Police in Zimbabwe arrested a ten-month-old girl and her mother for “disorderly conduct” on Wednesday amid a brutal crackdown on opposition party members in the capital of Harare.
Online publication 263Chat reports that the ten-month-old was detained with her mother by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in Harare’s central business district alongside seven other people.
Following their arrest, they were checked in at the Harare Central Police Station and charged with disorderly conduct in a public place as defined in section 41 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. It is not clear if the charges will appear permanently on the infant’s record.
After Tonderai Bhatasara from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) provided the detainees with legal representation, the mother and her baby were eventually released at the end of the day.
— Zimbabwe Independent (@Zimindependent) November 20, 2019
The arrest took place as ZPR violently attacked members of the government opposition, who gathered at the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai (MRT) House to listen to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s Hope of the Nation Address (HONA), an alternative message to the traditional speech offered by the president.
Shortly after Chamisa, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, had begun his speech, police reportedly started “savagely attacking” everyone nearby who had come to listen in what local media described as a “well-coordinated attack.”
Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said the attack on party supporters came as a surprise as they had obtained the necessary permit.
“It is surprising because we did everything we could to make sure that the police are aware of what we wanted to do. We had long meetings with the authorities and we don’t even know under what authority they are operating,” he said. “It is certainly surprising. We told them this morning that they cannot ban the MDC because they are destroying the economy.”
— David Coltart (@DavidColtart) November 20, 2019
Despite promising to bring in a new era of change following the ousting of late dictator Robert Mugabe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has maintained the high levels of repression against political dissidents while many people say his election win last year was rigged.
Sibanda vowed that the MDC would fight on, arguing that the army and police were not “big enough” to stop it from championing for fighting for democracy.
“The police and the army are not big enough to stop Chamisa and the MDC. The struggle of Zimbabwe will go on and hope will not die,” he said. “We are not spoiling for a fight with them but they are the ones spoiling for a fight with the people of Zimbabwe. Today there was a peaceful, not violent, gathering until the police came and the only violence we saw was from the state.”