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Valentine's Day arrests: News update
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
February 14, 2007

8pm update

131 members remain in custody in Bulawayo for a second night. The 36 released into the custody of their lawyers once again have been allowed to return to their homes having spent the day at Bulawayo Central. Initial reports from one lawyer indicated that there were 274 in custody but the figure from another lawyer was 174 members that were arrested. This figure includes 17 juveniles, 20 mothers with babies and three pregnant women.

Only seven of the group are being charged under Chapter 37, Section (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act - 'participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry is committed whether the action constituting it is spontaneous or planned in advance, and whether the place or meeting where it occurred is public or private.' These seven being the only ones that arresting officers were prepared to come forward to testify against. The rest of the group, including Magodonga Mahlangu, are not being charged and at 4 pm today, police dealing with the case agreed that they should be released. The head of the Law and Order Section at Bulawayo Central, G Ndlovu, refused to allow them to go home tonight however, insisting that they only be released in the morning after the seven had appeared in court - the lives of 124 people made miserable by the petty whim of one individual.

Magodonga Mahlangu remains isolated from the rest of the group as Law and Order officers have resisted attempts to have her moved back to join others, arguing that as a leader of WOZA, Mahlangu 'deserves the dignity of having a cell to herself' - having an entire police station to herself does seem a little excessive however! Concerns for her safety continue whilst she remains in solitary confinement.

Members in Queens Park are still being denied medication - please call Queens Park Station on +263 9 22641/2 to demand that those taking ARV treatment be allowed to take their medication.

The eight women arrested in Harare yesterday and held at Harare Central overnight are out of custody having paid admission of guilt fines early this evening. The women complained of terrible and inhumane conditions in the cells and having been beaten in custody. Attempts are still being made to ascertain exactly what happened in Harare Central and more information will be given when it becomes available.


11am - update

Lawyers were finally allowed access again last night and were allowed to negotiate the release of 36 members into their custody. These included the mothers with babies, juveniles, pregnant women and one badly injured woman who was taken to receive medical attention. They have all reported back to Bulawayo Central this morning. The group was also split between 7 stations – these are Bulawayo Central, Mzilikazi, Donnington, Hillside, Nkulumane, Queens Park and Sauerstown.

Law and Order officers were also overheard briefing each other about a visit to Bulawayo Central by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). They were requesting that Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu be allowed to be abducted from police custody during the night and killed. Law and Order officers apparently replied that the two were not in custody. Jenni Williams had been in the Harare protest but had not been arrested. Magodonga Mahlangu was arrested in the Bulawayo protest, separated from the rest of the group and taken to Sauerstown Police Station. WOZA activists spent the night monitoring Sauerstown to ensure that no foul play occurred and are pleased to report that no attempts were made on her life. There remains concern for her safety however and lawyers are attempting to have her returned to the others.

Currently lawyers are in attendance in Bulawayo and warned and cautioned statements are being prepared. The group is being charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 37, Section (2) - ‘participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry is committed whether the action constituting it is spontaneous or planned in advance, and whether the place or meeting where it occurred is public or private.’

Further investigation of the alleged torture has revealed that one youth, who was arrested for continuing to hand out roses after the demonstration had been broken up, was badly beaten in custody. He remains in custody without medical attention, as do several others who were beaten during their arrest. It also turns out that several members were picked up after the main arrests had occurred as they continued to hand out roses and Valentine cards to members of the public.

This morning when food was being brought to those arrested, officers at Mzilikazi Police Station refused to allow one woman on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to take her medication and at Queens Park, they were refusing to allow any medication, including ARV’s, to be taken without a clinic card being produced to prove that they had a legitimate medical reason to take the medication. Breakfast was also denied to those at Nkulumane Station as the group of 11 had been moved from Hillside Station during the night and their absence from Hillside was only discovered this morning. The support team located them at Nkulumane 30 minutes after their breakfast feeding time ended and that delay was sufficient to have food denied.

It also appears that the power of love has those that love power seriously concerned as two water cannons were evidence in Bulawayo yesterday to deal with WOZA’s love marchers.  

Harare: Police have not as yet allocated an investigating officer and told lawyers that they should come back after lunch.

You can contact the police stations on the following numbers:

  • Bulawayo Central: +263 9) 72515 / 61706
  • Mzilikazi: (+263 9) 202908 / 212905
  • Nkulumane: (+263 9) 476755 / 467039
  • Queens Park: (+263 9) 22641/2
  • Sauerstown: (+263 9) 200960 / 218432
  • Hillside: (+263 9) 241161/2
  • Donnington: (+263 9) 474005 / 467309
  • Harare Central: (+263 4) 77 77 77

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