The four WOZA members arrested on Thursday outside ZESA headquarters, Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Celina Madukani, have finally been released from police custody after spending five nights in cells. The Attorney General’s office refused to press charges against the four women due to lack of sufficient evidence. The women did not appear in court as defence lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, spoke directly with the Attorney General’s office. Officers from the Law and Order Department at Harare Central had tried to force the women to pay ‘admission of guilt’ fines on Saturday to ‘buy’ their freedom. WOZA will now being suing the Zimbabwe Republic Police for wrongful arrest and detention.
The four women endured hellish conditions in the cells – the worst that these veteran activists who have been detained on numerous occasions have ever seen. All women require medical treatment for a rash all over their bodies and diahorrea due to the filthy conditions and flu symptoms from the cold conditions. Their bodies also ache from being forced to sit and sleep on cold concrete for six days.
The corridors and floor of the female cells were covered in urine and human faeces due to blocked toilets and only sporadic water supply. The women were also initially subjected to verbal abuse from police officers until the nonviolent activists refused to accept the abuse. By the end of their detention however, many officers were supportive. What is clear is that police officers also have to work in these inhuman and degrading conditions.
The human rights defenders can also testify to the large-scale corruption being practiced in the cells. Bribery is rife; with bribes being paid by prisoners to secure their speedy release from the horrific conditions. The sale of mbanje (marijuana) is also commonplace.
WOZA is relieved that the four women have finally been released and would like to thank all friends and supporters that phoned the police station or communicated their support. Jenni, Magodonga, Clara and Celina appreciate the solidarity. Nonetheless, WOZA would also like to express outrage at their detention for six days in horrendous conditions when police officers knew that there was insufficient evidence. This malicious harassment of human rights defenders is continued evidence that very little has changed in Zimbabwe despite the formation of a unity government over a year ago and the conciliatory words of the President a few days ago. The insistence of ZESA employees that the peaceful activists be arrested will also be remembered. It appears that the electricity provider would rather have its paying customers arrested than dialogue with them about their concerns. This arrogant behavior is further confirmation that ZESA is not interested in providing a service to Zimbabweans but is only interested in taking advantage of their need for a basic requirement.
To read a copy of the yellow card the WOZA protestors were delivering to ZESA, click here: ZESA yellow card
To read a copy of WOZA’s report on electricity services in Zimbabwe, click here: WOZA report on ZESA