Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members in Harare and Bulawayo conducted their traditional Valentine’s Day protests and both protests were marred by beatings and arrests. This is the 11th year WOZA has conducted such a protest and this year’s theme is under the theme – One Love. One hundred and ninety five were arrested then released after some hours but one woman remains in custody.
At 2 o’clock on 13 February 2013, Harare members marched towards parliament in two separate formations. Riot Police based at Parliament disrupted the both protests and fired 5 canisters of tear gas to disperse the over 1000 strong protest sending members and bystanders scurrying for cover. Many people were affected by the tear gas and some children were seen crying. Business came to a standstill due to this indiscriminate use of force to disrupt a peaceful protest.
Over 25 members had to seek medical attention including the 8 members who were arrested at parliament and beaten by the 8 Riot police during the 20 minute wait for the police van to take them into custody. A ninth bystander a male, had his cell phone taken and was separated from the others and beaten for over 20minutes between the police reaction group headquarters in Harare’s Cramborne Barracks and Harare Central police station.
The 8 arrested were Jennifer Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa, Hilda Murapa, Enia Mazambare, Tambudzai Manangazira, Siphetheni Ndlovu and Maria Majoni. As the women arrived at the Police station, the receiving police officer chided his uniformed colleagues for ‘arresting WOZA’ and told them to take them away. For over 2 hours no progress was made and it was unclear if the 8 were in detention or not but their liberty was obviously curtailed. After they were release all 9 including the bystander spent another 3 hours lodging a formal complaint about the beatings, tear gas and abuse they had suffered. A police report number is available for the complaint. All nine then were taken to hospital for treatment and x-rays for the brutality meted out on them at Parliament.
On 14February 2013 members in Bulawayo conducted their Valentine’s Day protest. Members decided to march to the police Headquarters in 9th Avenue, at Southampton House. Members wanted to demand that the Police respond to formal complaints about police beatings and brutality. Police brutality prevailed during a Water protest on 12 November. WOZA then marched to hand over a protest on 29 November but no response was forthcoming.
The 4pm protest began with smoothly but when the 8 protest groups number 800 members neared Southampton house, Riot police swooped and began indiscriminately beating members. WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu managed to regroup the protest and after many skirmishes managed to get the members to sit down on the pavement so that official proceedings could begin. As this began senior ranking officers repeated order for Riot officer to beat the two activists who were still recovering from the Harare protest assault. Police officers began arresting any male person they observed with a camera, numbering 6.
The police boss then requested Williams to go upstairs to the officer to dialogue with the police provincial leadership. After obtaining assurances that nothing would befall the members and that the 6 men arrested would return with Williams, her and a colleague went upstairs.
The meeting was to be short-lived as the officers were obviously not cooperative and kept blocking progress by insisting on a formal letter requesting an appointment to receive feedback on the many complaint letters. The meeting came to an abrupt end when Williams was telephoned by Magodonga Mahlangu to say all the participants had been arrested by the Riot Reaction group and taken to the Bulawayo Central Police station. Williams then walked out of the meeting and handed herself into custody with 179 other members. The 6 male members were also still in custody at Southampton house.
The same police bosses who had attempted to meet Williams, then arrived at the station and misled the meeting with Williams had been fruitful and that they did not know why or how the members came to be in the police station but that they should leave immediately. Williams then addressed members say they would leave police custody but only if the missing 6 male members were also released as they had all been together. Without any further dialogue the officers barked order to the Riot Reaction group to remove the 180 members forthwith from the police station. A few members were then beaten again.
It transpired that of the six men that remained in custody only 1 is a WOZA members, the others bystanders who took photos of the protest. They were this night tortured by intelligence agents and then released home for the night with instructions to return at 9am on 15 February.
The woman, Bertha Sibanda is in custody for ‘indecent exposure’. She was one of the 180 in custody and she stripped naked in the police station in frustration at not having her complaints addressed. She is one of the 11 members who were in a Water protest that police violently disturbed and was subjected to tribal insults about Gukurahundi when she lost family to this massacre. complaint police harrasment to ZRP 13nov incident and Follow up letter 14 Feb13 police complaint
Meanwhile 6 members had medical attention, one of who has to have 3 teeth pulled due to batons stick injury to her mouth. Several members have reported being called by police officers requesting information about the protest plans and made the offer of money for information. Two of the calls were made from Bulawayo number 60248 Code (00 263 9). WOZA suspect this number to be of an intelligence office. WOZA invite activism to assist us in holding this intelligence office accountable for harassment and beating of WOZA members in an attempt to curtail their right to protest.
WOZA handed over their demands contained in the February 2013 Woza Moya Newsletter. Woza Moya Feb 2013