Massive WOZA, MOZA demos end in 180 arrests

BULAWAYO - More than 180 members of WOZA and its newly-formed brother organisation, MOZA, were arrested in Bulawayo on Monday, including 13 mothers with babies who were released that evening, along with 26 minors. More than 700 members of the two organisations took to the streets in Harare and Bu

lawayo to protest against the Reserve Bank’s Operation Sunrise. WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams said some 450 members participated in the demonstration in Bulawayo and about 250 marched in Harare, but no arrests were reported there. Lawyers were finally granted access late Monday afternoon and were able to ensure food could be brought in. Under the notorious Public Order Security Act (POSA) the brave members can be held for up to 48 hours before being charged. They are routinely finger printed and photographed before being brought to court for a remand hearing. WOZA reports that initial discussions with the officers in charge of Law and Order indicated that police were seeking to charge the group under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which came into effect at the end of July. If found guilty, the group face a level five fine or up to five years imprisonment. This would be the first time any protestors would have been so charged.

The group has also been split up – with some members been taken to other police stations around Bulawayo, including Mzilikazi, Sauerstown and Queen Park. Many have remained at Central where conditions are terrible but morale is still high. WOZA said many members handed themselves over to the police in solidarity but Praise, a WOZA poet and vocalist, was denied entry into the cells, as she was told that she would make too much noise. Despite the absence of the lead singer, those arrested sang lustily “Gono we want real money” hoping that their voices would carry the block separating them from the Reserve Bank. Over 30 men from Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) were also in custody and competing with WOZA in ensuring their message is heard loud and clear. In fact, riot police had to be brought into the cells to quieten down the detainees. The police vehicles were also severely overloaded. Whilst transporting those under arrest to Central, the tailgate of one vehicle flew open and a woman fell out. Lawyers are still trying to locate this woman who has since disappeared. In both cities the protestors intended to hand over an open letter to RBZ governor, Gideon Gono, and in case they were arrested along the way, were distributing copies as they walked. Bystanders came forward to take copies and were shouting encouragement to the women. As they marched, the group sang a song by Lovemore Majaivana saying that this country has no money – ‘lelilizwe alilamali’. Williams, said the organisation was particularly irked by the seizure of money from individuals by the police and youths aligned to the ruling party. “Nothing could be so disgusting. What we are saying is that the government should stop brutalising its own people over its own failures. The illegal confiscation of peoples’ money should stop forthwith and sound policies that will ensure economic stability should be put in place,” she said. – Own correspondent/ZimOnline

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