News Update from WOZA

Two leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu have now spent nine days at Mlondolozi Prison near Bulawayo after their arrest on September 21. On September 23 they were remanded in custody until October 6, on charges of kidnap and theft, and the following day an urgent application for bail was lodged with the High Court.

A week later the Court is yet to set down a date for the bail hearing, in spite of the fact that bail applications are normally treated with urgency.

The two have denied the charges, which allege that they held another woman for 6 hours and stole a torch. They state that the woman willingly accompanied them to assist in retrieving property stolen from WOZA, and the torch in question was voluntarily handed to them.

Further they argue that even if they were to be convicted on such incredible allegations, the sentence might well consist of community service or even a suspended sentence, rather than a custodial one.

The state is opposing bail on the grounds that the two have been avoiding arrest and hiding from the police, in spite of the fact that they have been living openly in Bulawayo. Surprisingly, the affidavit supporting the state’s position is signed by none other than Detective Sergeant Ngwenya of the Law and Order Department, who states that he had been attempting to arrest the two on these charges for some time.

It is surely an anomaly that such an apparently common criminal matter should be handled by Law and Order instead of CID, as would be expected – a fact which leads us to believe that these are not ordinary charges, but intended to harass the WOZA leadership and frustrate the activities of a movement which is peacefully promoting democracy and social justice.

Another ground given for opposing bail is that the two have pending charges relating to unlawful demonstrations, blocking the pavement and failing to inform the regulating authority. These charges have however been made irrelevant by a ruling obtained by WOZA from the Supreme Court in 2010 allowing that WOZA’s peaceful demonstrations are indeed lawful.

We find the delay in setting down a date for a bail hearing a denial of justice under the circumstances, and hope that this will be remedied very soon. Meanwhile, we would like to inform sympathisers and supporters that their words and acts in solidarity are greatly appreciated and help to keep up the morale of the two prisoners.

We urge them to continue to communicate with Mlondolozi Prison to request the authorities not to abuse the rights of the two.

Post published in: Politics

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