18-year-old activist found; 82 in custody released

18-year-old WOZA activist, Clarah Makoni, returned to her home late last night. She had been missing since 8am when she had returned to Bulawayo Central Police Station to report following her arrest on Thursday. She had been arrested for taking food for those in custody into Luveve Police Station.

On arriving at Bulawayo Police Station, she was told that her name was not on the list and told to go home. On leaving the station, the young activist was approached by two plain-clothed men, who identified themselves as police officers and wanted her to show them where Magodonga Mahlangu and Jenni Williams lived. They told her she was under arrest so she asked to make a phone call, whereby she phoned Mahlangu from a phone shop to let her know that she had been “arrested again”. They had a cream Kombi waiting nearby with two other officers inside, which they forced her into. The four plain-clothed officers then took her to Fairbridge police camp, approximately 20km out of Bulawayo, where police officers are taken to be “disciplined”.

She was shown torture rooms and told in great detail what would happen to her there. They then took her into the bush nearby and questioned her about Jenni Williams and where WOZA gets its money, at the same time, forcing her to watch other people being tortured by plain-clothed officers until 8.30 at night. The police told her to tell WOZA that they “don’t play with people”. When she kept insisting that she could not answer their questions, they decided she could go after being ‘punished’. She was then forced to crawl under an electric fence, causing her clothes to be torn and covered in mud. She then had to run through the bush to find her way back to the main road, where a passer-by found her in torn, filthy clothes and gave her a lift back to Bulawayo.

Clarah had been beaten in police custody on Thursday by Sergeant George Levison Ngwenya and Detective Assistant Inspector Tshuma, which had aggravated earlier injuries from beatings in February. As a result she was very ill, vomiting, and urinating blood. Upon arriving back in Bulawayo, she was taken for medical treatment. She is currently recovering from her ordeal.

The 82 members who had spent Thursday night in custody were released yesterday afternoon without being taken to court. Police will proceed by way of summons if they wish to pursue the matter. The entire group were charged under Chapter 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘causing a criminal nuisance’.

WOZA members are relieved that our Clarah has been returned to us. In this instance the power of love truly did overcome hatred. The entire episode only serves to highlight the depravity of a regime that finds it necessary to torture and abduct a young girl whose only ‘crime’ was feeding people in custody.