Zimbabwe: police raid ecumenical centre

 A complex that houses the headquarters of several Christian organisations in Zimbabwe,was raided by the police and army on Monday. They claimed they were searching for a murder suspect, but did not find him. Heavily armed men entered the Ecumenical Centre, and raided the offices of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ), Ecumenical Support Services (ESS), Christian Alliance (CA), Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference (ZNPC) and PADARE Men's Forum on Gender. Several employees and executive members were arrested. Offices were ransacked, and computers, digital cameras and a mini bus were confiscated. The arrested officials are the SCMZ General Secretary Prosper Munatsi, Vice Chairperson Langelihle Manyani, office intern Sandra Dzvete, Gender Secretary Matsiliso Moyo, and a Finance and Administration Officer named only as Precious. The veteran journalist Rev Pius Wakatama was also arrested. Lawyers have filed an urgent application to have their clients released on bail or brought to court as soon as possible. The SCMZ released a statement on Tuesday saying that the raid was an attempt to silence and intimidate the organizations ahead of the 27 June elections. They said: "This is the time for the whole world to see and judge for itself the true characteristic of a government which has on many times tried to convince the world that it is not only legitimate but democratic. The government has abdicated its duties by declaring war on its own people and creating an atmosphere of general insecurity among the populace. It is our sacred duty as civic society and opposition forces to continue fighting for the opening up of democratic space and justice in Zimbabwe. To members of the ecumenical family and the citizens of Zimbabwe, the time has come for us not only to speak but also to act against injustice, oppression and corruption, according to the standard of the word of God." Other human rights campaigners have gone missing in the last few days. The new executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, Abel Chikomo, has not been seen since he was arrested by the police near Binga on Saturday. Chikomo was attending a workshop in the area West of Harare, along with 13 other human rights activists who were also picked up by police. The police have denied them access to lawyers. In an earlier raid on the Forum's headquarters, they warned staff that they were "sailing too close to the wind".

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