Two WOZA members released into lawyer’s custody

The two WOZA members, Trust Moyo and Cynthia Ncube, who have spent the last two nights in police custody, were released into their lawyer’s custody at noon today. They had been taken to court earlier this morning charged with ‘distributing materials likely to cause a breach of the peace’, Section 37 1(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The court documentation was not in order however and they were returned to Bulawayo Central Police Station.

They returned to court late morning where they were released into their lawyer’s custody. They are expected to report back to the police station tomorrow morning at 8am to see what else they could be charged with.

Both are in good spirits after their ordeal.

Trust had been arrested after the second demonstration by a plain clothed police officer who claimed to have seen him in the original protest. Surrounded by police officers so that he couldn’t be seen, he was driven into the bush and around the streets in an attempt to disorient him. He was then taken to the private residence of a senior-ranking police officer (wearing three stars on his shoulder) in Khumalo, a suburb of Bulawayo. This officer ordered he be released into the surrounding bushy area. The arresting officers argued amongst themselves that they could not do this however as people knew he had been taken. Trust, as he had been trained to do in an abduction scenario, had made a commotion when he was being arrested, shouting that he would die for WOZA if necessary. They then resolved to take him to Bulawayo Central where riot police tried to force him to eat the WOZA banner that he had been arrested with. When he refused they began to beat him and when he fell to the ground, continued to kick him with their booted feet before finally pouring a bucket of cold water over him.

Cynthia had been arrested outside butchery after the second demonstration by a police officer that she had given a Woza Moya newsletter. She was taken to the police post in Lobengula Street Mall and questioned as to why WOZA was demanding bread and roses. A female police officer slapped her across the face several times, accusing WOZA of being the reason that they are so badly paid but claimed that now that they had arrested her they had ‘hit the jackpot’. Officers also threatened to dump her at Chipangali (a wildlife orphanage just outside of Bulawayo) so that the lions could eat her. She was later walked to Bulawayo Central, being pushed and shoved all the way.

More members have continued to receive medical treatment for injuries they sustained on Monday, including a young man who had been hit across the head with a baton stick and a woman that had to receive three stitches on her leg after being hit with a baton stick.

News update 5pm Tuesday 6 May: 2 WOZA members spend second night in Bulawayo Central

The two WOZA members, Trust Moyo and Cynthia Ncube, who were detained yesterday following a peaceful demonstration, are set to spend a second night in police custody at Bulawayo Central Police Station. They were allowed access to their lawyers this afternoon however and have been charged with ‘distributing materials likely to cause a breach of the peace’ – a charge under the Public Order and Security Act (Section 19 1b) that has been incorporated into the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act in Section 37 1(b).

It is hoped that both members will be taken to court tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

Trust was beaten by police on the street and also in a police vehicle. Apparently they were driven out of town and driven through a busy area near the army barracks, before being taken to Bulawayo Central. Eight police officers were in this vehicle. It is not clear what injuries he has sustained as a result of his beatings as he has not been allowed to receive medical attention. It is also not clear how Cynthia has been treated since her detention.

Three more members received medical treatment this morning. All three had been struck by the police vehicle and sustained deep tissue bruising.

Please continue to call Bulawayo Central Police Station on +263 9 72515, +263 9 61706 or +263 9 63061 to demand that these members be released and to ask police why peaceful demonstrators who were calling for an end to violence were beaten so badly.

News update Tuesday 5th May 9am:

The whereabouts of all WOZA members arrested yesterday afternoon has been established. Two members, one female and one male, spent the night at Bulawayo Central Police Station whilst all other members were released by late afternoon or early evening yesterday. Lawyers have not been allowed access to the two members in Bulawayo Central and it is not clear what they are being charged with or how they have been treated. Both are in good spirits however and have been allowed food both last night and this morning.

Five of the other members arrested had been taken to the police post (a tent) at Lobengula Street Mall whilst four had been taken to Drill Hall. They were all searched and questioned at length about why they were in town. After being held for hours, they were all finally released without charge.

59 members received medical attention but the number is expected to rise as several more members have requested appointments this morning. Injuries included deep tissue bruising caused by baton sticks and open wounds, mostly on the knees from where members fell from either the beatings they received or from being hit by the police vehicle that drove into the back of the crowd.

