WOZA activists released but abused by Bulawayo police

Activist Jenni Williams and a group of 13 other women, who were assaulted and arrested Tuesday at a demonstration by activists from the Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were finally released Friday when they appeared in a Bulawayo court.

Jenni Williams
Jenni Williams

Four innocent bystanders, including a pregnant 18 year old woman and a 16 year old girl, were caught up in the violent arrests, which took place in full view of a team from the Joint Monitoring and implementation Committee (JOMIC).

The group has complained of abuse by police while in custody at Bulawayo Central. On one evening they were kept in an open cage until 2:00 AM. On another occasion the women were forced to sit in the burning sun without any shelter for three hours.

WOZA said one of the women collapsed and was taken to hospital by the police. An abdominal scan was recommended because she had been kicked during the arrests, but police ignored this and forced her to walk back three kilometres to the police station.

The police had struggled to decide on charges against the women since the violent arrests. They initially accused them of demonstrating without notifying the police, a charge which can only be brought against organizers under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

On Friday a lesser charge of “criminal nuisance” was formally brought against the ten WOZA members, who were granted free bail and ordered to return for a hearing Monday. The four bystanders were released without charge at the court.

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