Police on Tuesday allegedly stopped International Peace day commemoration soccer and netball games at Chigavakava Township in Buhera West after summoning the event organisers to Buhera police station to verify if they had been authorised to hold the event, it has emerged.
The event, which involved soccer and netball tournaments pitting various teams of youths from Buhera West Ward 2 were part of an initiative by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum), Zimbabwe Peace Project, and the National Association of NGOs (NANGO) to foster community-grown peace and co-existence.
Blessing Nyamaropa, a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyer confirmed the incident.
Taken from Newsday
“The sporting tourney was stopped and organisers were referred to Buhera Police Station and when they got there, police said they had not arrested the officials, but were just out to verify if the event had been authorised by police. They were released without a charge, but the tournament did not resume,” he said.
Some of the officials taken to police include ZPP Programs Assistant Shamiso Makande, NGO Forum Programs Co-ordinator Shastry Njeru and Machinda Marongwe from Nango
On its Facebook page, the NGO Forum condemned the police action.
“The young people who have been enjoying this event have now folded up their bags and organisers are now being led to the police station. We condemn this unlawful act.”
Human rights activists in Zimbabwe face severe restrictions on their work. Police frequently misuse laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to ban public meetings and gatherings.
Under POSA, anyone intending to hold a public meeting must notify the police in writing.
Officials from the NGO Forum said they had notified the police of the event, and two police officers had on the previous day, attended a meeting at Chigavakava at which officials from the NGO Forum, ZPP and Nango met with business people, members of the local community, traditional and elected leadership to commemorate the International Peace Day ahead of the sporting tournament at the same venue the following day.
It was at the meeting that participants agreed on a peace manifesto, which highlighted guidelines that enabled communities to engage in own initiatives to maintain peace within their communities.
“These games help young people previously caught up in political tensions to rebuild their relationships and rediscover their constructive social roles,” wrote NGO Forum on their Facebook page.
Zimbabwe’s rural areas are often hotspots of violent politically motivated clashes between supporters of different political establishments and traditional leaders have often been fingered as perpetrators of political violence.
However a representative of Chief Nerutanga said during the Monday meeting, that the chief has been engaging in initiatives that’s foster community harmony like voluntary cutting of grass and raising awareness on the preservation of the environment.
He urged villagers under his chieftainship to spread the word of peace to defy the use of violence to achieve political ends.