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WOZA Shosholoza for love at Parliament but get bashed by police

Five hundred members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) in two separate protests marched to Parliament to commemorating Valentine’s Day and WOZA 10th Anniversary under the theme – Shosholoza for love!  The first protest arrived and was stopped 50 meters from the Parliament door by 8 baton stick and shield wielding Riot Police who refused to allow them to pass.

The activists took the opportunity to sing their love songs to the police and chant their slogans. Four leaders took the opportunity to address the gathering on the constitutional reform requirements of members and the role police should have been playing instead of stopping the peaceful activists.

A 20 minute impasse was broken up by the arrival of a police Landover. The second protest arrived and was also blocked. A senior officer then began to demand the activists disperse and pleas to allow one person to hand over the Woza Moya newsletter with demands fell on deaf ears. He then threatened to use ‘minimum’ force to disperse the gathering but before he could give any orders, a bigger vehicle arrived with over 30 riot police who did not speak to the officer but started to use their shields to push the women and men away from the road. One officer with the tear gas gun cocked the weapon in the air making as if to shoot it.As they pushed members away, some police officers began to beat the peacefully dispersing crowd and this cause pandemonium and people started to run away at speed.

One of the participants was beaten by 4 police officers at once taking turns to slay her across the neck and shoulders.  She apparently was being beaten met with this level of severity for telling them -‘the thieves are going free while you beat us’. After they set up her she then told them off saying – you are now the ones starting violence.

Ten members had to seek medical attention for soft tissue bruises and lacerations caused by baton stick injuries.

WOZA call on the police officers to be more professional. It is illogical to beat people as they are actually dispersing and a sign that police officers have too high an appetite for violence. WOZA also wish to draw comparison between the semi professional behaviour of police at parliament who go through the motions of engaging protest leaders whereas in Bulawayo the police offices just jump from their truck and thump anybody in sight showing a greedy appetite for violence. On 7th February the Bulawayo edition of the protest was violently dispersed by police officers and over 30 members had to seek medication for abrasions and bruises.

An opinion by Lawyer Andrew Makoni WOZA counsel 2009 on the role of police from the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23)…..the legislature is aware that processions inevitably interfere in some way with other people’s movements, hence the provisions of section 29 (1) (c) which prescribes what a police officer may do if a regulatory authority has not received a notice of the intended procession more than 48 hours before the gathering, where such notice is required. In terms of this subsection, an officer may restrict the gathering to a place or guide the participants along a route. This section does not give the police the power to arrest in the event of an unlawful gathering but the power to regulate the gathering. Neither does the act provide police officers with the right to brutally disperse peaceful human rights defenders.

Charges against members dropped in Gweru; Williams and Mahlangu win Supreme Court referral in Bulawayo

The State withdrew charges today against seven WOZA members in Gweru. They had been charged under Chapter 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after being arrested in early March. They were attempting to bring food in to 26 colleagues who had been arrested earlier in the day during a protest to launch the People’s Charter in the Midlands city at the time.

The members had been asked to meet the lawyer at the police station and await his instruction to bring the food in. The lawyer went in to get permission to feed those in custody but before he could call the group in, police officers had arrested the activists. They were charged for blocking the pavement opposite Gweru police station.

The 26 members arrested launching the People’s Charter will appear on trial on 24th July 2007 to answer charges under Chapter 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘participating in a public gathering with the intent to cause public disorder, breach of peace or bigotry’.

Also today, WOZA members, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, appeared before Magistrate Mrs Rose Sibanda today to await her reply to a request from human rights lawyer, Kossam Ncube, for the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court for a constitutional challenge. In a surprise ruling, Mrs Sibanda allowed the referral to the Supreme Court. The duo had been arrested by police officers outside Bulawayo Central Police station on 6 June 2007.

They were charged under Sections 37 (1a) and 46 (2v) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the wording of which the defence challenged is too ambiguous, vague and broad thereby making it impossible to determine if an offenses has been committed. He also argued that they also curtail the rights and freedoms of expression, assembly and movement.

The specific charges: Chapter 37 – ‘participating in gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry’. Section (1a) reads “any person who acts together with one or more other persons present with him or her in any place or at any meeting with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of the public or any section of the public.”

Alternatively, Chapter 46, as read with Section 2(v) of the Third Schedule to the Criminal Code, reads “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”.

For a copy of the challenge Mr Ncube made against the charges, please see below.

