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

Supply Authority.

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