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Dozens of Zimbabwe Women Marchers Charged Under Security Laws  - 2004-09-30

A protest march across Zimbabwe ended prematurely for 42 women, who were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace under the country's tough security laws. The women were on a 450-kilometer march to protest proposed laws that would ban human rights organizations.

The 42 women were arrested Tuesday near Chegutu, 100 kilometers west of Harare.

They were not asked to plead to the charges and were represented in the Chegutu Magistrates Court by a lawyer.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said the women had claimed they were walking to raise money for charity. He said when it became clear from their banners and slogans that this was not the case, they were arrested. He said police permission is needed for protest marches.

The women were with a group that left Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, last week to walk to 450 kilometers north to the capital, Harare.

Another eight women who completed the journey were arrested in Harare Wednesday and charged under the same law.

They arrived in the capital singing and laughing, but without their placards, and few people realized who they were.

The women belong to an organization called Women of Zimbabwe Arise, WOZA, which has seen about 300 of its members arrested at various demonstrations since it was formed two years ago.

The women said they were on a peace and justice protest march. In a news release issued before they began their long, hot journey last week, they said they objected to a new law due to go to parliament soon, which seeks to ban all non-governmental organizations involved in human rights activities.

According to Zimbabwe's laws, the eight still in prison in Harare have to be charged or released on Friday.