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Thirteen arrested on WOZA's tenth anniversary
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
February 07, 2012

WOZA leader Jenni Williams was arrested this afternoon in front of the JOMIC offices in Bulawayo while commemorating the 10th anniversary of WOZA.

WOZA had arranged a meeting with JOMIC in order to request them to act urgently according to their mandate to ensure the implementation of the GPA. Several complaints of abuse of rights by the ZRP had been made by WOZA to JOMIC, but the abuse had not stopped. The WOZA leaders, Williams and Mahlangu met with JOMIC to raise this issue and to present to them letters to be transmitted to the GPA principals to draw their attention to the same complaints.

Meanwhile WOZA members demonstrated outside the building where the meeting took place, in support of the leadership and in commemoration of ten years of WOZA's activities in defending human rights and promoting social justice. As Williams and Mahlangu emerged from the meeting, Williams was arrested by riot police who were assaulting demonstrators as well as members of the public. All of this action took place in front of the disbelieving members of the JOMIC delegation, who had asked during the meeting to be provided with concrete proof of the activities of the police.

Along with Williams, seven other WOZA women and five bystanders were also arrested; one of the bystanders is a pregnant woman and another is a female minor. All are currently at Bulawayo Central Police Station. A lawyer representing them has been allowed access and was told by Chief Inspector Mandere that the police were in a meeting trying to decide what charges to lay.

According to a ruling by the Supreme Court handed down in 2010, they can not be charged under section 37(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as long as the demonstration was peaceful and did not cause a threat or danger to the public. The Supreme Court at that time declared that the constitution protects the right of the public to freedom of expression and assembly and yet the police have clearly defied the order of the highest court in the land and violated these rights today when they broke up a peaceful demonstration and assaulted and arrested some of the participants. It was this very type of violation that was the source of the complaint to JOMIC and to the GPA principals.

We believe that JOMIC now has their evidence and expect them to take urgent action to correct the situation. The ZRP needs to be instructed in no uncertain terms by all the principals to desist from breaking the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court. And we do not expect that any prosecutor can take forward any charge that might be devised.

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