Police raid Tsvangirai offices
POLICE in Harare yesterday raided Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s communications offices in Avondale and arrested four officials and top human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, over charges of impersonation and obstructing the course of justice, respectively.
REPORT BY MOSES MATENGA
Among those arrested is former Harare councillor Warship Dumba, director of research in the Premier’s office Thabani Mpofu, Felix Manditse and Anna Muzvidziwa.
Muzvidziwa was detained alongside her one-year-old son who is still breastfeeding.
Their lawyer Alec Muchadehama told NewsDay last night his clients were yet to be formally charged.
By late last night Mtetwa’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo said he was seeking a High Court order for the release of his client.
“We are at the High Court now seeking for her release because her detention is unlawful and we will see how it goes,” he said.
By the time of going to print, Mtetwa was still detained at Rhodesville Police Station.
Addressing a Press conference in the capital, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the officials were being charged with impersonating police officers while Mtetwa was being accused of obstructing the course of justice.
“We have arrested four people and they are currently in police custody. We also arrested Beatrice Mtetwa for obstructing or defeating the course of justice. Contrary to media reports, they were not kidnapped,” she said.
“Among those arrested are former prosecutors fired for corruption and malpractice,” she said.
Charamba defended the arrest of Mtetwa saying although she was a lawyer practicing legally, she had gone beyond her legal mandate.
Mtetwa is said to have demanded a search warrant from the police and to see the inventory of the property the police had confiscated and again the police could not produce that.
The police accused Mtetwa of shooting pictures and recording the incident with the police on her cellphone, leading to one officer demanding the phone from her.
Sources said the officer leading the search, identified only as Mukwazhi, demanded the phone from Mtetwa who had placed it in her bag. A scuffle ensued, the sources added, resulting in the police wrestling the bag from Mtetwa.
Mukwazhi, the sources said, then charged Mtetwa with obstructing the course of justice. She was then thrown at the back of a police van and taken to Tsvangirai’s private communications and information offices along Bath Road in Avondale. Mpofu was also taken to the offices in a separate vehicle.
On the raid at the PM’s office, Charamba said: “At Number 14 Bath Road, Belgravia, police raided the offices of the Institute for Democratic Alliance Zimbabwe, an NGO (non-governmental organisation), and some exhibits recovered were linked to the four accused,” she said.
Tsvangirai quickly condemned the raid and the arrests, saying he was not taking the matter lightly as it painted a bad political image ahead of elections.
The PM was last night expected to meet the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) observers to update them on the matter and the intimidation of his staff by the police.
“The PM is meeting with Sadc observers this evening to update them on these arrests of his staff for no apparent reason and this assault on the integrity of his office.
“It’s unpardonable that this is happening just after the referendum. This is completely opposite to the peace calls by President (Robert) Mugabe. It’s disturbing and the PM is not taking it lightly,” said Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka.
Lawyer Muchadehama said: “They (the communication officers) are yet to be formally charged and I don’t know the charges as yet, but they (police) raided their workstation and took away cellphones, laptops and research documents relating to the PM’s office. They were armed with a search warrant stating that they were searching for laptops, discs and documents likely to be used for criminal activities.”
During the Press briefing, Charamba accused two British Broadcasting Corporation journalists Andrew Harding and cameraman Stewart Phillips of stage-managing violence in Mbare on Friday, saying they were not accredited.
She accused them of instigating violence by sticking posters of a political party.
Charamba said police also arrested Zimbabwe Human Rights Association assistant advocacy officer Makario Chinongwa for taking pictures near a police station without accreditation.
She also confirmed the arrest of MDC-T secretary for Headlands Samson Magumura, saying he was being linked to the attempted murder of an aspiring Zanu PF councillor for the area, William Chapepa.
Magumura faces charges of attempted murder and malicious damage to property.