WOZA leaders briefly arrested in Bulawayo

AT noon on 12th September 300 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were prevented from conducting a peaceful protest to The Chronicle in Bulawayo. Three small groups that managed to arrive at the Chronicle but were quickly dispersed by Riot Police with raised baton sticks. In 5 parts of the Central business district Riot Police were standing in groups of 4 carrying baton sticks and obviously ready to stop the protests as they began.

A block away, WOZA national coordinator, Jenni Williams was standing alone when 4 police officers surrounded her. One of these police officers had arrested Williams on 21 September 2011 while shopping in an Electrical shop. On that day, 30 minutes previously he had also arrested Magodonga Mahlangu. Both activists were then charged with Kidnap and Theft, charges that are still being prosecuted in 2012.

On the 12 September, he once again refused to give his name but asked, “Jennifer what are you planning here?”  To which Williams replied, “What are you doing here beating people?” The other police officers then started to lecture Williams on the need for WOZA to notify police before any protest. A legal argument ensured. One the officers then announced that the Officer Commanding of Bulawayo, Central Assistant chief Inspector Rangwani wanted to see Williams. The police officers then escort her to the station on foot.

As they began to walk, Magodonga Mahlangu arrived and asked Williams what was happening. It was at this point that a further legal argument ensued. Williams advised Mahlangu that it seemed she was under arrest. The officers said she was not but then refused to allow her to go and reschedule the meeting with the chief Inspector.

As the two arrived at the police station, eight members entered the station in solidarity bringing the number ‘arrested’ to 10. They were taken to the chief inspector Rangwani’s office and they were told he would be arriving shortly. Lawyers were deployed to represent the activists but were denied access. A two and a half hour circus then ensued with the activists being told they were being charged but some officers refusing to charge them, mentioning the letter of complaint filed the week before. The arresting officers then stage-managed the separation of Williams and Mahlangu from the other 8. The 8 and other activists outside were rounded up by a Riot squad and force marched to the bus terminus.

The WOZA leaders who were now back in the OC Rangwani office were still unable to access their lawyers. Finally two senior officers seated themselves in the OC chair and surprisingly asked the two if they had wanted a meeting with the OC. Williams then asked the whereabouts of OC Rangwani, the officers admitted he was on leave. The WOZA leaders then stood up and said, ‘as we are told we are not formally under arrest we are now leaving and will be submitting a further letter of complaint.” Williams then left her phone number for a meeting to be scheduled and the two activists walked out of the police station.

WOZA wish to draw attention to the disparate police response between the police at Parliament in Harare and the Bulawayo police. On 12 September it was obvious that the WOZA leaders were arrested to prevent their exercising their right to protest. This right is provided by constitutional law buttressed by Supreme Court ruling of 2010 after legal action taken by Williams and Mahlangu. ‘Once again police in Bulawayo have acted overzealously and acted to discriminate against WOZA members from Bulawayo which is regional and tribal discrimination.

See the complaint against the police at http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/WOZA-complain-of-police-harrasment-ZRP-Jomic.pdf

WOZA Founder Receives French National Order of Merit

On Friday 25th November 2011 at 4:00 pm, WOZA founder and national coordinator Jenni Williams was awarded the French National Order of Merit at a ceremony at the residence of the French Ambassador, Francois Ponge in Harare.

The award given by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy on recommendation of the French Embassy, to recognise Williams for relentlessly engagement in advocating for democracy and human rights, especially for women in Zimbabwe.

The ceremony was attended by WOZA members, Civic society leaders and invited guests.

Magodonga Mahlangu also spoke at the ceremony and thanked the French Government for acknowledged WOZA founder Jenni Williams.

Acceptance Speech 25 November 2011 Jenni Williams Founder/National Coordinator Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) On occassion of the Government of France National Order of Merit Award

Salutations – I wish to thank you for the for the recognition given to myself and Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA).  WOZA has 80 000 members and over 500 leaders and as I stand here I am humbled. I know that my presence here today is not because of status or cleverness, it is because of the blood, sweat and tears of real people fighting to be respected as citizens of Zimbabwe. And so I salute the members of WOZA who decided enough is enough, signed up and became activists.

WOZA was formed to give voice to ordinary women and to demand social justice for all Zimbabweans. We did not set out to seek recognition beyond that of our own government to respect us as citizens and to recognise our concerns as legitimate. We long for the award of real peace and dignity in Zimbabwe.

When I formed WOZA with late Sheba Dube I never imagined we would grow into the movement that WOZA is today and I could not have done it without the support and sacrifice of my family and comrades, Magodonga Mahlangu and many others.

I pay tribute to their courage, their commitment and determination to see a new Zimbabwe in their lifetime. To be a member of WOZA is to be one amongst many fearlessly brave women and men —- I am proud that they count me as their sister and mother.

In WOZA we believe that it is not too late for the political leadership to return to the promises of the liberation war for respect for one person one vote, equality and a right to an education. Enough blood has been spilt in a violent war for these ideals.

WOZA members fight tirelessly but this time  —-non violently so that we can see, feel and enjoy those promises as daily realities.

The National Order of Merit award you have given me today is recognition that WOZA has empowered thousands of community activists, making them champions for change. The Act- Recruit- Train and Organise model we use enables WOZA to be a strong amplifier of people voices. They understand what they want and know how to demand all their socio-economic, political and cultural rights.  This award will also help to lift the profile of these champions and protect them from abuse and torture and may even save their lives – we thank you for this.  But this award should serve as notice to the perpetrators of violence that France is watching and French citizens want to see genuine peace in Zimbabwe.

We believe that the political temperature in too high and that if something is not done more lives will be lost in the name of elections.

We are worried about the dedicated campaign against Matabeleland, the de-industrialisation and whole scale loss of jobs will surely mean starvation and hardship – this campaign has the look of a modern day Gukurahundi.  I pray this time round the international community will not remain silent.  As we write our new constitution we must careful craft devolution of power and control of natural recourses laws so that locals can genuinely benefit from the wealth they live amongst but very often to do get to enjoy.

As I close my acceptance speech, I wish remind you all that the 16 days Campaign begins today. Recently the Zimbabwe Republic Police reported that 124 women were raped in 11 days. In this harsh economic climate, there is no peace in our homes and women are the punching bag. It is said that sexual harassment is experienced by up to 70 % of women and I am one of the 70%. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria. This year the theme is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women. The time has come for a code RED against rape of women and girls.            I thank you

French Ambassador Speech 25 Nov 2011 National Order of Merit J Williams

Arrests, harrasment and a court appearance

TWO members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) from St Mary’s in Chitungwiza were arrested on Thursday and spent two nights in custody before being released at noon today. Rachel Ndlovu and Junior Chitombo were picked up by police on Thursday, apparently for the ‘power to the people’ protest conducted at the ZESA office at Zengeza on 23rd April. Lawyers were refused access but food was allowed in. They spent two nights in custody at St Mary’s Police Station as there was no fuel to take them to Central. They were finally transferred to the Law and Order Department at Harare Central on Saturday morning. Upon their arrival, the arresting officers were informed that they did not have a case and were ordered to release the two women.

Meanwhile in Masvingo on Friday, 20 members appeared in remand court after being arrested at the beginning of March whilst launching the People’s Charter. They were remanded to 29 June 2007. The lawyer was unable to obtain an alteration to their bail conditions, which stipulate that they have to report every Friday to Law and Order at Masvingo Central Police Station.

Two Mutare members also report being harassed by police officers and one member had his home illegally searched. President Robert Mugabe is expected to attend a graduation ceremony cap at a Mutare University this weekend and this crack down could be linked to his visit. When he visited Bulawayo last week to open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, Bulawayo leaders were also being hunted for and one officer appealed to a neighbour of one leader asking her to ‘advise WOZA not to demonstrate when Mugabe was at Trade Fair or they would be severely beaten’. It is gratifying to know that Mugabe fears being held accountable by WOZA and MOZA.

This week, over 700 members of WOZA/MOZA gathered in defiance of ban on meetings in Bulawayo and Harare to evaluate the success of the ‘power to the people’ community based launch protests. They gave haunting testimonies of the beatings and abuse they received whilst in custody. Details of these can be found below.

17 arrested, tortured then released

Update
SEVENTEEN members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) arrested at 8:30am 19 Jan 2012 have now all been released from custody. The police are to proceed by way of summons if they can unearth an offence once the investigation is complete. WOZA is deeply concerned at the treatment of our young members, five of whom are deeply traumatised.
WOZA leaders met the activists to hear their testimonies. Many of the young women were wearing an identical and fashionable blouse – that seemed to make them stand out for arrest.

Nicole and Patience received the brunt of the violence and told chilling accounts. A female officer based at  Donnington police station – officer Matshaya set upon some of the members standing at the complex and beckoned to them loudly announcing  ‘WOZA people today I am going to fix you’. The disciplined non violent activists were then bundled into a van and taken to Donnington Police station.

Matshaya and 5 other officers then proceeded to torture the women by making them sit still on ‘air chairs’, a very painful position.  The six officers forced over the head of Nicole a plastic bag ordering her to kick her foot when ready to ‘talk’ before she suffocates.  One officer knocked a broomstick on the heads of others all the while threatening them to admit to planning a protest. They were not planning a protest and even if they were participating in a peaceful protest is not illegal in Zimbabwe.  They had merely gone to the shopping centre upon hearing that there would be a sale.

