High school students abandon class fearing arrest over violent protests

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

Marondera: Some high school pupils in public schools here have not been reporting for class in the last two weeks fearing arrests for allegedly taking part in recent anti-government protests triggered by massive fuel increases.

Teachers in the town confirmed this past week that they were not conducting any meaningful lessons as terrified students were absconding class fearing that the police and army would pounce on them.

At least 33 people in Marondera have been arrested since the violent skirmishes which coincided with a three day job stay-away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and some citizen movements January 14-16..

Most have been remanded in custody facing public violence charges.

The State is accusing them of attacking Dombotombo Police Station before looting property, which included police uniforms, money and cell phones valued at $30 000.

Among those arrested were two MDC Alliance councillors, Simbarashe Nyahuye of Ward 2 and Charles Ngwena, Ward 4.

However, most of the suspects now in remand prison are male youths and teenagers, some still in high school.

“We are not conducting any classes at the moment as most students are not coming to school as they fear that they will be arrested by police officers and soldiers,” a teacher at Rakodzi High in the town confirmed.

“The situation is the same at all government high schools here. We are hoping that by next week the situation would have improved for the better and we might start lessons.”

Armed police and army officers are still patrolling the area with reports that they are still hunting for more suspects after hundreds of demonstrators overran the police station during the protests.

Residents have also accused the State security agents of on-going harassment and assault especially during the night.

Over 700 people have been arrested across the country and were in remand prison while 12 have been confirmed dead by local NGOs with the deaths linked to army gunshots.

The state crackdown has elicited local and international condemnation.