Zimbabwean court grants bail to two finance ministry employees

2011-07-12 07:31

Harare – A Zimbabwean court today freed on bail two finance ministry employees who were arrested last week in what their lawyers and rights groups say are the latest in a slew of recent politically motivated arrests.

Their release follows the brief detention this weekend of three government ministers who, like the ministry employees, are linked to opposition political parties. The finance ministry is controlled by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party. The three ministers come from the smallest group in Zimbabwe’s troubled coalition.

The ministers were arrested on Sunday in the northeastern city of Hwange.

Independent news reports said yesterday the three were briefly held after being stopped at a police road block. It was unclear what the charges were.

Those arrested included Welshman Ncube, industry minister and leader of a party that split from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

The party spokesperson and the police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Independent lawyers’ groups have said that since longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe called for elections this year, there has been an upsurge in violence and arbitrary arrests of his rivals.

Magistrate Shane Kubonera yesterday granted $200 (R1 369) bail to the two ministry employees, Patricia Chishawa and Linda Kembo, on allegations of taking unauthorised trips and violating purchasing procedures.

Three others are still in detention. Their lawyer, Tawanda Tandi, was also arrested on Friday during an attempted visit to his clients. He was later released. Police said he was “obstructing the course of justice”.

Independent rights groups say the arrests are part of a pattern of harassment of Tsvangirai supporters by Mugabe’s loyalists. The two sides have been joined in an uneasy coalition government following violent and inconclusive 2008 elections.

Rights groups say police and military loyal to Mugabe have embarked on human rights abuses and infringed on civil rights of those who do not support the longtime ruler.

Tsvangirai’s energy minister, Elton Mangoma, was acquitted last month after being arrested for allegedly bypassing official tender procedures to buy gasoline and equipment for the state power utility. He spent three weeks in jail before being granted bail.

Douglas Mwonzora, a Tsvangirai legislator and co-chair of the body rewriting the nation’s Constitution ahead of this year’s scheduled vote, also spent three weeks in jail for alleged incitement to public violence.

He then faced a second charge of insulting Mugabe, 87, when discussing reports of his ailing health.

Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, a minister from the splinter MDC group, and Father Marko Mkandla were arrested in May. They were arrested after officiating at a service in Lupane, northwest of the second city of Bulawayo, to honour an estimated 20 000 civilians killed when troops loyal to Mugabe crushed an armed uprising in western Zimbabwe that ended in 1987.

The priest is accused of “communicating false statements against the state” by referring to the killings and stirring “offence to a particular tribe”.

Two independent journalist are also out on bail for reporting on statements allegedly undermining the authority of the president.

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