SOCIAL activist and National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe leader Stern Zvorwadza was yesterday arrested by the police on charges of undermining President Robert Mugabe’s authority.
Police from the Law and Order Section swooped on Zvorwadza’s Borrowdale home early yesterday and picked him up in the presence of his lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
“It is true he has been picked up. We are on our way to Harare Central Police Station, but we have not been advised of the nature of the charges yet,” Bhamu said.
Later in the day, Bhamu confirmed Zvorwadza had been charged with insulting Mugabe under Section 33 (2)(a)(ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
“He is in custody and police have refused to say when he will appear in court,” he said.
“Police are still within their 48-hour window as provided by the law. But they fail to realise that the provision is only to guide authorities and arrested persons must be taken to court at the earliest possible time and not necessarily after 48 hours”.
In an earlier interview, Zvorwadza said a truckload of police had gathered outside his gate.
“They are intimidating me. They are saying they want to charge me with undermining the authority of the President because I said ‘Mugabe is daydreaming’ after he announced that vendors should be removed from the streets,” the activist said in a telephone interview.
In his address to a Zanu PF youth league national assembly at the weekend, Mugabe said Harare’s streets needed to be cleaned up, in what critics argue could turn into a clean-up campaign akin to the 2005 operation codenamed Murambatsvina/Driveout the Filth, which left over 700 000 people homeless.
In response, Zvorwadza did not hold back, arguing Mugabe was showing a lack of appreciation of the informal sector’s contribution to the ailing economy.
Immediate past Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has previously described the informal sector as the “new economy”, while Mugabe and his other lieutenants have argued the sector has contributed to its ambitious 2,2 million job target set ahead of the 2013 general elections, but which remains a mirage.