ZRP Service Charter and ZRP Service Standards as well as regional and international standards and instruments.
These arrests come after many constitutional consultations in Harare over the weekend were marred by violence from ZANU PF youth. It is unclear how many, if any, of these violent youths have been arrested and yet 83 peace activists, asking police to work together with them to promote community safety, are the ones that have been arrested.
WOZA is currently suing the co-Ministers of Home Affairs over the filthy and inhumane conditions in Harare Central Police Station. By all accounts, conditions have not improved and are still soiled with human waste.
Please phone Harare Central Police Station on +263 4 777777 to demand that the WOZA activists be released immediately.
For the full list of demands and more information on WOZA’s observations of police behaviour in Harare and Bulawayo over the last four months, click here: Woza Moya Sep-10
For more information on the ZRP Service Charter, Service Standards or the SARPCCO Harare Protocol Code of Conduct, click on the following links: ZRP Service Charter, ZRP Service Standards, SARPCCO Hre Protocol-Code of Conduct