SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: Woza Women Beaten and Detained After Anti-Constitution Demo

Police on Wednesday violently broke up a peaceful demonstration by the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and briefly detained eight activists outside Parliament building in Harare.

WOZA leader Jenni Williams sent SW Radio Africa a text message saying: "8 terribly beaten and tear gassed, me, Magodonga (Mahlangu) and 6 others."

Our correspondent Lionel Saungweme witnessed the police using 'sjamboks' as the WOZA women were being bundled into a police car.

He said 50 women had taken to the streets, protesting against the draft constitution that is set to be put before a referendum on March 16th.

Some of the fliers distributed by the pressure group read: "The final draft constitution is as a result of negotiations behind closed doors and a deal that suits the principals and the political parties in the inclusive government."

"Therefore this draft may not survive the test of time because it was written for a current political climate and not for the future generation. A constitution is supposed to be written by the people because they should determine how they want to be governed. It is their role to give the rule to the rulers!"

Dr. Tarisai Mutangi from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights went to assist the activists at Harare Central Police Station. He said they were released without charge after being held for a couple of hours.

He confirmed that the women sustained injuries and that he had left them at the charge office where they were filing a complaint against the police for the assault.

Meanwhile, co-Home Affairs Minister Teresa Makone held a press conference in Harare where she revealed that some ministers had expressed concern during Tuesday's cabinet meeting over police brutality.

She said police should first investigate, rather than arresting to investigate.

Makone said cabinet discussed the unwarranted arrested by police of innocent citizens during the Zimbabwe Peace Project offices raid, and the arrest of ordinary people in Lupane, Matabeleland North who had gone for voter registration.

Although the co-home affairs minister is in charge of the police, she admitted that she does not have the power to make the police respect the constitution or the rule of law.

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