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WOZA members acquitted
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
October 24, 2006
One hundred and one Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members walked
away free yesterday after facing trial at Rotten Row Magistrates
Court. The women were charged under Chapter 37 of the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act - 'participating in a public
gathering with the intent to cause public disorder, breach of peace
or bigotry'. The State, represented by Prosecutor, Mr Mutangadura,
withdrew the charges after state witnesses had failed to support
the charges against the women in their evidence. Magistrate Bhila
presided over the case.
of WOZA, in a celebratory mood after their seventh court victory,
said, "this is further proof that the freedoms of assembly and expression
cannot be successfully criminalized by any unjust laws, including
the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act. 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 women were
arrested on 11th September at Town House in Harare whilst protesting
against poor service delivery in the capital. Police at Town House
tortured many of the women before taking them to Harare Central
Sergeant Hwara (Harare Central Bike Unit) and Constables Mudita
and Mudzambara (Harare Central Operations), testified that the accused
were arrested after being caught demonstrating against the Harare
They also claimed
that the accused 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. Although under cross-examination, it was exposed that
the women were bodily searched and the placards recovered.
Mtetwa, a member of the Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights, defended the women. In the defence
outline, the accused denied the charges, including participating
in any activity that carried the risk of causing public disorder.
They accused further indicated that even if they had demonstrated,
the content on the placards could hardly be classified as inflammatory
as it was factual that raw sewerage flowed in some streets of Harare.
Making his submission
to the court, the prosecutor, Mr Mutangadura, was at pains to buy
time as he desperately tried to piece together a case after it emerged
that the charges were not going to be substantiated by the evidence
of the state witnesses.
asked for permission to adjourn after an hour during the first morning
session, citing the need for the police to present exhibits, which
he claimed, had been left at the Harare Central Police Station and
needed to be collected. Said evidence still did not appear after
After three of
his four witnesses had testified, he sought to close the state case
but had not as yet presented evidence and pleaded with the court
to adjourn the trial until the following day to enable him time
to sort out certain logistics.
dilly dallying and handing down the judgement, Mr Bhila found that
said the State had failed to prove that the accused had participated
in a violent demonstration or to show that the demonstration could
have potentially turned violent and disrupted public order. He went
on to be blunt and said that prolonging the trial would only be
a waste of resources and an embarrassment.
This is the third
victory for WOZA members who have been on trial this month. It is
also their seventh victory in court. Meanwhile in Bulawayo, 154
members are facing the same charges for their participation in a
demonstration against Operation
Sunrise (the slashing of zeroes) in August and will face trial
earlier on 7 November 2006.
the WOZA fact
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