One of those arrested included a disabled polytechnic student who could not run away. Rights lawyer Obey Shava said police were by Friday evening still detaining the 16 students at Harare Central Police station.
He confirmed that all of the arrested students were female, even though the protest included male students. Shava said some of those detained had been “severely assaulted” and had suffered head injuries and swelling. “I’m yet to ascertain the exact extent of their injuries but they’re complaining. Some are bleeding,” he said.
He said it wasn’t clear why police had only targeted the female students, some of whom have to sit examinations on Monday.
He said police were also trying to decide what to charge them with, but said negotiations were under way to have them released in view of their exams. “They might be forced to pay fines in return for their freedom,” he said.
The president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, Gilbert Mutubuki said in a statement issued by ZimRights that students had wanted to petition parliament over high fees and “the general bad state of the education system, including lack of accommodation".
He said they were also demanding the resignation of Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, who he said was preoccupied with succession battles within the ruling Zanu-PF “at the expense of student issues”.
Tuition fees for some non-commercial subjects at state universities are around $600 per semester. Some subjects are more expensive.
Shortages of accommodation at state-run universities were highlighted last year by the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, which reported that in one case 38 students from the University of Zimbabwe were sharing a four-bedroom house in Harare’s Mount Pleasant suburb.
Activists say that the flight of qualified lecturers at the height of Zimbabwe’s political and economic crises has left many faculties short-staffed, while the cash-strapped institutions don’t have the money to maintain key infrastructure like libraries and laboratories.
**Na wa ooo. This is not how students should be treated in any part of the world.