Police in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare on Monday arrested around 60 members of the activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise who demonstrated at the parliament to draw attention to a report alleging state violence against its members.
Those arrested included Jenni Williams, national coordinator of the Bulawayo-based organization, which has drawn increasing attention with its confrontational tactics.
A VOA correspondent said WOZA members distributed fliers declaring, in the Shona indigenous language, “Respect women,” which police quickly confiscated.
The arrested activists were being represented by members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, sources said, but it was unclear if they would face charges. Police are alleged to have beaten WOZA demonstrators on more than one occasion, but at times have just held them overnight and released them after payment of a fine.
Elsewhere, an undetermined number of student activists were arrested in Masvingo for staging a demonstration demanding the release of the secretary general of the student organization of Great Zimbabwe University in the provincial capital.
Edison Hlatswayo has been held since September 27 on charges he committed malicious injury to property during disturbances at the university.
Students from Masvingo colleges and members of the Zimbabwe National Students Union from around the country joined the so-called “Free Edison Campaign.”
Hlatswayo was in court Monday in Masvingo for the forth time and at that time was remanded back into custody at the request of the state, which said it needed to confirm whether Hlatswayo truly needed to go to Harare to take exams.
The activists arrested Monday were addressing students at Masvingo Polytechnic when police pounced on them, according to student sources.
Zimbabwe National Students Union General Council member Mehluli Dube told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his organization viewed the continued detention of Hlatswayo as an attempt by the government to silence all students.