Four students from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) have been arrested following a protest staged on Monday evening. The demonstration was organized in response to the prolonged imprisonment of opposition lawmaker Job Sikhala and the perceived misuse of the law against government critics. Benjamin Watadza, Emmanuel Chitima, Comfort Mpofu, and Lionel Madamombe are currently facing charges of criminal nuisance, as reported by the Zimbabwe NGO Forum.

The detained students have sought legal representation from lawyer Darlington Marange, who is associated with the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. However, attempts to reach National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi for comment were unsuccessful.

During the protest on Monday, more than 30 youths gathered, holding placards with messages such as “#FreeWiwa,” “#FreeJacob,” and “#BlackMonday.” They voiced their criticisms of the ruling Zanu PF government, accusing it of persecuting opposition politicians. The demonstration proceeded peacefully, and the participants dispersed without any incident.

In addition to the physical protest, the students took to social media platforms using the hashtag #BlackMonday. The purpose was to express their mourning for what they perceive as the death of democracy and the erosion of the rule of law in the country.

Job Sikhala, the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) lawmaker, has been held in pre-trial detention since June of the previous year on charges of obstructing the course of justice, inciting violence, and disorderly behavior. Recently, Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume was sentenced to four years in prison for inciting public violence, although he will serve three years of the sentence.

In a separate incident, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere received a US$500 fine last month after posting a picture alleging that a police officer had fatally assaulted a baby strapped to its mother’s back. There is growing concern over the increasing number of charges faced by opposition members and human rights activists, raising questions about the shrinking democratic space in the country.

The arrests of the four UZ students highlight the ongoing tension between the government and its critics, with protests and social media activism serving as avenues for dissent. As the situation unfolds, many will be closely watching the developments surrounding the charges against the students and the broader implications for freedom of expression and assembly in Zimbabwe.

By Power

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