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Over 90 WOZA activists arrested and released in Tuesday demo
Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
November 07, 2007

Over 90 activists from women's pressure group WOZA and its male wing MOZA were arrested on Tuesday in Harare before being released the same day in the evening. The group was protesting over a variety of issues including unaffordable school fees, power and water shortages and escalating state sponsored violence against pro-democracy activists. Human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama confirmed the arrest of at least 98 activists by lunchtime on the day. The protesters marched from First Street along Nkwame Nkrumah until police intercepted them at the corner of Nelson Mandela and Sam Nujoma avenues.

The protesters held up placards and distributed fliers to motorists and pedestrians in the city centre. Anti-riot police then converged on the marchers and ordered them to sit on the pavement outside Standard Chartered Bank, which is opposite the Anglican Cathedral. Some of the placards had quotes from Steve Biko, 'You can put out a candle light, but once the light becomes a blaze it is difficult to extinguish.'

Our correspondent, Simon Muchemwa, reports that only two protesters a man and a woman were assaulted for protesting alone after their friends had been arrested. The male protester was immediately whisked away with 17 others in a B18 police truck leaving the rest seated. The others who included WOZA leader, Jenni Williams, walked all the way to Harare Central Police station under the watchful eye of the police. By 1400hrs Aleck Muchadehama, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights, was at the station trying to ascertain the condition of the arrested.

In a surprising development however a Chief superintendent Madzingo (Acting Officer Commanding CID Law and order) at Harare Central police station ordered the release of the activists saying they had a right to demonstrate. Madzingo is said to have angrily reprimanded his officers in front of the WOZA/MOZA activists branding them overzealous. Muchadehama also confirmed to Newsreel that Madzingo said the women had genuine grievances, which merited attention. Madzingo however told WOZA leader, Jenni Williams, to seek permission from the police the next time they intended to protest.

This defence lawyer Muchadehama says is the problem. Under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) political parties are required to seek permission from the police whereas WOZA and its MOZA wing were not a political party. The group has in the past vowed to ignore repressive laws and demonstrate all the same.

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