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Women of Zimbabwe - mass arrests over schooling demonstration

d | 06.05.2006 22:08 | Education | Repression | Social Struggles | World

Over a hundred Zimbabweans are currently in detention for demonstrating against a 1000% increase in schooling fees.

Over a hundred 'Women Of Zimbabwe Arise' (WOZA) members (women and men) and 73 children were arrested for demonstrating against a 1000% increase in schooling fees, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on the 4th of May. There was an almost carnival atmosphere to the procession with the singing marchers handing out the May edition of the newsletter, Woza Moya, which were eagerly accepted by passersby. Many children were in school uniform, signifying the fact that this may be the last time that they will be able to wear it as they may not return to school next week.

Having completed their march, the peaceful group were beginning to disperse when riot police arrived and arrested the group, adults and children together.

After a night in cells, the 73 children, ranging from age seven to eighteen, that were arrested this morning were finally released this evening into the care of their lawyers. They are now all at home in the care of an adult family member.

Today (6 May) 105 WOZA women and men remain in custody for a second night.

Lawyers secured the release of seven mothers with infants earlier this evening. Despite the order to release all the mothers, a drunken, off-duty inspector at Mzilikazi Police Station refused to allow one of the mothers being held there to be discharged. She
remains in custody tonight with her baby.

The group has been charged under Section 7c of the Miscellaneous Offences Act; “conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.” The Officer-in-Charge at Bulawayo Central, G. Ndlovu, (who threatened to kill Jenni Williams in May last year when she was in custody) remains uncooperative and efforts to have the group brought to court today were frustrated by the refusal of those officers who arrested the group to come forward and make statements about the arrests. Due to this reluctance, there is a possibility that
the group may remain in custody until Monday.

Conditions in the cells vary according to the station in which the group find themselves but generally it is very cold at night with no blankets provided as Bulawayo moves into winter. Officers at Bulawayo Central are also proving to be obstinate about
providing food – breakfast was denied and lunch only given to the group several hours after it was brought. They also lied to lawyers about the number of people being held there, resulting in insufficient food being delivered to that station. Others stations, including
Hillside, Donnington and Queens Park, have also denied or postponed the giving of food.

Please help us secure the release of the remaining 105. Below are the telephone numbers of the stations involved. You are invited to encourage the officers involved to respect the right of prisoners to food and request that the women be released at the earliest
opportunity. Special mention should be made to Mzilikazi Police Station to discharge the mother and her baby who are being held in direct contravention of an order for her release.

They are being held at six police stations: Bulawayo Central (46), Mzilikazi (24), Donnington (14), Hillside (10), Queens Park (5) and Sauerstown (6).


Please send your messages of solidarity to:

It really does keep the spirits up of those in custody to know that
they are not alone and that at least their suffering has had the desired result - to expose the injustice and the brutality of this regime.

Phone some of the below numbers of relevant police stations:
Central: +263 9 72515
Donnington: +263 9 474005/467309
Mzilikazi: +263 9 202908/212515
Hillside: +263 9 241161/2
Queens Park: +263 9 226411/266412/226212
Sauerstown: +263 9 200960/218432/218431


WOZA Mission Statement:

To empower Zimbabwean women with knowledge and skills designed to stimulate courageous activities within the community.

WOZA Vision:

To enable Zimbabwean women to make independent decisions and actively participate in their community's development.

WOZA Objectives:

* To impart knowledge and skills enabling women to make informed decisions.
* To build strength of character that demonstrates courage and leadership qualities.
* To increase participation in spiritual fellowship and love for thy neighbour.
* To teach women communication skills that will help bridge social and economic challenges.
* To facilitate the networking of expertise and skills between women.
* To teach women to defend themselves against violence.
* To work towards elevating the standing of women in society.