WOZA leaders spend third weekend in prison
By Violet Gonda
3 Novemeber 2008
WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu have spent their third weekend – and a total of 19 days - in Mlondolozi Prison in Bulawayo. Despite a High Court appeal on the 27th October there has still been no response from authorities. The pair have been denied bail three times in a Magistrate’s court, prompting the defense lawyer to appeal in the High Court last week.
WOZA says it is concerned about their well being as the group has been told they will now only be allowed to visit once every two weeks. Previously they were allowed to see them daily during the week. Although the daily visits have been stopped, they are still being allowed to send food into the prison.
WOZA believes the two women are being punished for filing complaints about the way they are being treated by the prison guards. The pressure group also accuse the High Court of “playing games” as court officials are never available when the defense lawyer tries to contact them. WOZA said: “The latest ploy, in a long list of delaying tactics, is that the judge that received the paperwork on Thursday 30th October has gone to Hwange and they are unable to locate the file to give to another judge.”
Williams and Mahlangu were arrested on October 16th for leading a peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo calling for an end to the suffering of all Zimbbweans. Several protesters were beaten and a number were arrested, but released on the same day.
Meanwhile, the influential South African Council of Churches (SACC) joined the growing list of South African civil and student bodies condemning the unjust detention of the WOZA leaders.
“We are very concerned about the welfare of these two courageous women,” said Eddie Makue, SACC General Secretary. “It is ironic that those who are working for peace are charged with disturbing it, while those with the power to promote a true and just peace seem to have no interest in doing so,” he added.
The SACC General Secretary called for a speedy and fair trail of the two women and called on the political leaders to involve civil society in negotiations to resolve the political impasse. “Incidents such as the attack on WOZA heighten our concern that ordinary Zimbabweans will be the ones to suffer if the country’s social compact is nothing more than a self-serving agreement among political elites.”