Category Archives: Press statements

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.

WOZA members outwit police officers

After the amazing release of over 300 activists from outside Parliament on 12th December 2006, Women Of Zimbabwe Arise and Men Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/ MOZA) members were left wondering if the non-violent war of attrition waged against the Zimbabwe Republic Police had at last born fruit and that members would no longer face weekly police harassment. Unfortunately this ‘truce’ was short-lived as Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu had to ‘quickstep’ to escape arrest on Saturday 16 December 2006, after being followed through Bulawayo for seven blocks with officers in hot pursuit.

WOZA had convened a meeting at a church in Bulawayo to reflect on the Harare launch of the Peoples’ Charter at Parliament. Halfway through the meeting, plain-clothed officers from the Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) branch entered the meeting hall. Their presence disrupted the meeting, which had to be dispersed. One PISI officer, Abraham Dapi, known to many members as he had testified in the Operation Sunrise Demonstration trial, tried to disguise himself by reading a copy of ‘The Zimbabwean’ but he did not fool anyone. He eventually went to rejoin his fellow officers outside.

As hundreds of WOZA and MOZA members left the venue, the three officers stood around outside the hall, obviously unsure how to proceed as they were outnumbered and, as usual, members were giving them the Love sign!

Last to leave the venue were Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. Upon seeing them leaving, the police officers proceeded to follow the two, who were walking towards the city centre. WOZA security details managed to monitor the police officers’ movements and advise the duo about which roads were clear until they were able to out-walk the officers.

Meanwhile WOZA security monitoring the venue reported that another official from the Law and Order department, driving a navy-blue Defender, was seen monitoring the area and kept driving around the venue. The female officer, who wears spectacles, was present when members were assaulted on 29th November 2006 at Mhlahlandlela. She was observed by members pointing out to riot police who to assault and arrest.

Officer Abraham Dapi is well known to WOZA, as he was a state witness in the 21st August trial (regarding the demonstration against Operation Sunrise). After WOZA won that case, he was overheard saying that the only option left was to beat WOZA members, as the State could not win in court. His words came true and members are still nursing injuries from the brutal assault. In addition, when Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were under arrest the night of the beatings, he came to the detention room where they were and in front of them, said that police had not beaten the women enough and that they should have been beaten more severely.

WOZA/MOZA will continue to defy unjust laws such as the Public Order and Security Act, which violate basic human rights such as the freedom of assembly. In addition, lawyers have been briefed to proceed with a suit against the police officers responsible for the assaults and an investigation is under way to identify all the officers involved to cite them as respondents.

WOZA declare a victory after successfully launching The People’s Charter at Parliament in Harare

More than 800 members of Women Of Zimbabwe Arise and Men Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) today marched to Parliament in Harare to launch the People’s Charter. Two groups started at different locations in central Harare, converging on Parliament at the same time. Upon arriving at Parliament, the two groups were met by riot police and arrested.

Police hold members of WOZA/MOZA outside Parliament in Harare

Police held the group of approximately 350 people, who were sitting peacefully, for more than an hour in front of the Parliament buildings before unexpectedly releasing them. WOZA/ MOZA members were made to sit for more than an hour under police guard whilst riot and uniformed police were seen conferencing and seemed to be in a dilemma as to what to do with the group. Several people, including parliamentarians, came out of the Parliament Buildings to observe the proceedings and to read the placards the group was holding, and many took copies of the Peoples’ Charter.

Members had come from all around the county to join the march – from Bulawayo, Mutare, Chegutu, Gweru and some rural areas. After the brutality with which police attacked WOZA members in Bulawayo two weeks ago, members had braced themselves for a similar response. They were surprised however upon being told that they could go back to their homes after being warned that they were demonstrating illegally and that they were not allowed to walk or even sit like they were doing! What was even more surprising was that Jenni Williams, WOZA’s National Coordinator, was invited to address the group before they dispersed.

At one stage a senior police officer asked the group who the leaders was and when he was told everyone is a leader, he then took five members from the main group, including two men and an elderly woman on crutches, loading them onto the back of a police vehicle and taking down their names. A Human Rights lawyer who was on site questioned this and some time later the five were made to rejoin the rest of the group.

The response to the People’s Charter from Zimbabweans all over the world has been overwhelming and today was no different. Pedestrians in downtown Harare rushed to receive copies of the Charter from the marching groups and in fact, the only WOZA items that remain in custody tonight is the People’s Charter and placards including those calling for 2008 Parliamentary and Presidential elections.

The reaction of the Zimbabwe Republic Police today was a victory for WOZA’s non-violent strategy and for the power of social justice. The WOZA leadership would like to commend the Zimbabwe Republic Police for showing that they are human beings also requiring social justice in their lives. However WOZA would also like to warn them that if they are turning over a new leaf it should be apparent every day, not only today but also in the future.

