On March 3, 2021, authorities arrested four students for participating in a protest calling for a fair bail ruling for two imprisoned student leaders.
On February 26, students from various universities held a press conference in front of Harare’s Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court to demand the release of their peer, Makomborero Haruzivishe. Haruvishe is a student leader and member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, an opposition party, and has been detained since February 17. At the press conference, police arrested six student leaders on charges of not wearing masks and public violence (see report). While four of the students were released later that day and the following morning; two of the students, Tapiwanashe Chiriga, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) and Takudzwa Ngadziore, the ZINASU president, have since been held in Harare Remand Prison.
Chiriga and Ngadziore were reportedly scheduled to have a bail hearing on March 1; however, authorities decided to postpone the hearing to March 4. Students held a protest at the Harare Magistrate’s Court in response to the bail postponement and demanded that authorities provide a fair bail hearing for Chiriga and Ngadziore. Police reportedly arrested one journalist, Nyasha Ndoro, who was covering the student protest. Ndoro was released later that day without charge. Police arrested ZINASU student leaders Pritchard Paradzayi, Allan Chipoyi, and Glown Magaya, and secretary of women affairs and social welfare of Youth Decide Zimbabwe Falon Dunga.
On March 4, the students were charged with intent to cause public violence. The following day, on March 5, the students were released on a 5,000 ZWL ($60 USD) bail. As of this report, authorities have not provided an evidentiary basis for the charges of public violence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of students and other members of the public in response to the nonviolent exercise of 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 the exercise of these rights, 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.