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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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Return the favour to Beatrice
March 23, 2013, 9:34 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Large red hearts had been tied to some lamp posts along the main highway through my home town five days after the country voted in a referendum. Made of kaylite the red hearts with white lettering proclaimed: “VIVA ZANU PF,” and with those words we know for sure that open season has begun.     

Hardly had we finished voting in the no-contest, constitutional referendum last week when one of the bravest of the brave was arrested.  Going to the MDC communications office on behalf of her clients who were being arrested, human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was herself detained by police.  With  foreign journalists from many countries here to cover the referendum, it didn’t take long for Beatrice Mtetwa’s arrest to make international news and become common knowledge at home.

Surely this was a mistake, a mis-understanding people thought; this is the courageous, internationally acclaimed lawyer and defender of human rights who has fought in the courts for journalists, political victims, members of WOZA and other NGO’s.  An MDC press statement said that Beatrice Mtetwa had been arrested for: “daring to ask why her client had been arrested.” Later we heard that the human rights lawyer was to be charged with 'obstructing or defeating the course justice'.

The irony of the timing of Mtetwa’s arrest left everyone dumbfounded. Her lawyer said: “Her arrest is not just an attack on her profession but on the people of Zimbabwe who have just voted yes to a new constitution that enshrines fundamental human rights.”  On the same day that Mr Mugabe and his wife were meeting and being bowed to by the new Pope Francis in the Vatican, Beatrice Mtetwa was appearing in the dock at the Harare Magistrates Court.

At first one, then two, then three nights later Beatrice Mtetwa was still being held in custody. This despite an order issued a few hours after she’d been arrested in which High Court Judge Charles Hungwe ordered the police to release Mtetwa from custody. That order wasn’t adhered to and mid week an Harare Magistrate dismissed the application for bail by Mtetwa’s lawyers saying that if she was released she would interfere with police investigations and remanded her in custody until April 3rd.    

Yet more days ticked past with Beatrice Mtetwa still in custody. Each time we see glimpses of her, on the way  to and from court, standing in the back of a police truck, wearing socks but no shoes, she is still smiling, waving and holding her head up high and so our admiration grows.  At the time of writing Beatrice Mtetwa is still in custody; a fact the EU need to consider as they prepare to remove sanctions against ninety percent of the individuals in Zimbabwe who are on their list. The lifting of sanctions is apparently a “reward” for holding a free and  fair referendum – not such a great achievement considering that both political parties had called for a YES vote and most people who voted hadn’t even seen the document they were voting for.

When men come in the night, Beatrice Mtetewa says she’ll be there with her ‘headlights glaring’ and now it’s our turn to return the favour to Beatrice and all the people who still need her help. Until next time, happy Easter and thanks for reading, love cathy.



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