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Charges against seven members dropped in Gweru Magistrates Court
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
June 19, 2007

The State withdrew charges today against seven WOZA members in Gweru. They had been charged under Chapter 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after being arrested in early March. They were attempting to bring food in to 26 colleagues who had been arrested earlier in the day during a protest to launch the People's Charter in the Midlands city at the time.

The members had been asked to meet the lawyer at the police station and await his instruction to bring the food in. The lawyer went in to get permission to feed those in custody but before he could call the group in, police officers had arrested the activists. They were charged for blocking the pavement opposite Gweru police station.

The 26 members arrested launching the People's Charter will appear on trial on 24th July 2007 to answer charges 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'.

Williams and Mahlangu win Supreme Court referral from Bulawayo Magistrate's Court

WOZA members, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, appeared before Magistrate Mrs Rose Sibanda today to await her reply to a request from human rights lawyer, Kossam Ncube, for the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court for a constitutional challenge. In a surprise ruling, Mrs Sibanda allowed the referral to the Supreme Court. The duo had been arrested by police officers outside Bulawayo Central Police station on 6 June 2007.

They were charged under Sections 37 (1a) and 46 (2v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the wording of which the defence challenged is too ambiguous, vague and broad thereby making it impossible to determine if an offenses has been committed. He also argued that they also curtail the rights and freedoms of expression, assembly and movement.

The specific charges: 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".

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