Two trials and a court hearing – WOZA legal update

TWENTY members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) appeared on trial before Magistrate Nyamukomba in Masvingo last Monday, charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The prosecutor, D. Charamba, appealed for a postponement with the excuse that no witnesses were willing to come forward and he needed to get advice from the area senior prosecutor before he could proceed. The magistrate refused to allow the extension and granted the defence’s application that the accused be taken off remand. The State was ordered to proceed by way of summons when it had its house in order. The Masvingo 20 were defended by Mr Shumba, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

The members had been arrested on 7th March whilst launching the People’s Charter in the Masvingo provincial capital. They had been required to report to the police station weekly as part of their bail conditions and had appeared in court four times previously. Two previous trial dates had failed to take off.

WOZA National Coordinator, Jenni Williams will appear in Bulawayo Magistrates court on Monday 23rd July after being issued with a summons for an arrest during a peaceful protest in 2004. Police had summoned her on two previous occasions for the same arrest but had no docket ready on both occasions. The current summons was served on Williams when she was last in police custody on 6th June. The second appearance will be on 2nd August; again for a 2004 arrest for peaceful protest. Williams has been arrested approximately 30 times in the last five years and has spent the equivalent of two months in custody, with one arrest lasting five days.

In a busy week for WOZA in the courts, the 26 members arrested in Gweru for launching the People’s Charter in the Midlands capital in March, will appear on trial in Gweru Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday 24th July. They are charged under Chapter 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘participating in a public gathering with the intent to cause public disorder, breach of peace or bigotry’. As these were the same charges faced by the Masvingo 20, it is hoped that a similar outcome will occur.