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98 WOZA members arrested in Harare whilst calling for an end to violence
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
November 06, 2007

98 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) were arrested at noon today whilst protesting the continued harassment of and violence against human rights activists at the hands of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

The activists were arrested Parliament and were made to sit in Africa Unity Square for several hours before being moved to Harare Central Police Station. Human rights lawyers are in attendance. It is still unclear what charges are being brought against the group.

More than 250 activists took part in the protest march through central Harare. This action follows peaceful street demonstrations in Bulawayo, Harare and Mutare last month on the same theme.

Update - 7 November 1pm

Ninety eight members were arrested during a protest at Parliament in Harare, they were held for 7 hours before being released without charge.

At noon on 6 November 2007, a deputation drawn from the membership began a protest to press for an end to violence and for a response from the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Members also wanted to express their commitment to a repealing of Public Order Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

As the procession was to arrive at Parliament, the Riot Squad based at Africa Unity Square intercepted and began to beat the peaceful activists. They did not directly order the activists to disperse but beat anyone trying to sit down. The procession then turned around the way they had come and as determined activists began to chant the slogan - you strike a woman - you strike a rock. The singing then continued - the words are - The road is full of thorns and the time has come to pray. It seems this was too much for the police officers who had kept up their insults and beating with baton sticks (although they used minimum force). When the procession crossed Sam Nujoma Street, the order to sit down was issued by police and WOZA members complied.

While the group sat down, members who had not been arrested handed themselves in. A member of MOZA did this in style. With his placard saying 'VOTE no to POSA' held high and singing away, he did a solo march across the street into the arrested group.

After 30 minutes, a vehicle came and 17 members were taken to Harare central police station. An hour and a half passed with no progress before the Riot Squad guarding the arrested ordered 3 lines and walked the 81 members to central creating quite a spectacle and much amusement. It seems there was no fuel for the vehicles.

After uniformed polices officers and law and order officers took down everyone's details, it became apparent no department wanted responsibility for processing WOZA. Eventually Law and Order officers with the Chief Superintendent Madzingo, the overall boss of Law and Order in attendance asked for all the issues WOZA are unhappy and after a 30 minute spelling out issues from police harassment, to skyrocketing school fees, to electricity blackouts and complaints about POSA, the Chief Superintendent said he was tired and asked WOZA lawyer Muchadehama to assist WOZA to notify for future protests. All 98 members were released at 7:30 pm having been arrested just after noon. This is the third protest in a row that WOZA have been arrested but released without being detained. On 15 October, Chief Inspector Tenderere, officer commanding Harare central lectured the activists and released them after 9 hours in custody. These protests have seen WOZA directly confront Police about their brutality.

Meanwhile, A WOZA member Maria Moyo, arrested approximately 8 times and abducted on 24th August with 6 other members has died. Known Law and order officers based in Bulawayo took her from her sick bed at 4:30 am and threatened to tie her up with ropes and throw her into Khami Dam if she did not divulge the whereabouts of WOZA leaders. She was badly shaken by this experience and took a turn for the worse, despite medical treatment she never recovered. Doctors tried to treat a bad cough and advised that she is too stressed. WOZA released a report on political violence suffered by members including mental and physical torture. WOZA leaders pass on their condolences to the family of Maria and to all her comrades. We ask for intensification in amplifying the voice of ordinary Zimbabweans demanding social justice so that Maria's life is not sacrificed in vain.

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