WOZA Members arrested at a ZESA public meeting today

wozaTwo members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested today at a public meeting convened by the Competition and Tariff Commission at the Large City Hall in Bulawayo.

Two hundred members of WOZA and MOZA attended the public meeting in order to present their views to the Commission on ZESA. As the delegation were due to answer questions, two members, Million and Mavis Sibanda, took the opportunity to go to the toilets, which are in the reception foyer. As soon as they entered the foyer, they were grabbed by two plain clothed police officers who searched their bags. The police officers then insisted the two members accompany them to Central Police Station. This incident took place under the eyes of the Commission Secretary who was registering attendance in the foyer.

WOZA National Coordinator announced to the meeting of the arrest of the two members, asking the Commission and the Permanent Secretary of Energy and Development to explain this harassment when members had come to engage ZESA as consumers. She then called on the members present to hand over their ‘yellow cards’ and leave. Whereupon all 200 members present processed to the front stage to hand over the cards and walked out.

WOZA leaders then questioned the Commission Secretary as to why these people had been arrested and she referred the matter to her boss. Two of the ‘bosses’ came out of the function and were informed of the arrests. They agreed that as organisers they would follow up and asked WOZA members to come back in to the meeting. They declined until their members were released.

At the police station, Million and Mavis were being interrogated as to their objective in the meeting and a bunch of ‘yellow cards’ found on Million were confiscated. They were mwade to narrate their life history which was noted down on a profile form. Some other police officers then apparently came to their rescue asking why they had been arrested. Upon hearing the explanation, they said they are also suffering from high electricity bills and long cuts and that WOZA should be allowed to protest on this issue. They then insisted the two WOZA members should be released. Upon confirmation of their release, the rest of the WOZA members went back into the meeting.

WOZA would like to condemn the continued harassment of human rights defenders and questions the commitment of the state to allow citizens to participate in public forums.

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