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WOZA holds silent march to launch '10 Steps to a New Zimbabwe'
Statement and arrest updates

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
June 06, 2007

Approximately 20 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) were arrested in Bulawayo today. Amongst those arrested are Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, who handed themselves in at Bulawayo Central in solidarity with a group that had been arrested earlier.

Members of WOZA and MOZA had conducted a peaceful, silent march through Bulawayo to launch their '10 Steps to a New Zimbabwe', a position on the current talks. Two groups had started at different locations but were both marching towards the offices of The Chronicle, a government-owned newspaper. One group was met by riot police after one block and was beaten and dispersed. The other group managed to march for two blocks before again being met by riot police and beaten. A group of 15-20 was arrested and walked to Bulawayo Central Police Station.

Hearing of the arrests, the rest of the demonstrators regrouped, marched to Bulawayo Central and tried to hand themselves in. Police refused them entrance, grabbing only Williams and Mahlangu. When the rest of the group tried to follow them into the station, police at the gates began to viciously beat people to disperse them.

Several people are already receiving medical attention for the beatings they received. It is not clear if any of those arrested require medical attention. Human rights lawyers are in attendance.

WOZA had marched today to highlight the unfairness of talks that only involve politicians who will be not be addressing issues of social justice - the 'Bread and Roses' Zimbabweans need. It was also to pressure for the inclusion of voices at the negotiating table that will raise socio-economic issues - issues at the heart of ordinary Zimbabweans. Please see below the nonviolent guidelines that WOZA always operates under.

More news will be made available as details emerge. See updates over time on this page below.

Nonviolent action Guidelines
1. We will not harm anyone, and we will not retaliate in reaction to violence.
2. We will be honest and will treat every person with respect, especially law officers.
3. We will express our feelings but will not harbour hatred.
4. We will be alert to people around us and will provide needed assistance.
5. As peacekeepers we will protect others from insults and violence.
6. During a demonstration we will not run nor make threatening motions.
7. If we see a demonstrator threatening anyone, we will intervene to calm down the situation. If demonstrators become violent, and we cannot stop it, we will withdraw.
8. We will not steal, and we will not damage property.
9. We will not carry any weapons.
10. We will not bring or use any alcohol or drugs, other than for medical purposes.
11. We will keep the agreements we make with other demonstrators. In the event of a serious disagreement, we may withdraw.
12. We will accept responsibility for our nonviolent actions, and we will not lie nor use deception to escape the consequences of our actions.

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. --Rabindranath Tagore

News update
Wednesday 6th June - 6pm

Seven WOZA members remain in custody in Bulawayo tonight. Reports that 20 members were arrested were inaccurate as the women seen entering Bulawayo Central Police Station were not WOZA members. The members that remain in Bulawayo Central are all women, including Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Angeline Karuru and Rosemary Siziba.

The lawyers in attendance have seen the group but police are refusing to discuss possible charges at this stage. Although the five arrested at the scene of the demonstration were all beaten during their arrest, the extent of their injuries is not clear. Food has been allowed in this evening.

Seven members have been treated for injuries they received from beatings but we are still waiting for reports on their injuries.

It also appears that in the immediate aftermath of the demonstrations, a police van was seen driving around central Bulawayo with a loudhailer telling citizens not to pick up the WOZA flyers and placards. This is particularly interesting as a group of approximately 20 riot police were seen avidly reading the placards and flyers left by the demonstrators.

Concerns remain for the welfare of those in custody, particularly in the current state of repression and in the light of the threats made against Williams and Mahlangu by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Please call Bulawayo Central on +263 9 72515 / 61706 to remind them that the world is watching.

News update
Thursday 7th June - 1.30pm

The seven members arrested yesterday remain in custody at Bulawayo Central. Lawyers have been denied access to their clients this morning and police are refusing to discuss possible charges or the possibility of being taken to court. The 11am deadline for court submissions has passed and therefore the group will not be taken to court today.

Two of the members in custody were badly beaten during their arrest and are in a lot of pain. As the lawyer has been denied access to them, they have not received any medical treatment. Food has also been denied this lunchtime, although there were no problems taking in food at breakfast or dinner last night.

At least 20 members have sought medical attention for the beatings they received yesterday. Most injuries involve soft-tissue bruising; no severe injuries have been reported as yet. Many of these members have testified that as they were being beaten, police were telling them that police do not want to arrest WOZA members any more as they are too troublesome. It is their intention to 'just beat them'.

More details will be made available as they emerge.

News update
Thursday 7th June - 7pm

Seven members spent second night in custody

The seven members arrested yesterday in Bulawayo are spending a second night in custody. Their lawyers were denied access to the group all day and they still have not received medical treatment. Food was allowed in this evening under the escort of the lawyer. It is still not clear what the group will be charged with but it is hoped that they will be taken to court in the morning.

Please keep calling Bulawayo Central Police Station on +263 9 72515 / 61706 to demand that the women be allowed access to their lawyers and to medical treatment.

Concern for Mahlangu and Williams
News update Friday 8th June - 10.30am

Five of the seven WOZA members being held at Bulawayo Central Police Station have finally been charged. These members had been arrested at the demonstration and have been charged under Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) as read with Section 2(v) of the schedule to the Criminal Code - 'employs any means whatsoever which are likely materially to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or any section of the public, or does any act which is likely to create a nuisance or obstruction'. They are currently being taken to court.

