By Felix Matasva, Manicaland Correspondent
FOURTEEN Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists were arrested in Mutare Saturday and were charged with public nuisance after they conducted car rallies to drum up support for the party’s candidates contesting for two wards ahead of by-elections set for May 7.
The arrested team was campaigning for recalled duo of Sekai Mukodza (Ward 16) of Dangamvura-Chikanga constituency and former Mayor, Blessing Tandi (Ward 14) of Mutasa south constituency.
CCC Manicaland spokesperson David Panganayi confirmed to NewZimbabwe.com on Sunday that their members were detained at Mutare central police and fined for public nuisance.
Manicaland police spokesperson, Inspector Nobert Muzondo expressed ignorance over the arrests, warning against routine arrests that are mistaken as political.
“I have not been informed about such arrests. Where did you get such information? I am yet to find out if it’s true. It might be an incident whereby some people are arrested, and it is then politicised, but I am not yet appraised at the moment, and I do not have facts,” said Muzondo.
CCC also released names of those arrested as Chipo Chabvaneyi, Memory Kujeke, Jestina Changorora, Dadirai Wachi, Lina Makore, Gladys Chando, Conilia Mandiringa, Tsamwai Bonyongwe, Natalie Tsaukai, Melania Mpoga, Rosemary Muradzikwa, Elizabeth Sithole, Jeffery Nyamana and Zanele Sibanda.
Panganayi said the fourteen were detained by police on 16 March before lawyers secured their release on Sunday, around midday, after paying fines pegged at ZW$2 000 each for violating the Criminal Law Codification act.
“All of our 14 members who were arrested in Chikanga phase two, have been released today (Sunday) at 12 am after paying fines. They were eventually charged with public nuisance as promulgated in section 46 as read with subsection (v) of the criminal codification act. As we speak fines have already been paid,” Panganayi said.
Panganayi said the coordinated arrests were aimed at shrinking the democratic space for opposition to campaign freely for its candidates ahead of May 7 polls.
CCC members were initially detained for engaging in public activities without police clearance but were later charged for contravening sections of law on public nuisance was evidence of strenuous efforts to find sticking charges claimed Panganayi.
He scoffed at the police for being used by their detractors intimating that door-to-door outreach were commonly used even by religious groups and could not be classified criminal.
“Initially the police wanted to charge them for contravening some sections of MOPA which governs restrictions on gatherings. They later on decided to charge them for engaging in a procession without police clearance since the former charge was strong enough to go through the courts. Public nuisance as a charge is still not good enough because they must demonstrate what sort of nuisance they are referring to,” he said.
“They just want to derail our campaign ahead of by-elections because door to door campaigns do not disturb residents’ business. The playing field continue to be uneven and the cry for reforms can’t be much louder now,” said Panganayi, adding that Zanu PF is pulling all stops to deny CCC space to campaign.