Police detain WOZA protesters in Bulawayo
By Tererai Karimakwenda
The police in Bulawayo arrested over 100 members of the Women of Zimbabwe
Arise (WOZA) pressure group, as they conducted a sit-in protest on Wednesday
calling for the immediate release of a draft Constitution. According to
WOZA, many members in custody were handcuffed, which is a violation of women’s
The arrested group includes WOZA leader Magodonga Mahlangu, three mothers
who are breastfeeding and three children who are not even WOZA members.
Police have denied lawyers any access to them on three separate occasions.
WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams, who led a second group of protestors, was
The group had organised ten protests that were due to start at 11:00 am. But
riot police appear to have been tipped off and had arrested 40 people,
including by-standers, by 10:30am. WOZA said only 3 of the ten protests made
it to the location where a memorial statue of the late Joshua Nkomo is to be
erected, which had been designated as the venue for the sit-in protest.
Four other protests were conducted after 11:30 am with members marching from
the Statue site to the Bulawayo Central Police station tohand themselves in.
But riot police denied them entry into the building and threatened to
SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme, who witnessed the arrests in
Bulawayo, said the riot police appear to have known about the protests
because they were seen in large numbers near the location of the statue and
at other key sites nearby, before WOZA members arrived.
“After the arrests Jenni Williams arrived with another group of women
carrying placards and singing loudly. She knew her colleagues had been
arrested but she did not shy away from the police. She went straight to the
Central police Station to protest the arrest of WOZA members. That was very
brave,” Saungweme said.
It is not clear whether Williams was also arrested when she arrived but WOZA
members were denied access to the group that had been taken into custody.
“Right now as we speak there is a heavy police presence outside the station.
I think there is about 30 of them. Some have AK 47 rifles and a few are in
plain clothes,” our correspondent said.
Wednesday’s protests are a continuation of a campaign by the group to
pressure parliamentarians to release a draft constitution and go to a
referendum, instead of “bickering” over the issues and ignoring what the
people said during the outreach exercise. They want the country to move
The sit-in or occupation style protests started on Monday in Harare, where
WOZA members marched to the parliament building in two separate groups, just
as they were trying to do in Bulawayo on Wednesday. Police in Harare did not
disrupt the peaceful protest but Bulawayo was a different story.