AN 84-year-old man is among the 29 detainees who were arrested for allegedly burning down two police vehicles when fierce clashes broke out last weekend between the police and Chingwizi villagers.
The group spent its fifth night in custody after a Chiredzi court on Thursday deferred its bail ruling to this Friday.
The octogenarian Kandros Purazeni, is however not the only special detainee among the group, as a two-year-old baby is locked up with its mother, Ellen Muteiwa, who faces similar charges.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda, who is accompanying a team of rights lawyers assisting the embattled villagers, said Thursday that the State has insisted on the continued incarceration of Purazeni, a village head.
"The State also attempted to justify the incarceration of 84 year-old Kandros Purazeni, who is a village head and Ellen Muteiwa, who is detained with her baby aged one-year, eight months including some villagers who could not be linked to the alleged public violence as they were of poor health and living in their tents or were out of Chingwizi transit camp when the alleged offence was committed," Mafunda said in a statement.
Mafunda, producer of the ZLHR's newsletter, Legal Monitor, would follow up in a Facebook posting: "An 84 year old Chingwizi villager is in prison accused of assaulting police and a toddler who is almost the same age with this lowly newsletter man's son is also in jail together with her mother. This left me in tears as they boarded the prison truck. Spare a thought."
A Monday police screening process that whittled down the number of those incarcerated – from the initial 300 to just 29 – also failed to exonerate two teenagers who are also detained over the same offence.
It also emerged these were not the only villagers who were feeling the heat over the police detention as children belonging to some detainees were also said to have remained without minders back in the camp.
Said Mafunda, "During the bail application, the lawyers raised concern that one of the detainees Collin Tandare, who is a single parent had left her two children including one under the age of two years unattended and who were reportedly missing."
Lawyers representing the group also raised health issues against their clients after it emerged some were under anti-retroviral drugs and have endured almost five days without taking the life elongating drugs.
The victims of the February Tokwe-Mukosi flood disaster, who are accommodated in their thousands at the holding camp, were Sunday raided by dozens of police officers who were aided by soldiers in a widely condemned swoop on the poor settlement.
Hundreds were bundled onto trucks and were detained for a full night at Triangle police station but the number was reduced to 29 after a police screening process.
The detained villagers have alleged torture in the hands of the law enforcement agents.
The lawyers Wednesday challenged the groups' placement on remand arguing the State had failed to specify the exact role played by each of the 29 in the alleged offence.
However, Chiredzi Magistrate Tayegwa Chibanda dismissed the challenge, paving way for Thursday's bail application.
In their bail application, the lawyers – Blessing Nyamaropa, Phillip Shumba, Collin Maboke and Martin Mureri – charged that the State had failed to submit compelling reasons to justify the villagers' continued detention.
The State vehemently opposed the bail request arguing the temporary residence status of the villagers within the camp placed them at a high risk of absconding trial.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) on Wednesday called for a full probe into rights abuses at Chingwizi.
Authorities allegedly relocated a food tent and a clinic from the crowded settlement to the one hectare plots government has designated for the villagers' relocation.
"The ZPP now calls on the government to immediately commission a full and independent investigation on the situation at Chingwizi. The situation at Chingwizi is a clear indication that the victims have been denied the rights to adequate food, water, education, the highest attainable health, shelter, adequate standard of living, a healthy environment and development as guaranteed in the new Constitution," ZPP said in a statement.
The ZPP also said the violent hostilities witnessed at Chingwizi were a direct result of a government's continued neglect on the camp.
"If social and economic rights are not fully guaranteed and protected, this can trigger violence and the situation at Chingwizi is a case in point. While these rights have been denied all those affected but women and girls bear the brunt as they are the ones expected to guarantee food security for the family and they have to fetch water as well as ensure that young members of the family are taken care of when they fall ill.
"The ZPP calls on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to act in accordance with its obligations to 'promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights and freedoms' for the people at Chingwizi."