Pressure group leaders arrested and beaten

Amid efforts to save the power-sharing agreement and restore civil rights in Zimbabwe, arrests and beatings of government opponents continue.

The latest targets are Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, who head the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) pressure group, which is famed for its “ambush” protests outside government buildings and for handing out roses to the targets of their protests. Williams has been arrested more than 30 times in the past five years for her activism.

The two women were arrested after staging a protest last Thursday outside a government building in Bulawayo, during which they called on officials to explain what government was doing to speed up the delivery of food aid.

Riot police broke up the group, arresting its leaders.

A bail application for Williams and Mahlangu is scheduled for Friday, Woza spokesperson Annie Sibanda told the Mail & Guardian.

A magistrate had been “too busy” to hear their case earlier, while prison officials had said they had no fuel to take the two to court.

There was concern for their health—especially as Mahlangu had suffered injuries from police beatings. Both are being held in squalid conditions at Khami Prison, close to Bulawayo.

“They seem to be mentally strong. They were prepared for this. The conditions are bad; they are restricted to one plate of sadza [cooked pulverised grain meal] per day and the meager relish is served with no salt or oil,” said Sibanda.

They are subjected to insults by guards, “but the guards don’t have it any better themselves”, she said.

Woza said that the imprisonment of its leaders was “a violation of the power-sharing agreement and further evidence that Zanu-PF has no desire to act in good faith”.

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