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Zimbabwe Women Activists Protest Crisis Mediation; Seven Arrested

Police in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday arrested seven members of the activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise for protesting what they said was an exclusionary crisis mediation process led by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

WOZA National Coordinator Jenni Williams and another senior officer of the group, Magodonga Mahlangu, were arrested during the demonstration.

Some 100 WOZA members demonstrated against what they said was their exclusion from the South African-led crisis mediation talks involving representatives of the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. WOZA said it should be included to voice the concerns of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Government and opposition representatives in the talks were scheduled to hold a second round of face-to-face discussions on Friday in South Africa.

WOZA issued a statement demanding whether it was the intention of Mr. Mbeki and the heads of state of the Southern African Development Community which appointed him crisis mediator "to bring about a new government without any political, economic and social reform? Or is their objective something more meaningful?"

The group said Mr. Mbeki and SADC "should secure the cooperation of the present government in allowing the transitional process to go ahead without interference and press them to step down from office to allow for an effective transition."

WOZA member Nolwandle Simunyu, who took part in Wednesday's demonstrations, told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the riot police who dispersed their gathering soon after it started assaulted some protesters.

Lawyer Kossam Ncube, representing the seven detained activists, said he had seen his clients and was hopeful that they would be arraigned in court on Thursday.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe …