Category Archives: Protests

Masvingo launches the People’s Charter whilst 36 remain in custody in Gweru

Whilst 36 WOZA members remain in custody in Gweru after launching the People’s Charter in the Midlands town yesterday, WOZA members again took to the streets today – this time in Masvingo. The message was the same – the people of Zimbabwe demanding social justice through the People’s Charter.

In the face of heavy police presence, many of the women intending to march scattered, but a brave group of about 30 managed to march several blocks through the centre of the city to the Civic Centre, where all of them were arrested. There were no reports of beatings as yet and lawyers are in attendance.

In Gweru, the total number arrested yesterday was 36, including three women who were arrested when they brought food to those detained. All were expected in court this morning, but we are still waiting for a report on what the charges were and what the outcome was. It is believed they will be charged with participating in an illegal gathering.

More details will be given when they become available.

Gweru Launches The People’s Charter

Monday 5th March – 6pm
Over 100 WOZA members in Gweru marched through the centre of town this morning to launch the People’s Charter and to encourage the people of their city to join in the struggle for social justice.

They marched from the clock along Robert Mugabe Way to the Post Office, where they were stopped by police. They then dispersed in order to avoid beatings, but approximately 20 were arrested and are currently in custody. Several of those in custody were beaten, but the extent of their injuries is not yet known. Lawyers are in attendance at the police station. It appears that some of those arrested were not WOZA members but by-standers, but the details are not yet available.

Two water cannons were also out on the streets but did not deter the members from starting the protest. Neither did police knowledge of the starting point. Once members realized the original starting point had been compromised, they switched to Plan B and then back to Plan A again when police followed them.

More details will be given as they become available.

Bulawayo members released without appearing in Court

News Update – 6pm

The 174 members arrested in Bulawayo on Tuesday were finally released at 5 pm without appearing in court. Police ran out of delaying tactics when lawyers made ready a High Court application. The members were arrested on 13 February as they conducted a peaceful Valentines Day protest. As members were arrest in one protest another sprung up elsewhere – police officers confirmed arresting people at five different locations in the city where protests had sprung up.

Late yesterday, it had been understood that only seven would be charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and that the rest would be released, Police made an about turn and only released mothers with babies and minors, leaving 141 in custody for a second night.

Today as lawyers attending prepared to go to Court, the investigating officers indicated they had had ‘orders’ to charge everyone and take them to court. This meant preparing warned and cautioned statements from everyone. This process of course meant the 48-hour deadline, up at midday, was exceeded by several hours.

Finally at 5 pm today, the group was finally released – five hours after their 48-hour deadline had passed. The Prosecutor advised Law and Order officers to proceed by way of summons. Another factor is that once again no police officer is willing to write the necessary affidavit to allow evidence necessary to charge the activist.

However whilst we recognize that it is positive step for them to refuse to be used to convict innocent people, we appeal to police officers to help ‘ name and shame’ the senior police officer who shouted at Riot police not to dialogue with the activists at the scene but gave the order for the peaceful women and men to be beaten. We also deplore the manner in which those arrested were beaten as they ascended the staircase into the law and order department of Bulawayo Central. Those who had sustained injuries due to beatings on arrest and in custody have been taken to receive medical treatment.

It appears that the group has been charged under Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as read with Section 2(v) of the schedule to the Criminal Code – ‘employs any means whatsoever which are likely materially to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or any section of the public, or does any act which is likely to create a nuisance or obstruction’.

This morning, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) located Magodonga Mahlangu at Sauerstown Police Station. Monitors were dispatched to ensure she was not abducted and their presence ensured she was moved with the rest of the group to Bulawayo Central. She has been released and is also receiving medical treatment for the beatings that she received upon arrest.

The petty nastiness of the Zimbabwe Republic Police was again evident today. Having informed those on support yesterday that the breakfast feeding time had been changed to 5am, volunteers were mobilised to provide food at 5am but were kept waiting until 7am, the normal feeding time. A woman at Queens Park was consistently denied her ARV medication. Reports have also come in that several members were forced to eat the paper placards that they had been carrying during the demonstration – some of these read, ‘love can bring a brighter day’ and ‘From WOZA with love’. Despite the inability of some officers to choose love over hate, WOZA would like to salute those officers who did treat our members with respect and professionalism and who recognized that WOZA is fighting for a better future for ALL Zimbabweans.

Woza Moya!

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.

Valentine’s Day Arrests – News update 11am

Lawyers were finally allowed access again last night and were allowed to negotiate the release of 36 members into their custody. These included the mothers with babies, juveniles, pregnant women and one badly injured woman who was taken to receive medical attention. They have all reported back to Bulawayo Central this morning. The group was also split between 7 stations – these are Bulawayo Central, Mzilikazi, Donnington, Hillside, Nkulumane, Queens Park and Sauerstown.

Law and Order officers were also overheard briefing each other about a visit to Bulawayo Central by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). They were requesting that Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu be allowed to be abducted from police custody during the night and killed. Law and Order officers apparently replied that the two were not in custody. Jenni Williams had been in the Harare protest but had not been arrested. Magodonga Mahlangu was arrested in the Bulawayo protest, separated from the rest of the group and taken to Sauerstown Police Station. WOZA activists spent the night monitoring Sauerstown to ensure that no foul play occurred and are pleased to report that no attempts were made on her life. There remains concern for her safety however and lawyers are attempting to have her returned to the others.

Currently lawyers are in attendance in Bulawayo and warned and cautioned statements are being prepared. The group is being charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 37, Section (2) – ‘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.’

Further investigation of the alleged torture has revealed that one youth, who was arrested for continuing to hand out roses after the demonstration had been broken up, was badly beaten in custody. He remains in custody without medical attention, as do several others who were beaten during their arrest. It also turns out that several members were picked up after the main arrests had occurred as they continued to hand out roses and Valentine cards to members of the public.

