After the amazing release of over 300 activists from outside Parliament on 12th December 2006, Women Of Zimbabwe Arise and Men Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/ MOZA) members were left wondering if the non-violent war of attrition waged against the Zimbabwe Republic Police had at last born fruit and that members would no longer face weekly police harassment. Unfortunately this ‘truce’ was short-lived as Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu had to ‘quickstep’ to escape arrest on Saturday 16 December 2006, after being followed through Bulawayo for seven blocks with officers in hot pursuit.
WOZA had convened a meeting at a church in Bulawayo to reflect on the Harare launch of the Peoples’ Charter at Parliament. Halfway through the meeting, plain-clothed officers from the Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) branch entered the meeting hall. Their presence disrupted the meeting, which had to be dispersed. One PISI officer, Abraham Dapi, known to many members as he had testified in the Operation Sunrise Demonstration trial, tried to disguise himself by reading a copy of ‘The Zimbabwean’ but he did not fool anyone. He eventually went to rejoin his fellow officers outside.
As hundreds of WOZA and MOZA members left the venue, the three officers stood around outside the hall, obviously unsure how to proceed as they were outnumbered and, as usual, members were giving them the Love sign!
Last to leave the venue were Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. Upon seeing them leaving, the police officers proceeded to follow the two, who were walking towards the city centre. WOZA security details managed to monitor the police officers’ movements and advise the duo about which roads were clear until they were able to out-walk the officers.
Meanwhile WOZA security monitoring the venue reported that another official from the Law and Order department, driving a navy-blue Defender, was seen monitoring the area and kept driving around the venue. The female officer, who wears spectacles, was present when members were assaulted on 29th November 2006 at Mhlahlandlela. She was observed by members pointing out to riot police who to assault and arrest.
Officer Abraham Dapi is well known to WOZA, as he was a state witness in the 21st August trial (regarding the demonstration against Operation Sunrise). After WOZA won that case, he was overheard saying that the only option left was to beat WOZA members, as the State could not win in court. His words came true and members are still nursing injuries from the brutal assault. In addition, when Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were under arrest the night of the beatings, he came to the detention room where they were and in front of them, said that police had not beaten the women enough and that they should have been beaten more severely.
WOZA/MOZA will continue to defy unjust laws such as the Public Order and Security Act, which violate basic human rights such as the freedom of assembly. In addition, lawyers have been briefed to proceed with a suit against the police officers responsible for the assaults and an investigation is under way to identify all the officers involved to cite them as respondents.