Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said police had originally wanted to charge about 70 National Constitutional Assembly demonstrators under the Public Order and Security Act but were advised by the attorney-general to change this to contravening the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
The demonstrators were, part of a group of between 180 and 300,that were arrested when they marched through Harare calling for a new constitution.
Police charged the demonstrators for conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and under the Traffic Code for obstructing traffic.
NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku and an unknown number of the 70 were released after paying fines and a signed admission of guilt statement.
Those who refused to pay fines were held.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2124, 70 NCA ARRESTEES CHARGED, SOME STILL DETAINED,
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002124
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013
SUBJECT: 70 NCA ARRESTEES CHARGED, SOME STILL DETAINED,
REF: HARARE 2100
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
Â¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On October 22, police arrested over a hundred
NCA demonstrators, beat some, and released up to a hundred
without charge on October 22. Seventy were charged on
October 23. Many of those paid a fine and signed an
admission of guilt statement; some refused to pay or sign and
were still in police custody on October 24. The swift
crackdown demonstrates that ZANU-PF has no intention of
allowing public opposition to the regime gather momentum.
The MDC has been quietly absent from this and other recent
events, focused instead on its election petition, the treason
trial, and grass-roots efforts to build party unity in
outlying areas. END SUMMARY.
Â¶2. (U) On October 22, police arrested over a hundred
demonstrators, including National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA) Director Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, during a demonstration
organized by the NCA along Sam Nujoma Street near Africa
Unity Square in downtown Harare (Ref). On October 23, Police
charged 70 of the demonstrators under the Miscellaneous
Offenses Act for conduct likely to cause a breach of the
peace, and under the Traffic Code for obstructing traffic. A
prominent lawyer representing some of the arrestees, Beatrice
Mtetwa, said that police originally intended to charge the
arrestees under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), but
the Attorney General intervened and told police to charge
them as above.
Â¶3. (U) The police reportedly released NCA Director Madhuku
and an unknown number of the 70 late in the evening of
October 23; those released paid a fine and signed an
admission of guilt statement. Of the 70 charged, those who
refused to either pay the fine or sign the statement were
still being held on October 24.
Â¶4. (U) Late in the evening of October 22, police released up
to a hundred demonstrators without charge. On October 22,
lawyers were denied access to the demonstrators for several
hours until late in the evening when police allowed one
lawyer in to speak with the arrestees. By October 23,
lawyers were given full access.
Â¶5. (U) The Herald reported that the demonstrators were
arrested in downtown Harare while they were singing songs
denouncing the government and marching along Sam Nujoma
Street from Africa Unity Square. Observers said the
demonstration was peaceful until riot police started to
disperse onlookers and arrest demonstrators.
Â¶6. (U) In statements carried in government-controlled The
Herald, NCA information officer Ernest Mudzengi said that his
organization had not sought police clearance for the
Â¶7. (U) Doctors reportedly were examining some of those who
were released for injuries sustained while in police custody;
however, Embassy has no figures on casualties.
Â¶8. (U) NCA officials said they would release a formal
statement on October 24 concerning the events.
Â¶9. (SBU) Ben Zulu, a stringer for the Voice of America (VOA),
was arrested as part of the NCA demonstrations. According to
his attorney, Zulu attempted to explain to police that he was
not a demonstrator but just a reporting journalist; however,
he was arrested anyway. One of the lawyers said police had
roughed up Zulu.
Â¶10. (U) Two Herald journalists and one from the Independent
were held briefly on October 22 but released without charge.
Â¶11. (U) Lawyers said they intended to file a petition
complaining that they were initially forcefully denied access
to the arrestees.
Â¶12. (C) COMMENT: The swift crackdown against these NCA
marchers demonstrates that the ruling ZANU-PF has no
intention of allowing any public opposition to take hold and
potentially spiral out of control. Indeed, police readiness
to act quickly against regime critics has been effective:
there has been no meaningful public outcry, or expression of
outrage at recent repression including the arrest of Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders, or the closure of
The Daily News in September.
Â¶13. (C) Throughout all of this, the MDC has been quietly
absent, or at least staying out of the limelight. This may
be attributed in part to the absence of The Daily News. The
MDC did issue public statements in support of ZCTU, and
condemning the closure of The Daily News, but it seems
inwardly focused and absorbed with its election petition, due
to get underway in court on November 3; the treason trial of
its President, Morgan Tsvangirai; and grass-roots efforts to
build party unity and consolidate municipal gains in outlying