Arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa and MDC Activists: A Cause for Concern

The Helen Suzman Foundation condemns the arrest of human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, and MDC affiliates in Zimbabwe.

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) joins with Freedom Under Law (FUL), Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other organizations and individuals who have condemned Beatrice Mtetwa’s arrest.

Whilst Zimbabweans have endorsed a new constitution which seeks to strengthen liberal democracy in the country, her arrest is a cause for grave concern.

She was arrested whilst attempting to stop the Zimbabwean Police from conducting a search at the private property of MDC officials. Her four co-accused were charged with allegedly breaching Zimbabwe’s Official Secrets Code, impersonating police and possessing documents for criminal use.

The police supposedly used these charges to confiscate sensitive political documents of the MDC. Mtetwa, who was exercising her rights and duties as a legal representative of those being harassed by police, was arrested for allegedly obstructing justice. Her obstruction was allegedly shouting at police to stop their illegal search.

Despite a court order quashing the arrest and ordering her immediate release, the Zimbabwean Police continue to act illegally by ignoring the Court’s decision. Reports indicate that Mtetwa, along with her co-accused, are being held in deplorable conditions and are being treated with an utter disregard for their fundamental rights.

The HSF is gravely concerned with the treatment of Mtetwa and the MDC members.

In the absence of any conclusive evidence that Mtetwa and her co-accused are guilty of any offence punishable by law, these arrests can only be viewed as being politically motivated. The effects of these arrests are profound as it increases the personal risks to those who wish to partake in the democratic process.

The HSF is of the opinion that the South African Government, the key facilitator between the MDC and ZANU-PF, should bring pressure to bear on Zimbabwean authorities to respect the rule of law.

The HSF hopes and trusts that Mtetwa and her co-accused will be released soon.

20 March 2013