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, who handed themselves in to the police station in solidarity, have not yet been fingerprinted or had their statements taken. Police are refusing to allow the lawyers access to them. It is also not clear what these two will be charged with. There is concern that police may try to detain these two further or take this opportunity to carry out their death threats on the two WOZA activists. Lawyers are making an urgent high court application for their release.

Please keep calling Bulawayo Central Police Station on +263 9 72515 / 61706 to demand that Williams and Mahlangu be released immediately and not be harmed.

News update
Friday 8th June - 2.30pm

Williams and Mahlangu still detained; police applying for warrant of further detention

There is still extreme concern for the well being of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. They are still being detained without charge and police are planning to apply for a warrant of further detention. Lawyers are being told that they will be taken to court tomorrow.

However as Law and Order officers have directly threatened these two, telling them that they will be taken to Harare and detained and tortured, WOZA does not believe that their safety can be maintained during those 24 hours. We also believe that it is just a tactic to keep them in custody until Monday

The other five members were released at lunchtime. They were taken to court but did not appear before the magistrate. Police were instructed to proceed by way of summons.

News update
Friday 8th June - 9pm

Williams and Mahlangu spend third night in custody

Two WOZA members, arrested on Wednesday, are spending a third night in custody. They are expected to appear in court tomorrow morning at 9am. It is believed that they are also being charged under Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) as read with Section 2(v) of the schedule to the Criminal Code - 'interfering with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or creating a nuisance or obstruction', the same as the other activists.

They were allowed food at dinnertime with no interference and the members who took in the food report that they are in good spirits. WOZA activists will maintain a vigil outside Bulawayo Central Police Station through the night to ensure that they come to no harm however.

The five members who were released today at lunchtime received medical treatment for their injuries, mostly soft tissue bruising. One member related how she was beaten with baton sticks by several police officers, including across the breasts. She is in severe pain and doctors are worried that some of the lesions may form into abscesses. Another member, who was not arrested, needed to receive specialist treatment this afternoon and will need to have an operation tomorrow. She was kicked in the groin by booted police officers on Wednesday and is bleeding heavily.

With the release of the women, we have been able to learn much more about conditions in the cells. The women related how officers threw bucket loads of water into the cells every day, forcing them to spend the entire time on wet concrete. In the middle of a cold Bulawayo winter, the group of seven was also only given two blankets in total. As a result, many of the women are suffering from cold symptoms.

The group of seven was also kept in a cell by themselves, away from the other women prisoners. It is suspected that this was to prevent the WOZA activists from teaching their fellow detainees about their rights and recruiting them to join the nonviolent struggle for social justice in Zimbabwe! It is believed that Williams and Mahlangu are currently being held in a cell with other women however.

News update
Saturday 9th June

WOZA members, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, finally were taken to court this morning at 8.30am, although they had to wait until 11am to see a magistrate. They were released on bail of $100,000 each and were remanded to 18 June. They have been charged under Sections 37 (1a) and 46 (2v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Chapter 37 - 'participating in gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry'. Section (1a) reads "any person who acts together with one or more other persons present with him or her in any place or at any meeting with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of the public or any section of the public."

Alternatively, Chapter 46, as read with Section 2(v) of the Third Schedule to the Criminal Code, reads "employs any means whatsoever which are likely materially to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or any section of the public, or does any act which is likely to create a nuisance or obstruction".

Their lawyer, Kossam Ncube, also took the opportunity to serve notice on the State that he will file a constitutional challenge to these charges on 18 June. His argument is that the wording is too vague and meaningless, thereby rendering them ineffective and a waste of time.

Police maintain that Williams and Mahlangu threatened the security of the police station by their actions and disturbed the peace. The police also allege that Williams and Mahlangu refuse to disperse with the others and so were arrested.

In actual fact, when the activists arrived at the police station they were asked to line up, which they did. Two officers then came up and dragged Williams into the station by her hands. As Mahlangu was in front of Williams, she too was dragged in. As the two were being dragged in, riot police indiscriminately beat those peacefully lined up causing serious injuries to many. Police officers were observed taking video footage of these events, which can only corroborate the violence unleashed on the peaceful activists if it will be shown in court.

Williams was also served with two summonses to appear in court on 23 July and 2 August for arrests in 2004.

Both women are in good spirits but bearing the effects of spending three nights in cold, wet conditions. Both will require medical attention.

As mentioned yesterday, one member, Alice Banda, has been operated on this afternoon. She had not been arrested but was hit by riot police on Wednesday, fell to the ground and then kicked in the abdomen with booted feet. Whilst she was on the ground, members fleeing from being beaten trampled on her. She received specialist treatment yesterday afternoon where doctors have discovered a lump. She underwent exploratory surgery this afternoon where doctors removed excess blood. She is now out of surgery and in post-op treatment. We are currently awaiting an update from the doctor. It also transpires that two members were beaten in the charge office at Bulawayo Central. (See attached photo) Both were assaulted with baton sticks and one woman was prodded in her private parts with a baton stick by a male officer.

WOZA is thankful for the safe return of all seven activists who were arrested and praises the courage and determination of all its members who braved beatings and humiliation to stand up and make their voices heard at this crucial time in our country's history. Having heard first-hand the passion and intensity with which people outlined their vision of a new Zimbabwe, which was captured in the People's Charter, WOZA is determined not to let them down and to amplify their voices and their dreams.

Many police officers also complained to the activists that they should have gone directly to President Thabo Mbeki rather than to protest in the streets of Bulawayo. WOZA is giving their 'advise' serious thought!

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