On June 11, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) held a peaceful demonstration to launch the People’s Charter, a document which came as a result of an eleven month process of consultation with Zimbabwe People on what they want in their society.
To start things off, the police decided to arrest two members of Woza — and then between 100 and 150 other women voluntarily handed themselves in. Everyone has since been released from jail.
From Woza – Minutes before the peaceful protest was about to begin, a police vehicle arrived at the Post Office, the starting point of the demonstration. An officer armed with an AK 47 assault rifle alighted and approached two members. He said to them – “you are always talking about rights, but why don’t you say what rights you are talking about.” He then ordered them into the vehicle and drove them to the police station. Approximately 150 other members decided to follow and hand themselves in. Police stopped recording down their names after an hour, saying they were tired.
When the female officer in charge asked them why they were there, the women briefed her on the hunger in their homes, their inability to pay school fees and the fact that they were no longer allowed to dig for gold to help themselves. She apparently sympathised with them saying she also found it hard to make ends meet in her home. She then called the District Administrator to attend the ‘meeting’. He listened to the complaints; telling them food aid would soon be coming and that they should set more affordable fees, as parents. He accepted the People’s Charter and placards, saying that he would pass them on to his seniors and that a reply would come to them soon. They were then told to go home.
When lawyers attended shortly after their release, police denied that any women had been arrested – they had merely had a meeting with them. The lawyer did overhear some police officers planning to locate the whereabouts of Jenni Williams who was in the area to monitor proceedings however. Fortunately Williams was able to leave in the company of the lawyers before they could make good their plan.
WOZA declare a victory for non-violent protest and acknowledge the ‘sisterhood’ from the officer in charge who treated the WOZA activists with respect. We look forward to the promised food aid, hopefully without any political strings attached, from the District Administrator to be fulfilled. (source)
The arrests are following a similar incident from last week, where some Members of WOZA held another March to launch the group’s “10 Steps to a New Zimbabwe” Campaign. “The two leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were charged with promoting public violence but were granted bail of $100,000 each. (source)
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