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Women of Zimbabwe Arise win third court case in a month
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa

October 24, 2006

It was victory again for the pressure group Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) when a Harare magistrate set free 101 members in Harare, on Monday. This is the third victory in court for WOZA this month. The group’s Coordinator Jenni Williams said victory was even more sweet as this is the first time that the women have been tried under the notorious Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act, and won. The other two cases had been tried under the equally draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

"So we feel very vindicated that no matter what unjust law they bring our freedoms under the constitution are still freedoms," said Williams.

The latest case was thrown out after state witnesses failed to support the charges against the women in their evidence. The women had been arrested in September at Town House during demonstrations against poor service delivery in Harare.

Although they had attempted to hold a peaceful a sit-in demanding the removal of the illegal Sekesai Makwavarara led commission, the authorities arrested the protesters and charged them with ‘participating in a public gathering with the intent to cause public disorder and a breach of peace."

As usual some of the women were arrested with their babies.

WOZA said in a statement; "We would like to thank Magistrate Bhila for upholding the independence of the judiciary and send him our love. We have also been vindicated about our right to speak out about the poor service delivery, sewage flowing in the streets and high costs of water in Harare. We will be visiting Town House again in the near future."

The WOZA Coordinator said tribute should also go to Advocate Beatrice Mtetwa for a scintillating cross examination of the state witness "because literally they kept on trying to say things but they were stumbling upon their own words and she really showed her worth as a human rights lawyer and literally tore their evidence to pieces."

The pressure group said the state’s evidence was built on very shaky truths from the start. 3 police officer testified in court that the accused were arrested after being caught demonstrating against the Harare City Council. They claimed the women were displaying placards written, "Too much raw sewage flowing in our roads", "Water charges have become too high they should be lowered" and "Rentals have become too high" and other WOZA banners.

They said the content on the placards could hardly be classified as inflammatory as it was factual that raw sewerage flowed in some streets of Harare and that water charges were even expensive for the police offices.

But in any case the accused denied the charges, saying the placards were never displayed as the women were arrested before the demonstration had even taken place.

Another police officer said that the women were very cooperative and sat down and allowed themselves to be arrested. William added; "Thereby confirming our non violent manner."

Meanwhile in Bulawayo, 154 members are facing the same charges for their participation in a demonstration against Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono’s Operation Sunrise (the slashing of zeroes) in August and will face trial on 7 November 2006.

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