Victory for WOZA

HARARE - The 63 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) charged with breaching the peace while

conducting a peaceful Valentine’s Day protest outside Parliament on February 14, 2006, have been found not guilty. The Provincial Magistrate read out a 10-minute ruling after a 14-day trial that saw four police officers and 55 women take the stand to testify. This is the fourth court case won by WOZA members.
The women were facing charges under Chapter 9:15 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Section 7 © – “acting in a manner which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace or to create a nuisance or obstruction.”
In his ruling the magistrate acknowledged that the women had been part of more than 200 women arrested on that day. He also accepted that they had refused to pay fines as they testified that they had not been appraised of charges against them when arrested. The women were then detained for over four days in inhuman conditions and for an extra 48 hours beyond that allowed for by the Public Order and Security Act.
He confirmed that none of the police were able to identify any of the 63 at the demonstration or link them to any evidence of banners, placards, fliers or roses. He also admitted that no member of the public had testified as to a breach of their peace or that giving roses and singing was a nuisance. He went on to say that police details “force-marched the women to the Anglican Church” without regard for anything else except that they were women and that they were “victims of time – in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Police ill-treated the women and their babies and exposed them to poor and inhuman conditions and “incarcerated them before trial and convicted the accused before trial”.
“The police are supposed to maintain law and order but they failed to do so and went on a ‘fishing expedition’ to arrest any women in the vicinity of the protest. They did not use reasonable doubt in the manner of arrest and provided no evidence to incriminate the accused. It is better to set free a guilty person than to convict an innocent one.” So in the absence of reasonable doubt he found the accused not guilty.
The WOZA membership was exultant at the victory and vowed to continue the battle for a free and democratic ZimbabweOwn correspondent

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