Officer Matshaya then escorted the members to Central Police station where Officer George Levison Ngwenya of Law and Order was ready to receive them. He set upon Patience Mahlangu beating her and drawing blood accusing her of being a Satanist. All the 16 were threatened and harassed as their details were being recorded.  The single male member was separated and released.

Officer Ngwenya then announced to the your women – ‘ we are going to remove your panties and beat your bottoms. Fortunately the lawyer arrived at that moment and the officers then had to back down.  The lawyers remained with the activists through the recording of profile information. The police also insisted that they will photograph the activist so that they can be identified in any future demonstration.

As the activists left the police station at 330pm, Officer Ngwenya followed them outside to tell them ‘when you see me around town don’t hate me I was just doing my job’. WOZA question when the job of a police officer changed to a perpetrator of violence and torturer of women?

Meanwhile WOZA leaders Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu will appear in Tredgold Magistrates court at 9am 20 January 2012 for Magistrate Sangweni to read his reasons for dismissing the application for discharge at close of state case in a continuation of the Kidnap and Theft Trial.

1pm 19 January 2012
SEVENTEEN members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were arrested at 8:30am by plain clothed police officers from Donnington Police station in Bulawayo. At least 3 were assaulted by arresting police before the whole lot were transferred to Bulawayo central law and order department. They were taken to Law and Order Department and notorious officer George Levison Ngwenya took up the matter. Two more members were beaten.  The single male members was then separated and released after an hour leaving the 16. The members are at this time being made to answer profile questions and finger printed and photographed.  It is unclear if they will be detained or what the charges could be. The members were picked up standing around or sitting separately at a shopping centre in the Industrial sites. WOZA note that once again the Officer Ngwenya is overzealous and assaults members in his ongoing personal vendetta against WOZA members. Whilst WOZA is happy that the male member who is very unwell was released, we note the blatant abuse of female members. WOZA also note that in the last 2 week there has been an increase of stop and search of people going about their business and many citizens have been beaten in the street for no apparent reason. There seems to be an unwritten law against walking around the city. WOZA call on the police commissioner to clarify if this is an official order or merely excessive use of force by police officers such as Ngwenya.

Legal Update on 2 matters before the Courts

WOZA members are currently facing two separate matters before the Courts

Criminal Nuisance Charges 7 February 2012 Defended by Nikiwe Ncube and Mr Lizwe Jamela Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Current status: the 10 appeared in court on the 13 February for Trail which failed to begin. The 10, including Jennifer Williams appeared in court on 21st February 2012 but no response to an application for refusal of further remand was forthcoming. The response will be submitted on 1st March 2012 by Magistrate Vivian  Application for refusal of remand— Jenni and others , State case 7 feb 2012 .

Kidnap and theft Charges 21 September 2012 by Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu Defended by Kossam Ncube and Advocate Perpetua Dube deployed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

Current status – Trail Began and state case closed:
1.    Application has been submitted in the High Court for the a review of the Magistrates refusal to discharged the duo at the close of the state case.
2.    Application to the High Court for stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the review process explained in number 1.
3.    If application number 2 is denied the duo will appear in court on 28 February 2012.

 

WOZA Leaders Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu delivered a letter of complaint to the Zimbabwe Republic Police Bulawayo headquaters on the treatment by the activits on 7 February by members of the Riot Squad. complaints about 7 feb treatment with police receipt stamp

Bitter sweet victory in Supreme Court

On 15 April 2010 Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) leaders Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Celina Madukani and Clara Manjengwa were arrested and spent six days in detention in filthy conditions in Harare Central Police holding cells after a protest over Electricity supply and high costs. Upon their release on 20 April, instructed their lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to petition the Supreme Court as the conditions constituted inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Section 15 (1) of the constitution.

They were also seeking an order compelling the government to ensure that holding cells at Harare Central Police Station meet basic hygienic conditions. Part of the petition was that their detention also resulted in gender discrimination and called for alterations in structure and procedure to cater for women prisoners.

WOZA cited the co-Minister of Home Affairs, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Attorney General Johannes Tomana as the respondents. The state respondents were represented by Advocate Goba and Ms Mashiri from the AG’s Civil Division.

Advocate Lewis Uriri, Advocate Taona Sibanda, all member lawyers of ZLHR, Dzimbabwe Chimbga and Bellinda Chinowawa of ZLHR represented the activists.