This morning when food was being brought to those arrested, officers at Mzilikazi Police Station refused to allow one woman on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to take her medication and at Queens Park, they were refusing to allow any medication, including ARV’s, to be taken without a clinic card being produced to prove that they had a legitimate medical reason to take the medication. Breakfast was also denied to those at Nkulumane Station as the group of 11 had been moved from Hillside Station during the night and their absence from Hillside was only discovered this morning. The support team located them at Nkulumane 30 minutes after their breakfast feeding time ended and that delay was sufficient to have food denied.

It also appears that the power of love has those that love power seriously concerned as two water cannons were evidence in Bulawayo yesterday to deal with WOZA’s love marchers.

Police have not as yet allocated an investigating officer and told lawyers that they should come back after lunch.

You can contact the police stations on the following numbers:

  • Bulawayo Central: (+263 9) 72515 / 61706
  • Mzilikazi: (+263 9) 202908 / 212905
  • Nkulumane: (+263 9) 476755 / 467039
  • Queens Park: (+263 9) 22641/2
  • Sauerstown: (+263 9) 200960 / 218432
  • Hillside: (+263 9) 241161/2
  • Donnington: (+263 9) 474005 / 467309
  • Harare Central: (+263 4) 77 77 77

WOZA liberate the streets of Harare and Bulawayo in fifth valentine’s campaign

Breaking news from WOZA – Urgent Appeal
Reports have just come in from Bulawayo that human rights lawyers have been chased away from their clients and have been threatened with assault. We have been asked by lawyers to launch an urgent appeal as before they were chased out of the station, some youth indicated that they were being tortured.

Several people in custody are in urgent need of medical assistance following the beating they received during the arrests. They are being denied treatment.

In Harare, the number of arrests has been confirmed at eight. They are being held in Harare Central. Human rights lawyers were in attendance but have not been able to gain access as police are currently taking the particulars of those arrested.

Please call Bulawayo central on +263 9 72515/ 61706 and demand that lawyers are allowed access to WOZA members and that those that require medical assistance receive it. Please also demand that police stop torturing innocent men and women.

Two thousand members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo today – a day ahead of Valentine’s Day hoping to catch the police napping. The peaceful protests marked WOZA’s fifth Valentine’s Day procession. At present reports indicate that over 274 men and women and 20 babies are in police custody in Bulawayo and about 10 women in Harare. The Bulawayo protesters were arrested with real-life images of Presidents Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who were about to be presented with copies of the People’s Charter in a ceremony outside the state-owned Chronicle.Several prominent civic leaders were present at the demonstrations, including Dr Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly.In Bulawayo, a heavy police presence indicated that police were expecting WOZA and the protest had to start under the nose of uniformed and plain-clothed police. Riot police swooped towards the end of the protest at the offices of the Chronicle and brutally beat up members. It is estimated that over 1,000 women and men marched three blocks through Bulawayo handing out Valentine’s cards, red roses and copies of the People’s Charter to passersby.Lawyers have been deployed to attend to those in custody and attempt to get in medical attention to those who need it. The walking wounded that were not arrested are currently receiving medical attention.In Harare, the protest started with a handing over of a letter to representatives of the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) asking them to assist Zimbabweans in getting political leaders to deliver the People’s Charter. The UNDP offices was where the first Valentine’s protest took place five years ago when WOZA named then Secretary General, Kofi Annan, as their Valentine.WOZA activists affixed three real-life images of Presidents Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara to the wall outside Takura House. Copies of the People’s Charter were then figuratively ‘handed over’ to the Presidents – symbolizing the need for responsible leaders to deliver social justice.

The peaceful demonstration then moved on to Parliament, singing in Shona, ‘your term is up – you have stayed too long’. As the group neared the entrance, riot police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd. Initially the crowd retreated but then bravely regrouped, stood their ground and threw back the tear gas canisters; hitting the Parliament walls and sending those watching from the parliament balcony scurrying back into the building. The group, which included many leaders, sat down to await arrest but found police only interested in firing tear gas. The song then changed to ‘police do not harass us’. Eventually leaders decided to declare a victory and disperse.

As they dispersed, the activists continued to toyi toyi (fast march/dance) into Sam Nujoma St, past the Herald offices into First Street. The protest was then officially dispersed outside the police post in First Street. In spite of this, a group of several hundred continued to toyi toyi towards the Zanu PF offices but were blocked at Chinhoi Street by riot police with dogs. Several members were arrested at the scene but it is unclear if there any members were attacked by the police dogs. Eight members were arrested in Kwame Nkrumah Street near the UN offices.

WOZA would like to dedicate this day to the contribution of Zimbabwean activists to a non-violent struggle for social justice – we salute your non-violent discipline and spirit of love. We call on the state-owned Chronicle and Herald to honestly cover the events that occurred right on their doorsteps in honour of journalist ethics. To the Zimbabwe Republic Police we say – your children will also one day enjoy the social justice we fight for. Aluta Continua – Woza Moya!

Eleven WOZA members arrested and detained in Bulawayo

Eleven WOZA members, eight women, three men and two babies, were arrested in Nketa, Bulawayo today. They were about to attend a meeting, which was disrupted by riot police before it could commence. The 11 members were sitting outside a church when riot police arrived there after failing to find anyone at the appointed meeting place. Police allowed the mothers and babies to be released into the custody of their lawyer for the night but nine remain in custody tonight. Two university students arrested close by were also arrested with the WOZA members but have been released into their lawyer’s custody.

On Monday WOZA meeting venues were also surrounded by police but no members were arrested and the meetings took place as planned.