The police, using a pick-up truck, raided city nightclubs arresting “ladies of the night”. A number of women and a few men who were going about their business were also arrested and later released after the screening at Gweru Central Police Station.
Most of those arrested spent the night at Gweru Central Police Station holding cells while a few were released after paying an admission of guilty fine of US$5 each.
A number of women who wanted to pay the fine could not do so because the station ran out of receipt books after a few had paid, resulting in them spending the night in holding cells.
This reporter witnessed the raid, which was described by some owners of nightspots as a deliberate move by the police to frustrate their business.
“We are not against police arresting those individuals found loitering for the purposes of prostitution but to get into the bars and arrest women enjoying their night is unacceptable,” said one of the nightclub owners.
He said despite numerous campaigns to educate society on the rights of women, their rights continued to be violated with impunity.
“Do we have a law that forbids women from drinking beer at nightclubs?” he asked.
The owner of Uptown Nightclub and former Member of the House of Assembly for Gweru Urban, Mr Timothy Mkahlera, unsuccessfully pleaded with the police to release his patrons who were caught in the dragnet.
A worker at Uptown Nightclub said yesterday that soon after the police raid, the night joint was deserted.
“We were forced to close at 1am instead of 3am because all patrons had left,” he said.
A number of women who were victims of the police raid described the police action as inhumane and degrading. They said many of them were going about their business when they were raided by the police.
“Is it a crime to move on the streets at night?” asked one of the women.
She said the women were not given a chance to explain themselves by the officers who seemed eager to punish them for being women.
“What is painful is that among the officers was a woman who seemed to enjoy her fellow women being humiliated,” said another women.
Asked to comment on the raid, police spokesman Inspector Patrick Chademana said the raid was prompted by a dispute at one of the city nightspot that involved a number of men and women.
“Police were called to deal with two separate disputes involving patrons at one licensed liquor outlet and in the process it was established that the dispute bordered on the disagreements over proceeds from prostitution,” he said.
Inspector Chademana said police ended up rounding up all those suspected to be loitering for the purposes of prostitution. He said the suspects, who included both men and women, were given an option to pay a fine or appear in court to answer charges of loitering for the purposes of prostitution.
Commenting on the police raid, Musasa Project official Mrs Fombo Shumba said it was disappointing that the rights of women continued to be violated.
“Women’s rights are human rights so women, just l ike their male counterparts, have a right to socialise. They should be free to decide where to go and must feel secure and safe even on the streets at night,” said Mrs Shumba.