Authorities must drop sinister charges against University of Zimbabwe students who have been peacefully protesting high fees and affirm their right to freedom of assembly and expression, Amnesty International said today.

“It is such a travesty of justice that these students are having to spend time in detention and courtrooms for simply asking for affordable education

Police arrested 14 students at the University of Zimbabwe on 12 September 2022 after they embarked on peaceful #FeesMustFall demonstrations against high tuition fee hikes by the university. While five more students were arrested on 14 September, and taken to Avondale police station and face charges of “disorderly conduct”, some of those who were arrested on 12 September appeared in court on yesterday.

“It is such a travesty of justice that these students are having to spend time in detention and courtrooms for simply asking for affordable education so that they can remain in lecture rooms. The arrests of these students, who were protesting peacefully, are a violation of their right to protest. Authorities must respect students’ right to peaceful protest and drop all charges against them,” said Lucia Masuka, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe.

“We consider the arrests to be arbitrary and call on the Zimbabwe Republic Police to respect the freedom to petition and demonstrate as guaranteed by the constitution.”

The university recently announced a staggering increase in tuition fees of up to 1000% requiring undergraduate students to pay up to ZWD500 000 from around ZWD50 000 depending on their faculty, which is equivalent to about $900USD at the interbank rate of 12 September. Students have described the increase in fees as unaffordable and beyond the reach of their parents and guardians and vowed to boycott lectures until the university reverses its decision.

Authorities must respect students’ right to peaceful protest and drop all charges against them

12 of the 14 students were released late on Tuesday 13 September after paying fines of ZWD2000 or $3.31USD each at the interbank rate of 14 September. The remaining appeared in court on 14 September and were released on free bail and are set to return to court on 29 September. The students are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

Background

The 14 students who were arrested on 12 September were detained at Avondale police station and charged with disorderly conduct.  They were identified as Thelma Nzero, Mufaro Vhutuza, Owen Mashaya, Tinashe Zana, Tinotenda Mwenje, Fletcher Katehwe, Havana Mtetwa, Natasha Dhliwayo, Ropafadzo Mutangadura, Fatima Ajida, Tsungai Chitodha, Beyond Wendy Siwela, David Musasa, and Godknows Zabhura.

The five other students who were arrested on 14 September have been identified as Tivimba Musengi, Tinotenda Mangana, Hazel Gwande, Tanyaradzwa Nzvimbo, and Charles Moyo.

#FeesMustFall protests broke out at the University of Zimbabwe on Monday 12 September 2022 as students demonstrated against the university tuition fee hikes. The university increased fees for both undergraduate and postgraduate study by up to a staggering 1000%. Under the new fee structure, undergraduate students are required to pay up to ZWD500 000 from around ZWD50 000 depending on their faculty, which is equivalent to about $900USD at the interbank rate of 12 September. While students pursuing a Master’s degree will have to fork out up to ZWD1 million or $1800USD.

The university has also increased accommodation fees from ZWD71,000 to $616USD or the equivalent in local currency for the August to December semester.

The hike in fees risks forcing many students to abandon their studies thus potentially violating their right to education.

Source: Amnesty International

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