WOZA members beaten, arrested after police crush peaceful march

September 22, 2011 at 9:13 am Leave a comment

By Alex Bell

A march by pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) was on Wednesday
violently crushed by riot police officers, leaving many people injured and
12 members arrested.

The march had been organised to commemorate the annual International Day of
Peace, and saw four groups of WOZA members converge on the Mhlahlandlela
government complex on Wednesday morning. The groups handed out leaflets and
flowers to passersby, singing songs and talking about national healing.

But this peaceful action was soon brought to a sudden stop when scores of
riot police started rounding up the WOZA members, saying they did not have
permission to march.

A listener in Bulawayo told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that about 50 riot
police were deployed to break up the gathering. He explained that people
started running away because the police were beating everyone with batons.
He described how he too had to flee the scene because the police spotted him
trying to take photographs. He also described seeing a photographer lying on
the ground and bleeding heavily.

“Soon there were about six ambulances in the street, and about 20 people had
to be taken to hospital and I don’t know what their fate is. I also saw a
group of WOZA women being arrested and taken away by the police,” the
listener explained.

He added: “It’s disgusting that this always happens to WOZA, especially on
the Day of Peace.”

Lawyer Kossam Ncube from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) confirmed
that 12 women were arrested during the march. He told SW Radio Africa that
some of the women were beaten, and added “they will definitely be spending
the night behind bars.”

“They have been arrested and detained and charged with criminal nuisance,
allegedly for throwing flyers and flowers,” Ncube said.

He also explained that WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu
were among the women arrested. He said the pair have been charged
separately.

“They have been charged with kidnapping and theft, apparently over an issue
from long ago. We can’t understand what this is all about,” Ncube said.

The WOZA members had been set to deliver a declaration to the province
Governor, highlighting recommendations around a Transitional Justice
programme. The group has done its own research on this issue and is set to
release its results soon. But it said in a statement that from their study
80% of people said they have personally experienced, or had a close relative
experience, human rights abuses. 28% said they had experienced assaults and
26% said they have experienced torture themselves.

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