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Seven more women protesters arrested in Harare
September 30, 2004

Harare - Police yesterday arrested seven more women, who were part of a group of female activists on a 440 kilometre march from Bulawayo to Harare to protest against a proposed new law that will restrict Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Zimbabwe.

The women were arrested in the capital and were still being held at Harare central police station by late last night. Another group of 62 activists arrested on Tuesday was also last night still being held by police in the towns of Chegutu and Kadoma.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena refused to say when the women, who are being charged with violating the Public Order and Security Act, will be brought before the courts. The security law requires Zimbabweans to notify police first before gathering to discuss politics or engaging in public protests.

An official of a civic group alliance, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, told ZimOnline that police officers at Harare Central police station had said they were waiting for orders from their superiors on what to do with the protestors.

The police have told us that this is a political issue which can only be dealt with at the top. Hence they are waiting for official communication from the police headquarters," the official said.

The women, all of them members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise pressure group, said their march was meant to educate ordinary Zimbabweans about how the proposed NGO law will adversely affect their lives. They also planned to hold demonstrations at Parliament and hand in a petition urging legislators to block the NGO Bill.

The Bill proposes the setting up of an NGO Council that will register civic bodies in the country. Civic society activists fear the state-appointed council could be used to deregister and shut down NGOs deemed critical of government policies. Under the proposed new law, NGOs will be barred from carrying out voter education while those wishing to undertake human rights work will be prohibited from receiving foreign funding.

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