POLICE in Harare on Wednesday arrested 37 women protesters from the activist group Katswe Sistahood over concerns they might have disturbed President Robert Mugabe’s lengthy motorcade.
The women’s legal counsel, Tonderai Batasara of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, confirmed the arrests.
“The 37 women were cautioned and discharged and no formal charges where preferred against them. They were warned not to conduct a public gathering without police clearance,” she said.
“The women where distributing leaflets with information regarding the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. What seemed to have triggered the arrests was that coincidentally the President Robert Mugabe’s motorcade was supposed to use the same road. The women were putting on orange t-shirts representing love. This was seen by the first out-riders who I think asked for the women to be arrested or removed.”
Mugabe was returning from attending his party’s politburo meeting at Zanu PF headquarters in the capital.
Batasara said it was wrong for police to arrest the women for distributing leaflets.
“It is very difficult at the moment to say why this happened because surely under the law anyone or organisation should be able to distribute leaflets to motorists and pedestrians leaflets with information regarding their activities,” the lawyer said.
The arrests come barely two days after police engaged in in skirmishes with members of militant rights group Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) who wanted to present a petition to the House of Assembly on issues including brutality by law enforcement agents.
About two hundred men and women brought traffic to a standstill in Central Harare during the busy lunch hour period as they sang and chanted slogans blasting the way police have handled investigations into the abuse of women and children.