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arrest hundreds in protests against economic hardships
June 11, 2007
arrested more than 150 people on Monday in rural Matabeleland South
during a protest
march against the ongoing economic hardships.
About 500 demonstrators
carrying placards and chanting anti-government slogans at Filabusi,
about 100km southeast of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, were
confronted by heavily armed police officers. Kossam Ncube, the lawyer
acting on behalf of those detained, told IRIN the marchers had been
arrested and assaulted.
march, organised by the women's movement, Women
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), said its members were demanding "social
justice, and that government rein in corruption and act on the crumbling
economy, which has reduced millions of our people to virtual beggars".
"Some of those arrested
have little children with them and they [the children] are currently
[also] in custody. The crowd that had gathered comprised our members
in this rural area [Filabusi] and ordinary villagers who are disenchanted
with the [President Robert] Mugabe regime," WOZA spokesperson
Jennifer Williams told IRIN.
demanding affordable foodstuffs - a lot of people are hungry and
this is a paramount issue that government should address. Also,
we wanted to launch a People's
Charter in this area which outlines the change that people across
the country are yearning for ... Basically, this is the paperwork
about people's demands that we have compiled over the last eleven
Ncube said some of the
activists had been beaten while being arrested and he would contest
both their arrest and assault in court, as it was every citizen's
right to demonstrate peacefully.
"I am currently
seeking clarification with the police about this, but indications
are that they [the detainees] are being charged for demonstrating
without police clearance," Ncube said.
Demonstrators told IRIN
the protest had been against the government's failure to deal with
the more than 3,700 pecent annual inflation rate, the highest in
Nomalanga Sibanda, a
protester who evaded arrest, said, "We are starving here. Food
is expensive in shops, and maize that is cheap, which is meant to
be sold to everyone by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) [the state-controlled
sole distributor], is being sold only to ruling party supporters.
Those suspected of being dissidents, like myself, are left out.
It's just not fair."
Police arrested the protesters
for contravening the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which
prohibits all demonstrations not sanctioned by the police, although
analysts said the tough security legislation was being used to crack
down on any dissent directed against Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF government.
Police spokesman Wayne
Bvudzijena confirmed the arrests and said police would not tolerate
any activities threatening national security.
those arrested told IRIN that 100 activists were arrested in similar
demonstrations held in Bulawayo by WOZA last week, some of whom
had allegedly been tortured while in custody.
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