Trial of Williams and Mahlangu postponed to 22 January 2009

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, leaders of WOZA, appeared in Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court this morning before a packed courtroom. They were on trial for charges relating to the combined cases of the 16 October 2008 case and a 19 June 2004 arrest. The state, represented by Mr. Shawarira, was not ready for trial however and so Magistrate Msipa postponed the trial until 22 January 2009. All bail and reporting conditions were removed after an application for relaxation by the defence.

Williams and Mahlangu were arrested on 16th October at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex. They were part of a group of 200 demanding that the humanitarian crisis in the country be de-politicised and declared a national disaster. They were denied bail by Magistrate Charity Maphosa and detained in Mlondolozi Prison for three weeks before being granted bail through an appeal to the High Court. They were placed on strict bail conditions, which included reporting to police twice a week and not being allowed to travel outside a 40 kilometer radius of Bulawayo without written permission from a magistrate.

The pair had been with C/S 37 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 9:23: “any 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 …”

On Friday 28th, the State summonsed Magodonga Mahlangu for a arrest in 2004 under c/s 7(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act chapter 9:15 – “acting in a manner which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace or to create a nuisance or obstruction”. Jenni Williams did not actually receive the summons although her name is reflected in the summons given to Mahlangu.

Both cases were combined into one trial.None of the state witnesses were present in the courtroom for the 2008 matter. Only one of the state witnesses for the 2004 matter was present.

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu look forward to travelling outside of a 40 kilometre radius of Bulawayo and thank all friends who offered their solidarity.