Zim Women Pressure Group WOZA Wins Undergarments “War"
Harare, June 5, 2014 – Zimbabwe’s leading women’s rights pressure
group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) has won a landmark ruling
compelling the police to allow women detainees to keep their
undergarments while in detention.
The Constitutional was forced to make the ruling Thursday after WOZA
leaders through their lawyers, Advocate Lewis Uriri, Advocate Taona
Sibanda, all member lawyers of ZLHR, Dzimbabwe Chimbga and Bellinda
Chinowawa of ZLHR, the WOZA leaders petitioned the Supreme Court
sitting as a Constitutional Court in 2011 seeking an order compelling
the government to ensure that holding cells at Harare Central Police
Station meet basic hygienic conditions.
The WOZA leaders Jennifer Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara
Manjengwa and Celina Madukani were arrested in April 2010 during a
demonstration organised by the women’s rights pressure group against
appalling service delivery from the state-run Zimbabwe Electricity
WOZA cited the then co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Police
Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and the then Attorney General
(AG) Johannes Tomana as the respondents and protested that the
conditions at Harare Central Police Station where they were detained
for six days fell short of minimum standards of decency.
In a 16-page judgment handed down Thursday by Justice Vernanda
Ziyambi, who led a panel of five judges including Justice Rita
Makarau, Justice Paddington Garwe, Justice Yunus Omerjee and Justice
Anne-Mary Gowora in hearing the WOZA leaders’ constitutional challenge
in June 2012, ruled that several of their constitutional rights were
violated after they were arrested in April 2010 and detained in filthy
detention cells at Harare Central Police Station.
The ConCourt declared that the four WOZA leaders’ rights had been
violated and had been discriminated against when they were arrested
and detained in filthy detention cells at Harare Central Police
Station four years ago.
“Detention ought not to reduce the detainee to humiliation and
indignity. Every detainee is entitled to be treated with some modicum
of decency and respect. The order to the applicants to remove their
brassieres caused them great humiliation. Such treatment meted out to
the applicants cannot be said to be reasonably necessary to prevent
their escape which is the only derogation allowed by Section 15 of the
right enshrined therein,” reads art of the judgment seen by Radio VOP.
The judges who all concurred to the judgment delivered by Justice
Ziyambi made a finding that the WOZA leaders’ rights were violated as
they were detained in conditions that constitute inhuman and degrading
treatment in violation of their rights enshrined in Section 15 of the
old Constitution. The ConCourt also ruled that the WOZA leaders’ right
to protection against discrimination enshrined in Section 23 of the
old Constitution had been violated. The WOZA leaders had alleged that
they were treated in a discriminatory manner by the police who
subjected them to sanitary conditions, restrictions or disabilities
that peculiarly isolate them and amount to inhuman degrading
Consequently, the ConCourt ordered the co-Ministers of Home Affairs
and Chihuri to take all necessary steps and measures within their
power to ensure that the holding cells at Harare Central Police
Station shall have clean and salubrious flashing toilets with toilet
paper and a washing bowl, the flashing toilets shall be cordoned off
from the main cell to ensure privacy and that a good standard of
hygiene shall be maintained in the holding cells.
The Judges also ordered that every person detained in police custody
overnight shall be furnished with a clean mattress and adequate
blankets, ensure adequate bathing facilities for all persons detained
in custody overnight, allow every person detained access at all times
to wholesome drinking water from a source other than the tap above the
toilet and permit women detained in police custody to keep their
undergarments, including brassieres, and to wear suitable footwear.
The ConCourt’s judgment is the second landmark ruling in less than ten
years that ZLHR has won in the country’s apex court after filing
constitutional applications over filthy and inhuman conditions in the
country’s police cells. In 2005, the Supreme Court condemned police
cells at Harare’s Matapi and Highlands police stations as degrading
and inhuman and unfit for holding criminal suspects. The Supreme
Court’s ruling followed an application filed by ZLHR on behalf of
former Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union secretary-general Wellington
Chibebe and Nancy Kachingwe after they had been detained at the two
grubby holding cells which fell short of the minimum standards of