Following peaceful protests in Bulawayo yesterday, hundreds of members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) marched through the streets of Harare today to mark International Refugee Day. 700 members were expected to have taken part. Six simultaneous protests began at 12pm under the theme – real people, real needs. As in Bulawayo, the protests were violently dispersed by police who beat protestors with baton sticks.
It is unclear at this stage how many members have been arrested but we are deeply concerned for the welfare of two members, Maria Majoni and Clara Manjengwa, who were seen to be arrested and brutally beaten by police. Clara was followed by a police vehicle after the protests had dispersed and arrested. Four police officers threw her into the back of the vehicle and began to jump on her with their booted feet and beat her with their baton sticks. When she began to scream in pain, the driver and passenger in the front seat got out the vehicle and joined their colleagues in jumping up and down on Clara. Maria Majoni was also brutally beaten with baton sticks at one of the starting points before being arrested. It is unclear where either woman has been taken. A journalist who was recording the beating of Maria Majoni was also arrested.
Three of the six simultaneous protests were immediately stopped by police who had been patrolling the streets of central Harare. Those that had gathered were beaten with baton sticks and dispersed. Riot police intercepted the fourth protest outside the offices of The Herald, violently beating the peaceful protestors. As the last two protests were nearing their target, Parliament, riot police again descended and began to brutally beat the group. The demonstrators were followed by police as they dispersed who continued to beat them as they moved away.
As they beat the peaceful protestors, police told them “you wanted lower rates, here are the lower rates you wanted” before hitting them with their baton sticks.
Meanwhile seven of the eight activists arrested yesterday in Bulawayo remain in police custody. Lawyers secured the release of one of the group as he is on antiretroviral medication. All eight are expected to appear in court tomorrow facing charges of disturbing the peace.
More details will be given as they become available.