Many of the injuries sustained included scraped kneesTwo people, one woman and one man, hit by the vehicle, fractured their elbows, whilst another woman broke a finger from being hit by a baton stick. It was also discovered that another woman who had been hit across the stomach with a baton stick was actually pregnant, something she did not know herself, but she and the baby are fine.

Part of the message being delivered yesterday reads…. “We call on the uniformed forces to realise that there is no peace in the absence of justice. When change comes, and it will come, WOZA will demand an audit of all civil servants, including the uniformed forces.” The ‘audit’ continues and the driver of ZRP 3039M and the officer in charge of Bulawayo Central, Inspector Mabhari, have been added to the list of those who will face justice. The latter was heard ordering the beatings.

Please call Bulawayo Central Police Station on +263 9 72515, +263 9 61706 or +263 9 63061 and demand the immediate release of the two WOZA members. Please also ask Inspector Mabhari why he ordered the beating of innocent protestors and bystanders. You can also remind the officers that they are unlikely to receive immunity from justice when democracy returns to Zimbabwe but they have an opportunity to be remembered for the good they have done by releasing members today and treating them fairly.


Monday 5th May: WOZA members beaten in Bulawayo today; at least 11 arrested – concern for their whereabouts

Members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise took to the streets of Bulawayo today to call for an end to the politically motivated violence that has left more than 20 people dead in the last few weeks. The protest is also part of WOZA’s participation in the ‘make your vote count’ campaign. Ironically the peaceful protestors were met with brutal violence by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). At least 59 have needed to seek medical attention for injuries caused by baton sticks or being hit by a police vehicle.

The demonstrators had planned to deliver a demand to the High Court that the Chief Election Officer declare Morgan Tsvangirai as president, as the candidate that secured the greatest number of votes, rather than hold a run-off which would only result in more violence.

The group of several hundred had just gathered and began to march when they were violently set upon by two truckloads of riot police who viciously beat people with their baton sticks.

Seven people were arrested after this first attempt, some several blocks away. It is not clear where these seven people are as lawyers have not yet been able to locate them.

Police approach WOZA marchers near High Court, 5 May 08An hour the determined members regrouped near St. Mary’s Cathedral and were able to conduct a silent march for four blocks before being intercepted by uniformed police officers one block from the High Court. A discussion took place between the senior officer present and WOZA National Coordinator, Jenni Williams, who was in the process of asking members to disperse peacefully when two truckloads of riot police arrived and once again began beating people.

Riot police from one vehicle disembarked and began indiscriminately beating the crowd whilst a second police vehicle ZRP 3039 M deliberately drove into the back of the crowd injuring many people. As well as the brutal assault on the peaceful protestors, any women in the vicinity were also beaten. Eyewitness accounts include seeing a completely innocent bystander be slapped across the face by a uniformed police officer until she fell to the ground, all the while protesting her innocence.

Jenni Williams was hit with baton sticks in police vehicle ZRP 2030MAmongst those injured was Jenni Williams, who was beaten with baton sticks, both on the street and in a police vehicle (ZRP 2030M) when she was temporarily arrested. She was later released but others were not so lucky. At least four members were observed being arrested but once again lawyers have not been able to ascertain their whereabouts as they were observed being driven to a busy area near Brady Barracks.

There is concern as to the whereabouts of all those who were witnessed being arrested and also as to how they are being treated.

It has also been reported that riot police have been beating any group of women that they come across in town throughout the afternoon. Once again displaying the violent and brutal behaviour that has become synonymous with the ZANU PF regime.

As well as carrying demands for the Chief Elections Officer, WOZA also demanded that the uniformed forces and war veterans refrain from further violence, reminding them that the ‘chefs’ probably will be allowed to cut deals, whilst they will be left to face the justice of the law and the anger of the people.

In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, the peaceful protest was also expected to demonstrate courage to Zimbabweans and show that ‘mothers’ are speaking out and demanding that their vote count and be respected.

More information will be given when it becomes available.

To see a copy of the flyer that the demonstrators were handing out as they marched, click here. Woza Moya English May 2008