WOZA members remain in police custody, still not charged

The nine WOZA members along with five bystanders who were arrested during a WOZA demonstration yesterday remain in custody tonight with their position unclear.

Woza members
Woza members

Last night they were told that they would be charged with failing to notify the police of a demonstration. This is rather inexplicable, since that charge applies only to the organiser of a demonstration, not to participants, and certainly not to bystanders. However, today, no charges were preferred, and the lawyer who attended in the morning, Nikiwe Ncube, was eventually told to return after lunch.

When she returned she was told that the docket had disappeared. Quite extraordinary that a docket relating to well-known activists could be lost from one day to the next! It appeared that there was a struggle going on between two divisions

within the police station – one insisting that all be released as they had committed no offence, and one claiming to be acting on orders “from above” to find a charge. At the end of the day, the lawyer had learned nothing and was told to come again tomorrow.

It has meanwhile turned out that there are nine, not eight, as originally reported, WOZA members arrested and five others. None

have been released, including the minor. And all are complaining of mistreatment. Last night they were kept in the open cage when it was quite chilly after rains; only at 2 a.m. were they placed in the cell.

Today they were forced to sit in the burning sun without any shelter for three hours. One of the WOZA women collapsed and was then taken to hospital by the police; it transpired that she had also been kicked by a police officer during arrest.

The doctor at the hospital ordered an abdominal scan, but instead of being taken for it she was forced to walk back to the police station, a distance of three kilometres. One of the bystanders was a vendor selling juices; she also had to be taken to hospital, and her condition is not known except that she had spent the day crying.

Several of those who were not arrested but had been beaten had to be treated for bruising in their homes, as they found the riot police were waiting for them at the private clinic where any injuries are normally catered for. We believe that no one has any serious injury, except possibly the member who is in police custody.

We wait for developments tomorrow. By law the police must either release or charge those detained and bring them to court by 4 p.m., 48 hours after their arrest. We trust that the police officers will not further violate their rights.

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