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Request for solidarity: Detention of senior Counselling Services Unit staff

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This statement from the Counselling Services Unit (CSU) draws attention to and requests solidarity to protest police abuse of power and harassment:

Fidelis Mudimu, Zachariah Godi and Tafadzwa Geza have just spent their third night in the police cells, two in Harare Central and last night in Bulawayo Central Police Station, after an unwarranted transfer to Bulawayo. They were transported on the back of an open pick up truck, registration ACD 6377, with no protection from the sun, despite the temperature reaching 33 degrees in Harare. They were then moved to Bulawayo from Kwekwe in a twin cab ABI 3608 and arrived at 18h00. They were not interviewed by the police, but immediately detained in the police cells on a detention order which had been prepared in Harare.

The following facts of the arbitrary raid and arrest and detention need highlighting.

Counselling Services Unit is a lawfully registered medical clinic providing non-partisan counselling and referral to all victims of trauma.

On Monday 5 November, the clinic was threatened with violence and normal services were disrupted by the invasion of the clinic by 12 uniformed and non-uniformed police officers, including members of the Bomb Disposal Squad and an Information Technology expert. The clinic was surrounded by armed riot police who threatened to fire tear gas into the building, which is also occupied by other tenants. Patients awaiting services were left unattended for 4 hours while the police demanded and forcibly accessed confidential medical records. They removed a computer which contains confidential client information and client records. No further booked patients were able to enter the building to receive treatment.

Counselling Services Unit adheres to the Environmental Compliance requirements for health facilities, following the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health. The guidelines require separation of cleaning materials for areas of ablution and areas of food storage and preparation. The cleaning utensils are clearly marked using spray paint, and the paint is stored on the premises in the work area of the janitor. It is not hidden or stored secretively and was purchased in July 2012. CSU have handed the receipts of purchase of three 250ml cans of spray paint from the local hardware store to the police. The police fixated on the finding of this paint and refused to listen to any explanation. With no further investigations, 5 staff members were arbitrarily arrested and transported to Harare Central Police station for further questioning. 2 staff members were released 2 hours later, and 3 have been detained since then with no warned and cautioned statement and no indication of charges. The removal of the 3 staff to Bulawayo after the required time for a court appearance and the further detention order with no defined charges or substantive evidence of illegal activities constitutes serious and illegal harassment.

Counselling Services Unit is deeply concerned about the protracted course of this situation and the non-adherence to the law by the arresting officers. CSU is concerned about the safety of Fidelis Mudimu, Zachariah Godi and Tafadzwa Geza.

We would request solidarity and protest on the following fundamental issues of this series of events:

1. Disruption of medical services to victims of trauma, and the unwarranted terrorisation of patients awaiting services
2. The illegal access to confidential patient medical records
3. The unwarranted deployment of armed riot police to the offices creating alarm and fear to the other tenants of the building and surrounds
4. The illegal removal of a computer, which is not covered in the search warrant which stated a “search for material likely to deface any house, building, wall, fence, lamp post, gate or elevator without the consent of the owner or occupier thereof”.
5. The removal of confidential medical and legal records without permission of the patients to whom they pertain.
6. The arbitrary selection of staff for arrest with no concrete evidence of any crime having been committed, particularly in Bulawayo where CSU has no clinic.
7. The illegal detention and transfer of senior staff to Bulawayo without formal charges, and exceeding the time limit for appearance before a magistrate with formal charges.

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