In Zimbabwe, amidst protests concerning democracy and the economy, student protesters have been arrested and detained alongside opposition leaders and activists.
Four members of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) who had been in prison for over 20 days had their bail application dismissed. A trial date of 21 June was set by Harare magistrate Learnmore Mapiye, citing concerns that “the students are likely to reoffend as they belong to the Black Monday movement,” which is deemed “capable of causing more trouble for the state.”
Benjamin Watadza, Emmanuel Sitima, Comfort Mpofu, and Lionel Madamombe are the four individuals who were arrested on 17 May. Their bail application, which faced several postponements, was finally decided on 6 June. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing legal proceedings, the students were unable to take their university examinations, which were scheduled until 9 June.
According to prosecutors, the students are accused of defacing multiple buildings in the Harare CBD as part of a protest against “judicial capture” and in support of the release of political prisoners. The buildings targeted include the High Court of Zimbabwe, parliament, the Methodist Trinity Church, the Harare Civil Court, the Constitutional Court, as well as Runhare House and Karigamombe, an office block.
Mapiye expressed that the state has a strong case against the four students, and if they were to be granted bail, there is a risk of them fleeing. He also cited the presence of witnesses who have positively identified the accused individuals and emphasized that the offense was committed under aggravating circumstances.
“The painted buildings, including the Parliament of Zimbabwe, hold great significance. Protecting state institutions is paramount, and releasing the four students would present a risk,” stated the magistrate, who then ordered the quartet to be held in custody until the trial date.
Darlington Marange, from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, is representing the four individuals. Initially, they were charged with criminal nuisance, but it has been reported that the charge has been revised to malicious damage to property.
Darlington Chigwena, the fifth student who was arrested on 23 May, is currently awaiting his bail hearing.
The students’ arrests occurred following a ZINASU initiative called the ‘Black Monday’ campaign, where members were encouraged to wear black on Monday, 15 May, as a show of solidarity with political prisoners in the country.
During the ‘Black Monday’ campaign, students utilized social media platforms to share images of themselves wearing black clothing with the hashtag #BlackMonday, symbolizing their mourning for the decline of democracy and the rule of law in the country.
While ZINASU maintains that their campaign was limited to online activities, video footage surfaced on multiple social media platforms on 15 May, revealing a procession of over 30 youths at the Ministry of Justice offices in Harare. Many of the participants were observed wearing black attire, potentially in connection with the Black Monday protests, while a small number wore ZINASU regalia.
The students brandished placards bearing slogans such as “#FreeWiwa, #FreeJacob, #BlackMonday,” along with other demands. They also chanted songs and vehemently criticized the Zanu PF-led government.
ZINASU spokesperson Lennon Takudzwa Mazuru stated in an interview with University World News that students will continue to raise their voices and refuse to be silenced, despite intimidation from the state.
Mazuru stated, “Following the Black Monday campaign, where we demanded justice and the release of Job Wiwa Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume, the regime reacted with panic and arrested several of our students at the University of Zimbabwe.”
Source : universityworldnews.com