Persecution by prosecution of Human Rights Defenders continues

Persecution by prosecution of Human Rights Defenders continues: Court appearances; Williams and Mahlangu avoid persecution; Release our comrades

SEVEN members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) appeared in Tredgold Magistrates Court today 16 March, they will reappear again on 23rd of March 2011. The 3 women and 4 men arrested on 28 February in two separate incidents in Entumbane and Mabutweni. Although reporting conditions were relaxed and they now only report once a week, charges were not dropped as there is resistance from the police officers.

Before they appeared in Court, the Defence lawyer Matshobana Ncube met with the provincial area prosecutor and the Attorney general’s office Mrs Cheda who indicated that they have formally requested a meeting with the District Commanding Police Officer Inspector R. Masina to obtain understanding as to the significance of the Supreme Court ruling to prevent the continued arrest of WOZA members by the police officers in defiance of the ruling. The Supreme Court ruling was obtained by WOZA leaders Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu from a 16 October 2008 arrest and 3 week detention at Mlondolozi prison.

An update on the three women, Eneles Dube, Janet Dube and Selina Dube arrested during the 7th March protest were followed home and brought  to court to be formally charged.

On the 10th of March 2011 Lizwe Jamela of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights was advised by Bulawayo Central Police Station from Constable Runesu that District Commanding Police Officer (DISPOL)  Inspector R Masina had demanded that the three Eneles Dube and others  be formally charged. They appeared in court on 11th of March 2011 with Defence lawyer Kossam Ncube. They were charged with criminal nuisance as defined in paragraph 2[v] of the Third schedule to the Criminal Law [ Codification and Reform] Act, Chapter 9:23 as with section 46 of the said Act which basically means ‘blocking the pavement’.

They appeared before Magistrate Gideon Ruvetsa and Public Prosecutor Jeremiah Mutsindikwa, where they were remanded on free bail out of custody to the 21st of March 2011. Lawyer Kossam Ncube indicated to the court than on the 21st he will note an application of refusal of further remand.

WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu are currently on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom and United States of America. In the last month after the Valentines Day protests, Police officers launched regular visits to their homes and sent messages through members that they tortured to reveal the whereabouts of the leaders. Police officers also contacted a Human Rights lawyer, demanding he bring the leaders to Bulawayo Central Police station indicating that they ‘must prepare themselves for a long detention’. As a result of the supreme Court ruling which police are obviously ignoring, it was determined that they  of this heightened harassment and obvious ignoring of the Supreme Court ruling, Williams and Mahlangu have not voluntarily presented themselves to this persecution.

WOZA call on the all officers Zimbabwe Republic Police to professionalise and shake themselves from the choke of their political masters.  The days of reckoning will come soon and they will be faced with the guilt of their torture alone. They must not blindly follow the dictates of politicians to arrest and detain human rights defenders but should interrogate as decent human beings the letter of the law and the principle of investigate to arrest not arrest to investigate. We call on them to free all human rights defenders in custody including our Comrades Gwisai, Gumbo, Tafadzwa and others.

Please watch this rough footage of the Valentines’ Day protest that has got the state shivering