Having successfully launched the Charter in Harare and Bulawayo, WOZA is now planning to roll out launch demonstrations across the country. We will be coming to a town near you! Join us in demanding a socially just Zimbabwe.

WOZA goes door to door to confirm a ‘People’s Charter’

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have finished an eleven-month long programme of social justice consultations, which saw them holding 284 defiance meetings with approximately 10,000 Zimbabweans nationwide. In the WOZA way, most meetings were carried out in defiance of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

The response from the communities visited was overwhelming, especially in the rural areas. Although rural residents have been branded the regime’s most unwavering supporters, so desperate are they for change that they were willing to walk for several kilometres to a meeting just to be heard.

Areas covered include Bulawayo, Harare, Chitungwiza, Gwanda, Victoria Falls, Binga, Gwanda, Matobo, Insiza, Kezi, Hwange, Tsholotsho, Turk Mine, Binga, Chimanimani, Mutare, Masvingo, Nyanga, Nyazura, Rusape, Buhera, Bikita, Kadoma, Kariba, Mvurwi, Shamva, Norton, Chegutu, Gweru, Marondera, Karoi, Sadza, Guruve, and Chivhu.

“I am not valued” People’s disappointment was clearly evident in every meeting, bemoaning the fact that government has failed to fulfil its promises.

Said Mbuya Motsi from Chimanimani: “the people we chose to lead us have forgotten us and we have become ghosts in our motherland. The situation we are in right now is the same as a person who goes to bed but can not change sides, you need to change sides and turn now and again, without which one is most likely to wake up all sore and stiff”.

A dejected Jonathan Zimbe from Dzivarasekwa, Harare went on, “I do not feel part of Zimbabwe. I am not valued and I have no role in influencing the state.”

During the consultations the issue of lack of adequate medical services and ‘dying with dignity’ was raised countless times. Residents in Bulawayo’s Pumula suburb complained that ‘corpses are piling up like sacks of maize in mortuaries – you can barely recognize your dead’. In Victoria Falls people are now afraid to take sick relatives to hospitals because they get abused by hospital staff that shout at them, “what the hell do you want us to do with your sick ones?”

What was also clear in all the meetings was the outspokenness of the elderly. At the only health facility in Ratanyane, a mission hospital, old people are no longer accepted. “How can a nation be a nation without old people?” they queried.

The young are equally dissatisfied. In Ratanyane, Maphisa, young married couples complained of being unable to get their own land or permission to build houses so they are forced to live with their in-laws in overcrowded conditions.

In Chegutu, illiterate adults are still waiting for the free education promised to adults who missed the opportunity to be educated during the war of liberation. Nationwide, the crescendo of voices reminding leaders to deliver the free primary and affordable secondary education promised at Independence cannot be suppressed.

Injustices – past and present In Mleja, Dewe, Datata, Njube and Magwegwe, people are still upset about the desecration of the Njelele shrine in Matobo, Matabeleland, which they say angered the gods. They want those that dismantled it to appease the ancestral spirits and return the stolen pots. Another issue that caused great bitterness and anger in most areas in Matabeleland was that of Gukurahundi. Most people want those responsible to make a meaningful apology and compensation to be paid to survivors. Other calls were for psycho-social support for survivors, death certificates for the ‘disappeared’ and an overwhelming longing for people to know what happened to their loved ones. Another injustice, Murambatsvina, was also raised with calls for the perpetrators to be held accountable and victims to be given compensation and housing.

In Turk Mine, people also objected to being forced to go to ZANU PF meetings and chant slogans by the police. In Madwaleni, the situation is also similar, as one of them aptly put it: “People in Zimbabwe only have one right in their lives – to talk about ZANU PF.” Parents from Pumula, Bulawayo added that they eagerly waited for their children to come back from the Border Gezi National Youth Service, patriotic and empowered, but their children came back from the camps brainwashed and rude, pregnant or with sexually transmitted diseases.

Despite the eagerness of people to share their views, WOZA members were almost arrested and constantly harassed during the consultation period, at times having to avoid youth militia and state security agents. The most recent incident being the harassment of two members in the Chivhu area three weeks ago as they tried to talk about social justice and discuss with locals what their vision of a new Zimbabwe would be. Police forced nine villagers to sign statements hoping to charge WOZA leaders after the consultation. The villagers argued that they were only being consulted on a Zimbabwe that would dignify them and that they were very happy to be consulted by WOZA, which is not a political party. One elderly lady even insisted that her statement reflect that in South Africa the elderly receive assistance from the state and that she wanted similar support. Despite the reluctance of the villagers, police insisted on taking the WOZA leaders to court – only for the Prosecutor to refuse to press charges.

WOZA carried on amidst the harassment, spurred on by the despair of a nation which has ‘received nothing but distrust and fear from our leaders’, as one resident of Warren Park testified. WOZA’s mandate is to hold Zimbabwe’s leaders accountable because people “were promised silver and gold where as up to date they were paid by words without meaning.” (Matshobana)