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women arrested in Bulawayo on International Day of Peace
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
September 24, 2011
Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu and 10 other women were arrested
on Wednesday, September 21 while attempting to commemorate the International
Day of Peace with hundreds of WOZA women and men. As well as those
arrested, over 20 others were injured after being beaten by riot
A planned peaceful
demonstration did not take place due to heavy police presence all
around the city centre. Several separate groups had intended to
set out from various starting points and converge on the Mhlahlandlela
government complex to present their preliminary report on transitional
justice to the Governor of Bulawayo Province. But police patrol
cars were circling around all the start off points and members of
the riot police, in full riot gear, assaulted anyone suspected of
being a demonstrator. It is unfortunate that members of the general
public were also attacked by the police who were beating people
indiscriminately and shouting 'uraya', meaning 'kill'
in Shona. One male bystander was hospitalised as a result of the
beatings that he received and remains in Mpilo Hospital. Over 20
members required medical attention for injuries sustained during
the beatings, and several were sent for X-ray as they appeared to
have fractured bones. It was fortunate that all proved rather to
have suffered severe bruising, which in itself causes great pain
and reduced mobility.
members were all due to be charged with criminal nuisance under
Law (Codification and Reform) Act. As is WOZA practice, those
arrested refused to secure their release by paying 'acknowledgment
of guilt' fines. As it was, the prosecutor declined to press
charges against ten of the women and they were released without
charges were laid against Williams and Mahlangu. They now face the
astonishing charges of kidnap and theft. These are based on allegations
made by a former WOZA employee who had been previously dismissed.
He later returned to WOZA premises, broke in, and stole a substantial
amount of property, some of which was recovered when a sympathetic
relative led WOZA members to the place where the property was being
It is probable
that the malicious allegations have been used by the police to lay
charges without any investigation of the true facts of the matter
or genuine suspicion of guilt, merely to punish the WOZA leaders
for successfully mobilizing members to defend their rights. Officer
George Levison Ngwenya of the Bulawayo Central Law and Order department,
who has been previously named and shamed by WOZA for his brutal
handling of arrested WOZA members, may be using these spurious allegations
as his way of getting even. Having failed in the past to secure
convictions of WOZA members on charges related to activities in
defense of human rights, he may now have devised a new strategy
of seeking to pin common criminal charges on the women.
On Friday, September
23, Williams and Mahlangu were brought to court on these charges,
refused bail, and remanded at the notorious Mlondolozi Prison, part
of the Khami prison complex, until October 6, a period of two weeks.
Lawyers have filed an urgent application to the High Court appealing
the denial of bail.
The theme for
this year's celebrations was to be 'PEACE AND DEMOCRACY:
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD'. WOZA notes with great concern that
the arrests of its members occurred on a day that was meant to celebrate
and encourage peace and democracy. WOZA asks where is the peace
when the general public is beaten? Where is the peace when non-
violent protesters are beaten? Our voices shall not be silenced,
and we will continue to work against all odds to establish genuine
peace and democracy in Zimbabwe.
WOZA is also
very concerned about how Williams and Mahlangu will be treated in
Mlondolozi Prison. The last time that they were detained in the
prison in 2008 they were subjected to abuse at the hands of the
We ask that
our friends and supporters phone the authorities at Mlondolozi and
ask them not to mistreat Williams and Mahlangu and to respect their
rights as remand prisoners as laid out by the Zimbabwe Prisons Act.
the WOZA fact
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