After much confusion, Jenni Williams has been released from police custody. Inspector Majuru, based at Harare Magistrate’s Court, finally released her after Williams signed a caution under protest. Majuru had insisted that Williams be taken to Harare Central for ‘addressing a gathering in court’ even though both she and her legal representation explained on numerous occasions that she had merely been speaking to members that had been released from court about who needed medical attention. The group was also not even in the immediate vicinity of court. Inspector Majuru would not let her go to Harare Central however as he kept insisting that it was not safe to do so as there were still WOZA members outside court and they would start demonstrating if they caught sight of Williams! After several phone calls between himself and Harare Central, Williams was released.
The 76 women and seven men released this morning after two nights in horrific conditions in Harare Central are all suffering from aches and pains and upset stomachs. 10 people required medical treatment for various ailments including dysentery. Lazarus Mandondo required treatment for severe headaches as he was beaten across his head with baton sticks and made to stand on his head for several hours. Several people are still in the process of being checked and the whole group will be monitored for developing conditions.
It also transpires that a nine-month-old baby was in custody with her mother. It is being investigated why the mother and child were not released earlier. Both mother and baby are still due to be checked by a medical professional.
The group testified to appalling conditions in cells. Clara Manjengwa and Lillian Ntefula, both of whom spent six days in custody in April, confirm that conditions are much worse now than in April. None of the cells, male or female, are in use due to their filthy state requiring all detainees to stay in the passages, which are equally dirty. Over 120 women and over 150 men were squashed in their respective passages. The toilets were not working and in the female cells, no water was available. When the WOZA women asked for cleaning materials so that they could clean their section, they were given a mop but no water. In the male cells, an officer, Moyo, would spray the male prisoners with a hose pipe and make them sing and dance along to a song played on his cell phone. If anyone did not comply, they would be beaten. The WOZA and MOZA activists were also verbally abused by officers. Yesterday, after refusing to pay admission of guilt fines, they were forced to eat their dinner and breakfast this morning in a room filled with human waste ‘to fix them for thinking that they have money’.
WOZA condemns the prolonged detention of the 83 activists, including a baby, in inhumane conditions, their degrading treatment, the torture of Lazarus Mandondo and the arbitrary arrest of Jenni Williams. The demonstrations earlier this week were to highlight police abuses and the concerns of ordinary Zimbabwean citizens about safety in their communities. The behaviour of police towards the women and men of WOZA, human rights defenders exercising their constitutional right to speak out about issues concerning them, only serves as further proof of our concerns. Attempts on the part of WOZA leadership last week to meet with the Commissioner of Police, Augustine Chihuri to discuss the concerns of WOZA members about community safety and to hand over a list of demands were denied by his refusal to meet with WOZA.
WOZA renews its call to members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to behave in accordance with the ZRP Service Charter, Service Standards and the Police Act. Please remember the people of Zimbabwe are not the enemy to be abused and mistreated, we are your brothers and sisters.
For the full list of demands and more information on WOZA’s observations of police behaviour in Harare and Bulawayo over the last four months, click here: Woza Moya Sep-10
For more information on the ZRP Service Charter, Service Standards or the SARPCCO Harare Protocol Code of Conduct, click on the following links: ZRP Service Charter, ZRP Service Standards, SARPCCO Hre Protocol-Code of Conduct