By Shami Makombe
POLICE have been roundly criticised for being partisan after they arrested Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) vice president Tendai Biti while he was holding a political rally.
Biti is one of the contestants in the Harare East constituency by-election set for March 26.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says armed police details swooped on Biti this Monday afternoon while at Letombo Spar in Msasa, Harare.
He is currently detained at Harare Central Police Station, said the lawyers.
His party, CCC Zimbabwe says police have declined to indicate what charges they preferred against Biti, who like other contestants must be allowed to campaign for the by-elections.
“Tendai Biti has been unlawfully arrested in Greendale by three armed police officers including the Officer-in-Charge of Rhodesville Police Station. He’s being held at Harare Central Police Station.
“Police have declined to advise him of the charges against him,” said the recently formed party led by Nelson Chamisa.
In a subsequent update, the ZLHR advised that Biti has been moved to Rhodesville Police Station from Harare Central Police Station.
Rhodesville has direct jurisdiction over the Msasa business centre where Biti was arrested.
The arrest of Biti has riled other opposition leaders who accuse authorities of victimising political opponents of Zanu PF, which has been holding rallies at will countrywide.
Linda Masarira, who leads the Labour Economists Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) and is contesting in the Harare Central constituency, says the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must intervene if the by-elections are to pass as free, fair and credible.
“I don’t understand why candidates are being arrested for campaigning when we are in the campaign period. The ZEC should intervene and ensure that every candidate has free and fair access to campaign without victimization by Police,” said Masarira.
She defended Biti saying he violated no regulation by holding a campaign rally as all he did was exactly what othet parties including Zanu PF are doing.
“No party or candidate is above the law. If some are being denied access to campaign because of COVID-19 regulations it is only fair for all to be denied access to campaign period,” Masarira asserted.
Biti is expected to reclaim the Harare East seat he has held since the 2000 elections.
The top Harare lawyer lost the seat between 2014 and 2018 when he pulled out of the MDC-T then led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
After winning the seat in the 2018 general elections, Biti was to lose the seat again barely three years later when the MDC-T then led by Thokozani Khupe recalled him for backing Chamisa in the fight for control of opposition political space in Zimbabwe.