The demonstration was held to commemorate Africa Day, mourning the lack of anything to celebrate, and to protest against the political violence being perpetrated in the weeks leading up to the Presidential run-off election of June 27.
Approximately 200 members were stopped by the police as they marched in the street in central Harare carrying placards and distributing flyers. Specific members were targeted for arrest, including Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu.
WOZA says all 14 have been charged under s 37 1c (ii) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act (formerly part of the Public Order and Security Act) -“Participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breach of the peace or bigotry”. This offence involves “acting with one or more others,…. intending or realizing that there is a risk of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of the public”. Some of those arrested were not participating in the demonstration, but were arrested at gun point while inside a vehicle. They included the driver of the vehicle. The vehicle was seized.
Jenni also has two other charges under the same Act: s 30 - “Causing disaffection among the Police Force or Defence Forces”.
Amnesty International today called for the immediate release of the detainees.
Simeon Mawanza from Amnesty told Southwest Radio Africa the WOZA activists were arrested for simply exercising their right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of speech. In that regard they are considered prisoners of conscience, and the Zimbabwe government has no justification to hold them.
Mawanza also said amnesty was concerned for their safety because the government had denied them bail for the first time. He explained, "This is a new strategy that the government has used since the arrest of the ZCTU leaders, to unreasonably detain human rights defenders in order to harass and frustrate their work."
Mawanza said human rights defenders have historically been tortured in Zimbabwe, and Amnesty believes the denial of bail on Friday is a sign that the women, particularly the 2 leaders, may be in grave danger of torture or other ill-treatment.
The following is from AFP.
Women activists denied bail after Zimbabwe protest
HARARE (AFP) — Thirteen members of a prominent women's rights group detained on a march against violence ahead of Zimbabwe's run-off poll have been denied bail and ordered held in prison, the organisation said Tuesday.
The 12 women and one man from the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), including their outspoken leader Jenni Williams, are due to appear in court again on Friday, said Tafadzwa Mugabe of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
They were arrested May 28 during the demonstration in Harare, said London-based rights group Amnesty International which called for their immediate release.
They were marching to the Zambian embassy to deliver a petition over poll-related violence when they were arrested.
Zambia is the current chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has tasked South African President Thabo Mbeki with mediating between President Robert Mugabe's ruling party and the opposition.
Violence has mounted in Zimbabwe since March first round elections that saw opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai defeat Mugabe, but without enough votes to avoid a run-off.
According to the MDC, more than 50 of its supporters have been killed in attacks by pro-Mugabe militias in recent weeks while tens of thousands have been displaced in order to prevent them from voting.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmaker Ian Kay, arrested last month on public violence charges, was granted bail on Tuesday.
"The high court has granted him 60 billion dollars bail (90 US dollars) after it was upped from 20 billion," Tafadzwa Mugabe said.
Kay, one of the only two white lawmakers, was arrested in Marondera, east of the capital Harare, on May 22 on charges of fanning violence in Mashonaland province.