Jenni Williams charged


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Forty-eight women including Jenni Williams, director of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), went on trial for violating the Public Order and Security Act.

The women were accused of failing to notify the police that they would be carrying out a demonstration.

Perpetua Dube who was representing the women said no magistrate wanted to hear the case because putting dozens of women in jail would not be seemly but neither did any magistrate want to be seen as being lenient towards a group that was so critical of the government.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE1179, GOVERNMENT PRESSES WOMEN’S ACTIVIST GROUP

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE1179

2004-07-19 08:28

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

190828Z Jul 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 001179

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR LAROIAN, MRAYNOR

AF/PD FOR D. FOLEY, C. DALTON

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

DS/OP/AF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT PRESSES WOMEN’S ACTIVIST GROUP

 

 

Classified By: Political Officer Bianca Menendez for reason 1.5 d

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. Members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA), a

group that demonstrates against human rights abuses and

particularly against the Public Order and Security Act

(POSA), are on trial for violating POSA. The trial was

continued after two successive court dates in June for lack

of a magistrate, reportedly because no magistrate wished to

go on record as either convicting or acquitting these vocal

activitists. On July 12, a magistrate appeared but continued

the trial to August 19 to give the state more time to prepare

its case. The advocate for the group had a positive outlook

on the case. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (U) 48 women are on trial in Bulawayo for participating in

a demonstration against POSA on July 24, 2003. According to

the outline of the state,s case, they have been charged

under POSA for failing to notify the regulating authority

that the demonstration would take place. Although members of

the group have been arrested several times, this will be the

first time a trial will actually take place. According to

group founder Jenni Williams, who is included among the

accused, after past arrests all charges have been dropped.

The maximum possible sentence under the current charge is a

fine of 50,000 Zimbabwean dollars (about 9 US dollars) and 10

years in prison.

 

3. (C) An advocate from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights,

Perpetua Dube, is representing the women. According to Dube,

no magistrate wants to hear this case because putting dozens

of women in jail would not be seemly but neither does any

magistrate want to be seen as being lenient toward a group

that is so critical of the government. Dube said that the

state was attempting to separate Williams,s case from that

of the other women and dropping the latter case to avoid the

embarrassment of trying all the women together. Dube also

said she believed that imprisoning Williams was seen as the

key to disabling the organization because she is the chief

organizer of a group of largely rural women with few

resources.

 

4. (C) On July 12th, the trial began with Magistrate John

Masimba presiding. One of the key points in the defense

outline was that the state charged the women under the wrong

section of POSA. According to Williams, the magistrate was

curt with the prosecutor over a failure to submit a new state

outline with the correct charge but said that he did not want

to throw the case out on a technicality. He continued the

trial to August 19 to give the state time to prepare a new

outline. Williams said that, based on comments made by the

magistrate, Dube believes either the case will be dismissed

or the women will be acquitted. The magistrate dismissed a

second and more serious charge that had been filed against

only Williams, for organizing an illegal event.

 

5. (C) Also on July 12, the police raided WOZA,s safe house

in Bulawayo and took some promotional items. The house,s

caretaker had disappeared, but Williams said it was possible

the caretaker was hiding from the police.

 

6. (C) COMMENT: A long, drawn out trial and raids on office

space are typical intimidation tactics used by the government

against organizations like WOZA that are seen as enemies of

the state. The organization enjoys a broad membership base,

but it is vulnerable due to the thinness of energetic

leadership and limited monetary and organizational resources

to further the group,s aims. If the government succeeds in

curtailing the activities of Williams or other key members,

WOZA,s activis

 

(3 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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