WOZA members, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, appeared in remand court this morning in Bulawayo. They had been arrested on 6th June and held until Saturday 9th June when they were finally released on bail.
They had been charged under Sections 37 (1a) and 46 (2v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Chapter 37 â€“ â€˜participating in gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotryâ€™. Section (1a) reads â€œany person who acts together with one or more other persons present with him or her in any place or at any meeting with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of the public or any section of the public.â€
Alternatively, Chapter 46, as read with Section 2(v) of the Third Schedule to the Criminal Code, reads â€œemploys any means whatsoever which are likely materially to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or any section of the public, or does any act which is likely to create a nuisance or obstructionâ€.
Their lawyer, Kossam Ncube, filed a constitutional challenge to these charges. His argument is that the wording is too vague and meaningless, thereby rendering them ineffective and a waste of time. He is requesting that the women be removed off remand whilst the constitutionality of these charges is being debated.
As the case had been assigned to another prosecutor, there was a delay of several hours whilst the new prosecutor was given time to prepare. The magistrate then heard the arguments. She will give her verdict tomorrow morning at 8am.
WOZA members will also be on trial in Gweru tomorrow. Both groups who had been arrested in early March during or after the People’s Launch demonstration will appear in the Gweru Magistrate’s Court tomorrow. It is anticipated that the charges against the nine members who were arrested after the demonstration will be dismissed. The other 26 members all face charges under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
In other news, two members who had been badly beaten during the demonstration on 6th June are still receiving medical attention. One woman was beaten with baton sticks across her breasts and has developed abscesses. She is still in a lot of pain. Another member was kicked in the abdomen and required an operation. She is out of hospital and shall be attending a review tomorrow.