Paranoid state agents at it again

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemns the arbitrary and stubborn actions of the police and some Department of Immigration officials, who on two consecutive days harassed some officials of Oxfam GB (Oxfam).

Some members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Law and Order Section accompanied by officials from the Department of Immigration on Wednesday 9 November 2011 detained 10 Oxfam GB officials, who were attending an internal planning meeting in Zimbabwe.

The police and the Department of Immigration officials broke up an Oxfam meeting at Bronte Hotel and rounded up all the 10 foreign participants and seized their passports before hauling them to the Department of Immigration offices at the disreputable Linquenda House, where they claimed to be verifying their passports and the status of their participation at the internal meeting and whether they had legally entered the country, a process which is usually done at the port of entry.

The raid on Wednesday 9 November 2011 followed the one executed on Tuesday 8 November 2011, where five ZRP officers descended on Bronte Hotel, whose staff, police confirmed had been cooperating with them, where they interrogated the local Oxfam leadership including Oxfam country director Tsitsi Choruma and Ransom Mariga, the organisation's Humanitarian Programmes Manager for more than four hours.

The police officers accused the Oxfam leaders of holding an unlawful gathering at the hotel which was not sanctioned by them.

However, a team of lawyers from ZLHR explained to the police that Oxfam was not obligated to notify the police because they were holding an internal meeting which is exempted under the provisions of the obnoxious Public Order and Security Act (POSA), after which the police left the venue.

Undeterred, the police who incorporated the Department of Immigration officials on Wednesday afternoon returned to haunt the Oxfam officials again by confiscating their passports and detaining them at Linquenda House.

However, after the intervention of lawyers from ZLHR and the conclusion of the superficial process to verify their status, both the police and the Department of Immigrations authorities released the 10 Oxfam officials and handed back their travelling documents.

ZLHR is extremely concerned at the unmistakable and extreme collusion between the police from the ZRP Law and Order Section and the Department of Immigration officials and their uncivilised conduct in harassing bonafide visitors, whose organisation's interventions have sustained livelihoods, health and the less privileged people of Zimbabwe, which shows an unacceptable disregard for the rule of law in our country.

The contemptuous conduct of the police and the Department of Immigration officials portrays a government that is suffering from persecutory delusional disorder, which is typical of paranoid States.

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