The leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu demanded to be arrested by police in Bulawayo after police had used batons to violently break up a crowd of 200 and arrested five women.
The women were staging a silent march in the city demanding that civil society be given a voice in the Southern African Development Community initiated mediation talks between the government and the Movement for Democratic Change.
WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested later.
Viewing cable 07HARARE503, WOZA’S SILENT MARCH ATTRACTS HARSH RESPONSE FROM
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000503
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/07/2017
SUBJECT: WOZA’S SILENT MARCH ATTRACTS HARSH RESPONSE FROM
REF: HARARE 00343
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (SBU) Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) supporters staged a
“silent march” on June 6 in Bulawayo to demand inclusion in
mediation talks between the government and the main
opposition party; police used violence to disperse the crowd
of 200 and arrested five women. WOZA leaders Jenni Williams
and Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested later. All seven women
remain in custody and reports of injuries are unconfirmed.
We have provided a recommended press statement in paragraph
¶5. End Summary.
WOZA Holds Silent March For A Voice
¶2. (U) In an effort to give a voice to civil society in the
SADC-initiated mediation talks between the Government of
Zimbabwe (GOZ) and the main opposition party Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
supporters on June 6 staged a “silent march” in Bulawayo, the
country’s second city. Police used batons to violently break
up the crowd of 200 and arrested five women. WOZA leaders
Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested later
when marchers regrouped in front of the police station and
demanded to be arrested in a show of solidarity. All seven
women remain in custody and reports of injuries are
unconfirmed. Approximately 15 other marchers have sought
medical attention for minor injuries.
The Timeworn Tactic: Beat, Arrest and Stall
¶3. (U) Kassam Ncube, the lawyer representing the arrestees,
told poloff that police permitted him access to the arrestees
the evening of June 6 and they did not appear to be injured.
He added, however, that the arrestees may have been too
intimidated by the police in the room to speak freely. There
is particular concern for the safety of Williams given recent
threats of violence against her leveled by Bulawayo police
¶4. (U) Ncube also told us that police denied him access to
his clients on June 7 and chased him out of the station.
They also denied the arrestees food delivered by supporters.
Ncube hopes that the police will take the arrestees to court
on Friday — if not, the group will remain in jail over the
Recommended Press Statement
¶5. (SBU) Post recommends the following language for a
Department press statement.
“We condemn the action of the Government of Zimbabwe in
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suppressing a peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo by Women of
Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), which was calling for a voice in
mediation talks over the future of the country. In view of
recent public threats by police in Bulawayo to harm WOZA
National Director Jenni Williams we express particular
concern and hold the government accountable for her safety.
This latest attack on civil society further accentuates the
need for immediate dialogue among all stakeholders concerned
with halting Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic
crisis. We again call on the Government of Zimbabwe to
respect the rule of law and the rights of all Zimbabweans to
petition their government for change.”
¶6. (C) Despite increased international attention and the
SADC-initiated mediation talks, security forces continue to
wield batons to violently break up peaceful demonstrations as
an automatic response. This latest event further
demonstrates that the GOZ views civil society as a threat to
crush rather than as a social partner with valid concerns.