Policemen jailed for attending Tsvangirai's MDC rally

HARARE - Three police officers are languishing in prison after they attended a political rally organised by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, their lawyer has said.

Police officers Courage Manyengavana, Marshal Zindoga and Lovemore Mupedzapasi are being held at Chikurubi Support Unit Camp having been arrested on May 9 for attending an MDC rally in Mashonaland Central Province’s Guruve area.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba could neither confirm nor deny the matter saying different police stations dealt with disciplinary cases daily and this case was not unique.

“Almost on daily basis, a police officer is sent to prison for various crimes, so that case you are asking is not unique, I will need to check from our officers in Mashonaland Central province,” she said.

They were tried and convicted by a senior police officer in Guruve.

Although senior officers, including Oliver Mandipaka, an assistant commissioner, are eyeing political posts on a Zanu PF ticket and have been attending party rallies, the three junior officers are being charged for breaching the Police Act, which prohibits officers from attending political rallies while they are off duty.

Police chiefs say the trio was putting the reputation of the police force into disrepute by attending political rallies and should be punished.

Tarisai Mutanga, who is representing the three officers, confirmed that his clients are serving a 14-day jail term at the police detention facility.

He said he was yet to see records of the trial and was yet to receive further instructions from the jailed cops.

“I can confirm that my clients are currently serving their sentences at the Chikurubi police detention centre,” Mutanga said.

The development comes hard on the heels of police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri’s declaration of unwavering loyalty to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

“For us not to be part of that revolution is trying to make us forget where we came from,” Chihuri was quoted in the media last year on the sidelines of a Zanu PF conference in Gweru.

“Remember, we fought for this country to keep and not to let it go just like that; we fought a bitter war against the robbers, thieves and murderers who were enjoying the fruits of our country while we were languishing in poverty.

“The next time the conference is held, we will go and we will continue to go. It shows that we are loyal,” he said.

Chihuri has also ordered all police officers and their spouses to register as voters in order to defend the “gains of liberation struggle”.

In Guruve, the three officers were convicted after a trial conducted by a superior as provided under the Police Act, which prohibits cops from engaging in open partisan politics.

The rally held at Mushumbe-Mbire was addressed by MDC youth leader Solomon Madzore, who is facing charges of insulting Mugabe on that same occasion.

Reports say the three officers were spotted at the rally while in civilian attire by members of the Police Internal Security and Intelligence unit who reported the matter to their superiors, leading to their arrest and subsequent trial.

Chihuri, together with other security bosses, have vowed never to salute any person without liberation war credentials, a thinly-veiled reference to Tsvangirai, who is set to lock horns with Mugabe in the upcoming elections.

Mugabe and his Zanu PF have strenuously refused to tinker with the security sector, which is viewed as the bastion of power for the former liberation movement that has been losing popular support to the MDC since 2000. - Xolisani Ncube

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