On Wednesday, September 21, activists from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) marched in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to commemorate International Day of Peace. Not seeming to appreciate the irony, police officers violently dispersed the protest, arresting 12 women and injuring several others.
Thursday, 10 of those women were released, but Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlongu remain in jail. They are charged with kidnapping and theft pertaining to some sort of bizarre set of circumstances that is beyond my comprehension at this time.
Jenni and Magodonga appeared in court this morning. Bail was denied and their next hearing is scheduled for October 6th. They will remain imprisoned until that time. Jenni recently had a minor operation which could result in serious complications from infection due to the disgusting sanitary conditions in prison. This ridiculous set of circumstances is a direct reflection of elements of the Zimbabwe government attempting to repress political and social dissent.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a social justice movement of women and men dedicated to improving human rights, increasing the quality of life and holding the government accountable in Zimbabwe, are no strangers to arrests and harassment by the government. WOZA activists number their arrests in the hundreds. Earlier this year, Jenni and Magodonga were warned the next time they were arrested, they would be kept in a men’s prison.
It’s time the government of Zimbabwe stopped violating the peace on any day of the year. Zimbabwe will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council in early October to defend its human rights record. We are calling on regional neighbor Angola, a country with influence in the region, to speak up and insist Zimbabwe meet its human rights obligations. Women should be allowed to gather to celebrate peace without worrying about being met with violence.