NINETEEN Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders are suing Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Hon. Kazembe Kazembe for damages amounting to RTGS$38 million for unlawful arrest, detention and malicious prosecution after they allegedly staged an anti-government protest three years ago.
In summons filed at Mutare High Court, the 19 ZCTU leaders, who are represented by Passmore Nyakureba of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told the court that they were unlawfully apprehended on 11 October 2018 at their eastern region offices in Mutare by a team of ZRP officers, who were under the direct command of and following instructions from Assistant Commissioner Florence Marume.
After their arrest, the 19 unionists said they were detained in some deplorable holding cells at Mutare Central Police Station for two nights and were charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in Section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act alternatively with obstructing the free passage of vehicles and pedestrians along Jameson Street while intending to stage a demonstration.
During trial, prosecutors claimed that the unionists had gathered to protest against the high cost of living in Zimbabwe and the imposition of a 2% transactions tax by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
However, the 19 unionists, who spent two years while on trial, were acquitted on Friday 13 November 2020 at the close of the prosecution case by Mutare Magistrate Sekai Chiundura, who ruled that prosecutors had failed to present evidence during trial linking them to the commission of an offence.
Now the 19 unionists are demanding to be paid a total of RTGS$38 million as compensation from Matanga, Kazembe and Marume for intentionally and maliciously instigating their arrest and prosecution without probable cause.
The unionists argue that their arrest and detention was unlawful as they were not promptly informed of the reason for their arrest and were arrested in circumstances where there was no reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed or was about to be committed while their prosecution was instigated by Marume.
Out of the total of RTGS$38 million, each unionist wants to be paid RTGS$5 million as compensation for unlawful arrest, another RTGS$5 million each as compensation for unlawful detention while RTGS$1 million will be payment to each unionist for malicious prosecution.