On February 26, 2021, police arrested six students in apparent retaliation for public, political expression demanding the release of a fellow student from detention.
Students from various universities held a press conference in front of Harare’s Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court to demand the release of student leader Makomborero Haruzivishe. Haruvishe is member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, an opposition party; he has been detained since February 17 on charges of incitement and resisting arrest in connection with his acts of public expression.
Following the press conference, police arrested six student leaders in attendance. Three of the students, Liam Kanhenga, the Student Representative Council (SRC) president of Midlands State University; Paidamoyo Masaraure, the SRC president of the Women’s University in Africa; and Pritchard Paradzayi, the SRC spokesperson of Chinhoyi University of Technology, were charged with not wearing masks. The other three students, Tapiwanashe Chiriga, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU); Takudzwa Ngadziore, the ZINASU president; and Nancy Njenge, the ZINASU gender secretary, were charged with public violence. As of this report, authorities have not provided an evidentiary basis for the charges of public violence.
Kanhenga, Masaraure, and Paradzayi were reportedly fined before they were released later that day. Njenge was released on bail the following morning. On March 4, Chiriga was released from Harare Remand Prison on bail for 5,000 ZWL ($60 USD); however, authorities denied bail to Ngadziore because he was reportedly on bail for a different offence, related to his participation in another protest, at the time of the arrest. On March 26, Ngadziore was granted bail for 5,000 ZWL ($60 USD) and released from Harare Remand Prison on the condition that he report to Harare Central Police Station every other Friday.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and prosecution of students peacefully exercising the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against expressive activities and assemblies so long as they are peaceful and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of detentions in response to peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.