Feb 172009

Talk about seriously not getting in the spirit of the holiday, from SW Radio Africa:

While the rest of the world was celebrating the spirit of love during Valentines Day on Saturday, police in Bulawayo were busy arresting protesting members of the group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). A total of 100 activists were initially arrested, but because only 4 policemen were carrying out the screening process, the vast majority managed to slip away from the City Hall where they had been taken. This left 10 activists, including 2 members from Radio Dialogue, under arrest.

A press statement from the group says at least 800 WOZA members, including their male colleagues in Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA), demonstrated on the city streets urging Zimbabweans ‘to let love light the way’. The arrested were later taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station.

On Monday they were still in custody with their lawyers being denied access to them. WOZA leader Jenni Williams told Newsreel they had planned an urgent application at the High Court to insist on access to their legal representation. The courts however closed early on Monday, for as yet unexplained reasons.

On Saturday WOZA had planned the demonstration using 4 groups of protesters, each starting from a different point in the city. All 4 groups were to meet at 9th Avenue in the city centre before marching to the offices of the state owned Chronicle newspaper. Although 3 groups did meet up, the 4th one was blocked by riot police. The combined procession to the Chronicle never materialized after police cornered the group and arrested scores, including someone who was taking pictures of the demonstration. Despite the crackdown several WOZA members slipped away and converged at the newspaper offices to deliver Valentine’s cards, roses and flyers.

WOZA has always used Valentines Day to urge Zimbabweans to ‘choose love over hate’ and Saturday’s march marked the 7th anniversary of the group’s birth. Last week Tuesday WOZA demonstrated at the parliament building in Harare resulting in the arrest of 8 of its members including 2 lawyers. All 10 were only released on Thursday. WOZA say the continued crackdown on pro-democracy activists, some of who have been in custody for close to 5 months, show that nothing has changed in Zimbabwe.

 February 17, 2009  Posted by on February 17, 2009

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