The activists spent their time in custody in a dark smelly corridor surrounding 10 cells that that they could not occupy due to human waste scattered all over the floors.

Five Supreme Court Judges namely, Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, Justice Rita Makarau, Justice Paddington Garwe, Justice Yunus Omerjee and Justice Anne-Mary Gowora convened the court in Harare Central police stations and conducted the inspection of the police cells. The inspection was to provide visual verification as to conditions and during the inspection the 4 activists were called upon to respond to questions.  After an hour long inspection the  court reconvened with a reading out of the observations and presentation of the Heads of argument and state response. After the lengthy arguments the court reserved judgement at 4:20 pm. Current trends indicated that a ruling will be granted within 6 months.

WOZA leaders observed that great attempts had been made by the Police to remove the ‘human waste bomb’ that had been apparent on the first floor cell unit during their arrest. But the respondents who ordered this clean up as a way to ‘rig’ and tried to make Harare central suddenly ‘habitable’ should realise that no amount of floor polish can dignify the undignified conditions that prevail. However the cleaning up has gone a long way to remove the offensive smell that permeated not only the cell chambers but wafted its way into the charge office.
WOZA recognise this as a significant victory for activism but wish it would not have been at the behest of a legal battle but out of common decency. Nevertheless WOZA thank the police for this clean-up effort which will be felt by staff and detainees alike. As the police continue to disrespect constitutional right to freedom of assembly and arrest WOZA members it is most likely that during these visits members will continue to check that the new standards of cleanliness observed with the Supreme Court judges inspection continue to be adhered to.

draft order sought Williams othrs vs HA ZRP AG

WOZA leaders briefly arrested in Bulawayo

AT noon on 12th September 300 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were prevented from conducting a peaceful protest to The Chronicle in Bulawayo. Three small groups that managed to arrive at the Chronicle but were quickly dispersed by Riot Police with raised baton sticks. In 5 parts of the Central business district Riot Police were standing in groups of 4 carrying baton sticks and obviously ready to stop the protests as they began.

A block away, WOZA national coordinator, Jenni Williams was standing alone when 4 police officers surrounded her. One of these police officers had arrested Williams on 21 September 2011 while shopping in an Electrical shop. On that day, 30 minutes previously he had also arrested Magodonga Mahlangu. Both activists were then charged with Kidnap and Theft, charges that are still being prosecuted in 2012.

On the 12 September, he once again refused to give his name but asked, “Jennifer what are you planning here?”  To which Williams replied, “What are you doing here beating people?” The other police officers then started to lecture Williams on the need for WOZA to notify police before any protest. A legal argument ensured. One the officers then announced that the Officer Commanding of Bulawayo, Central Assistant chief Inspector Rangwani wanted to see Williams. The police officers then escort her to the station on foot.

As they began to walk, Magodonga Mahlangu arrived and asked Williams what was happening. It was at this point that a further legal argument ensued. Williams advised Mahlangu that it seemed she was under arrest. The officers said she was not but then refused to allow her to go and reschedule the meeting with the chief Inspector.

As the two arrived at the police station, eight members entered the station in solidarity bringing the number ‘arrested’ to 10. They were taken to the chief inspector Rangwani’s office and they were told he would be arriving shortly. Lawyers were deployed to represent the activists but were denied access. A two and a half hour circus then ensued with the activists being told they were being charged but some officers refusing to charge them, mentioning the letter of complaint filed the week before. The arresting officers then stage-managed the separation of Williams and Mahlangu from the other 8. The 8 and other activists outside were rounded up by a Riot squad and force marched to the bus terminus.

The WOZA leaders who were now back in the OC Rangwani office were still unable to access their lawyers. Finally two senior officers seated themselves in the OC chair and surprisingly asked the two if they had wanted a meeting with the OC. Williams then asked the whereabouts of OC Rangwani, the officers admitted he was on leave. The WOZA leaders then stood up and said, ‘as we are told we are not formally under arrest we are now leaving and will be submitting a further letter of complaint.” Williams then left her phone number for a meeting to be scheduled and the two activists walked out of the police station.

WOZA wish to draw attention to the disparate police response between the police at Parliament in Harare and the Bulawayo police. On 12 September it was obvious that the WOZA leaders were arrested to prevent their exercising their right to protest. This right is provided by constitutional law buttressed by Supreme Court ruling of 2010 after legal action taken by Williams and Mahlangu. ‘Once again police in Bulawayo have acted overzealously and acted to discriminate against WOZA members from Bulawayo which is regional and tribal discrimination.

See the complaint against the police at http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/WOZA-complain-of-police-harrasment-ZRP-Jomic.pdf