Valentine’s Day Arrests – News update 8pm

131 members remain in custody in Bulawayo for a second night. The 36 released into the custody of their lawyers once again have been allowed to return to their homes having spent the day at Bulawayo Central. Initial reports from one lawyer indicated that there were 274 in custody but the figure from another lawyer was 174 members that were arrested. This figure includes 17 juveniles, 20 mothers with babies and three pregnant women.

Only seven of the group are being charged under Chapter 37, Section (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry is committed whether the action constituting it is spontaneous or planned in advance, and whether the place or meeting where it occurred is public or private.’ These seven being the only ones that arresting officers were prepared to come forward to testify against. The rest of the group, including Magodonga Mahlangu, are not being charged and at 4 pm today, police dealing with the case agreed that they should be released. The head of the Law and Order Section at Bulawayo Central, G Ndlovu, refused to allow them to go home tonight however, insisting that they only be released in the morning after the seven had appeared in court – the lives of 124 people made miserable by the petty whim of one individual.

Magodonga Mahlangu remains isolated from the rest of the group as Law and Order officers have resisted attempts to have her moved back to join others, arguing that as a leader of WOZA, Mahlangu ‘deserves the dignity of having a cell to herself’ – having an entire police station to herself does seem a little excessive however! Concerns for her safety continue whilst she remains in solitary confinement.

Members in Queens Park are still being denied medication – please call Queens Park Station on +263 9 22641/2 to demand that those taking ARV treatment be allowed to take their medication.

The eight women arrested in Harare yesterday and held at Harare Central overnight are out of custody having paid admission of guilt fines early this evening. The women complained of terrible and inhumane conditions in the cells and having been beaten in custody. Attempts are still being made to ascertain exactly what happened in Harare Central and more information will be given when it becomes available.