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53 ZINASU GENERAL COUNCIL MEMBERS UNDER "HOUSE ARREST

STUDENTS SOLIDARITY TRUST INFORMATION ALERT

9 September 2006 53 ZINASU GENERAL COUNCIL MEMBERS UNDER "HOUSE ARREST"

Police in Mutare ( Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe), armed to the hilt, have detained the entire Zimbabwe National Students Union General Council, numbering 53 councilors from 42 institutions, plus support staff of the union, and other observers, bringing the total number of those they have detained to 70. The ZINASU General Council, which comprises Student Union presidents from all the tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe, was meeting in a closed session of the council meeting at the Wise Owl hotel in Mutare. The councilors were detained at about 12 noon soon after taking a break from their proceedings; where they were discussing among other things, the petition from students and parents around the exorbitant tuition fees that students are being coerced to pay, that they are due to submit to government and university and college authorities on the 14 th of September.

DE FACTO HOUSE ARREST

The Student leaders, due to their large number, have been detained in the hall in which they were meeting, while the police work out, logistics of moving them to the central station in Mutare, and possibly, think up charges that might stick. The Premise under which the students are being detained is, holding an illegal gathering, as they had not sought the consent of police in Mutare. However, it is clear that the detention, is just another act of harassment by the coercive arms of the state, as the students union, and any other organization for that matter, is not compelled even under the draconian, Public Order and Security Act, POSA, to seek permission to hold an internal meeting, as the clause on permission, has been interpreted to refer to open public meetings and political gatherings, a description which is far from matching any description of the General council meetings of ZINASU.

SYSTEMATIC CLAMPDOWN OF STUDENT LEADERS

The detentions also come on the heels, of the arrest of 8 members of ZINASU in Harare on Friday the 8th of September also on the flimsy grounds of violating POSA at a Harare Lodge where the ZINASU executive was staying in preparation for the Disrupted General Council meeting, and the petition submission next week. Among the 8 were the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe national Students Union, Beloved Chiweshe, and the Vice President, and another Executive member of ZINASU. Police in Zimbabwe, now effectively have the entire top leadership of the student's movement in Zimbabwe behind bars or under the guard of armed officers. This systematic detention, arrest and victimization of student leaders in Zimbabwe is not a new phenomenon, and the disruption of the General Council meeting is reminiscent of the disruption of the ZINASU Congress in dECEMBER 2003 by members of the same force IN SIMILAR FASHION

STANDING IN SOLIDARITY

While Human Rights lawyers from the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights, are assisting with working the legal angles to get the students freed, and the Students Solidarity Trust, is working, on ensuring that other social and material needs of the students in jail, like food and water, are met, we would like to urge, all progressive organizations, movements and individuals, to stand in solidarity with the Zimbabwe National Students Union, which due to its progressive work in fighting for the rights of students in Zimbabwe, and its assertion and dedication to fighting for a free and democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe, has found itself under constant attack from the state, its legal arms and its extra legal arms.

The Students Solidarity Trust, joins, ZINASU President, President Promise Mkwananzi, in his condemnation of this systematic victimization of student leaders and activists, and further asserts, police and the State, should respect students fundamental rights to associate, and share information, and should desist from the cruel and inhumane treatment that they are subjecting student movement leaders to, but fundamentally, should address the ills that afflict the Education Sector in Zimbabwe, which have seen Education being turned into a preserve of elite due to the exorbitant user fees attached.

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