Another MDC-T member arrested over ZANU PF office fire

The police have dropped criminal charges against MDC-T Youth Assembly official James Chidhakwa, who was arrested Friday in connection with a fire at ZANU PF’s Highfield offices.

Chidhakwa was taken from his offices to Harare Central Police Station where he was detained while being denied access to legal help.

It was only after lawyer Denford Halimani complained that the police were violating Chidhakwa’s rights that he was permitted to see him and give him food.

Halimani told SW Radio Africa Monday: “I managed to secure my client’s release around 5pm Saturday, although the police said he should return for further interrogation Monday.

“Today (Monday), Chidhakwa endured another full day of interrogation by police who then said that they will not be pursuing the aggravated and malicious injury to property charges.

“The police however indicated that they may summon Chidhakwa as a state witness, which to us does not make sense as he can’t be a witness on something he knows nothing about,” Halimani said.

The rights lawyer said his client “had nothing to do with the alleged offence”, and was never in contact with the people he is alleged to have acted in cahoots with.

Police claim to have access to phone records implicating Chidhakwa and other MDC-T youths, according to advocacy group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Chidhakwa was being charged under the Criminal Law Codification (and Reform) Act for the alleged arson attack on the ZANU PF property.

Police were accusing him of teaming up with Collin Chisunga, and others who are still at large, to commit the offence on September 28th.

Chisunga is being held in custodial remand until October 16th following his arrest on September 29th on aggravated malicious damage to property charges.

The State alleges that Chisunga was overheard claiming that he and others started the fire which destroyed office furniture and other items at the ZANU PF property.

A mother and her one-year-old toddler were also arrested detained for two days, accused of masterminding the fire.

This was after another ‘informant’ allegedly overheard the woman, identified as Spiwe Pambayi, talking about a successful “fire fire operation” that she had been part of the previous night.

Although Pambayi was released pending further investigations, the rights lawyers group, which intervened on her behalf, said the ordeal has left her “traumatised”, “terrified” and “distrustful”.

Lawyer Halimani condemned the police’s approach of arresting individuals before carrying out investigations.

“In terms of the law police are supposed to investigate and arrest after establishing reasonable grounds for the arrest. But in Zimbabwe, it has become the norm for the police to arrest first and investigate later.

This has become the norm in this country and unless people confront this and assert their rights, police will continue to get away with it,” Halimani said.

The ruling ZANU PF party accuses its rivals of being behind what it says is a “politically motivated attack”.

However the MDC-T party, whose supporters have been targeted, has already said its members are not violent people and suggested that the fire could be a result of the infighting within ZANU PF.

On Monday, the MDC-T Youth Assembly reiterated this position and said in a statement that it “condemns in its strongest terms, the arrest of and frustration of James Chidhakwa on false charges.” Chidhakwa is the group’s secretary for security and defence.

The group further stated: “ZANU PF is desperately trying to link him to their mysterious destruction of their Machipisa offices and Jongwe printers.

“It is a public secret that the MDC is a peace loving party and therefore will not be involved in clandestine activities such as the destruction of property.” – SW Radio Africa

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