At 4:45 am they arrived at the gate of Magodonga Mahlangu, broke her gate padlock and proceeded to try to break down the front and back doors. They did not succeed and left taking 'snowy' the dog with them. They were heard insulting both Mahlangu and Williams who are both leaders.
In Masvingo, Police also searched the homes of two members late last night and upon finding nothing promised to return to arrest the members who were not at home. Police officers said they are looking for information about the 'Sheroes Congress'.
WOZA and MOZA conducted their annual assembly in rural Matabeleland this past weekend and it is assumed that these arrests and searches are an attempt to obtain information about the congress resolutions.
Just two weeks ago sixteen WOZA activists were arrested while playing a game of netball. The 16, who include some men, were arrested in the southern city of Masvingo. They were released a few days later but were reportedly beaten while in custody.
WOZA, the acronym of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, is an Ndebele word meaning ‘Come forward’. Now with a countrywide membership of over 35,000 women and men, WOZA was formed in 2003 as a women’s civic movement to:
Provide women, from all walks of life, with a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lives.
Empower female leadership that will lead community involvement in pressing for solutions to the current crisis.
Encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms.
Lobby and advocate on those issues affecting women and their families.
The group is one of the few that have stood up to the regime there on a consistent basis.
The following is from SW Radio Africa (London).
Woza Activists Arrested During Door to Door Raids in Bulawayo
Police in Bulawayo reportedly abducted six women and a baby from the organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise during early morning raids. WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams said the group received an alert around four in the morning from the children of the arrested women, saying police officers were going door-to-door arresting the activists.
Police are also accused of trying to break into the home of WOZA leader Magodonga Mahlangu. They failed to get in and arrest her, but she has reported that since the incident her dog is now missing. In the past police have been brutal in their treatment of animals belonging to perceived opponents of the government. A witness reported that police attacked the barking dog with a hoe.
Those arrested include Rosemary Siziba and her one-year-old baby, Margaret Ndlovu, Idah Ndebele and Maria Moyo. Williams said as usual lawyers were not able to access them, as the police denied holding the activists.
The group says homes belonging to two WOZA members were also searched in Masvingo on Thursday night. WOZA believes the authorities are paranoid after the pressure group held a successful annual congress this past weekend. It is assumed that these arrests and searches are an attempt to obtain information about the congress resolutions.
A statement said: "They were taken to the bush around Khami Ruins some 40 km outside Bulawayo and told this was the last time they would be seen alive. It transpires there were three teams of police officers. Officers Mthunzi, Musarira, MaNdlovu and Tshuma were identified by members. Three of the women testified that they were taken onto the mountaintop overlooking the river and told to tell the truth or be thrown in. The 'truth' required was the whereabouts of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. They were questioned about WOZA programmes and especially the 2006 and 2007 Sheroes Congress."
The group said the members were released in the afternoon unharmed but traumatised and in shock.
Williams told us that plans to roll out a series of non-violent activities are now underway, in preparation for the forthcoming elections.
The WOZA co-ordinator was part of a group of civic leaders who met with South African officials to discuss the way forward last week in Pretoria. She said she was worried at the choice of expression by the South African officials. She said: "Words used by Minister Mufamadi over and over again in the meeting were that they (SA) want an election whose results cannot be contested."
But Williams said: "Surely it would be better to have a proper constitutional process that would safeguard democracy in Zimbabwe and only then will you have an election. Why should you try to stop the contestation of an election? Rather do a process that results in a free and fair democratic process."
South Africa is mediating talks between ZANU PF and the two MDCs. Civil society have criticised this process saying free and fair elections could only come about with the full consultation of all stakeholders and a people driven constitution.