Three women who participated in a Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) protest march were forced to strip off their clothes in the city centre of Bulawayo by the police, their regional leader has said. One of the three is heavily pregnant.
The women were part of a march to commemorate International Women’s Day, which saw a total of 34 members of the group arrested, despite a High Court order saying the march could go-ahead.
Barbara Tanyanyiwa of the ZCTU’s Regional Women’s Advisory Council, said trouble began when the police appeared and began dispersing them, and then three of their members were apprehended. “When they were going to the gathering point, that is Jason Moyo and Third Avenue, they were confronted by plain clothes policemen who said they should remove their ZCTU t-shirts. From there they were told to disperse and go home,”
She said the women were left half-naked in their bras and sympathisers had to give them wrapping clothes and blouses to cover-up. But instead of letting them go home, the three women were then taken to the police station. Tanyanyiwa says the police arrested 34 of their members between the morning and afternoon. She says the police insist that they are following orders ‘from above’ which state that protests or marches are banned in the country. The women were all later released, after their lawyer intervened.
SW Radio Africa Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme says the three women felt deeply humiliated as they were ordered to remove their t shirts by young male police officers.
On Monday in Bulawayo, Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) ploughed ahead with their International Women’s Day march, protesting against the torture of members by the police and calling on South African President Jacob Zuma to help end the violence.
As WOZA continues to publicly denounce the violence in the country perpetrated by ZANU PF supporters and the partisan authorities, their members have been increasingly arrested and tortured by police. Recently a member was beaten up so badly that she could not hold her baby.
WOZA had five separate protests on Monday, which began from locations surrounding the High Court. Two of the protests managed to reach the 8th Avenue Court, but three protests were dispersed by riot police and army. With a heavy police and army presence in the city, WOZA says it leaders decided to reduce the protest to the bravest of the brave, numbering 500 female and male members.
“Three women have been arrested but have not been located at the police station by human rights lawyers. WOZA is concerned for their safety as police are hiding them. The three are Eneles Dube, Janet Dube and Selina Dube,” a WOZA statement said. On Tuesday the women were still being held.
Elsewhere on Monday three leaders of the Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) who were arrested last week, were formally charged with treason, which attracts the death penalty. Paul Siwela, John Gazi and Charles Thomas are being accused of distributing flyers urging people to stage anti-government revolts like in Egypt and Tunisia. They are accused of holding a meeting where they allegedly discussed overthrowing the government.
The charges against the trio come at a time when International Socialist Organisation (ISO) coordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai and five other activists have also been charged with treason, after watching a video of the Egypt uprising. The six were denied bail on Monday, despite local and global outrage at their arrest and severe torture while in prison. They were further remanded to March 21.