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Zimbabwe Update from Amnesty International UK: Woza Action March 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 08 March 2015 14:10

On February 13 WOZA members were seen on the streets of Zimbabwe once more. They have been largely absent from our view for the last 12 months and it was good to know that they are still very much alive and functioning. As is traditional they used Valentines’ Day to act as their vehicle to spread their message of ‘Love’. As usual they carried red roses which they handed out to the police and passers –by. Some of those roses may well have been those that you, AIUK activists, had made and sent to them.

 

Over 550 members marched through the streets of Bulawayo with the intention of handing in a petition to the Resident Minister at the Government buildings. Their theme was ‘Demanding Dignity – Demanding Women’s Empowerment!’ The protest followed a civic education programme covering the constitutional clauses on the right to earn a living. Their demands were written on placards and were also included in the Woza Moya newsletter that was distributed along with the roses.


The demands included the creation of jobs, a halt on the relocation of informal traders from Bulawayo city centre and the ‘urgent convening of a country wide consultation to map a collective way forward on how to revamp the economy putting women and youth at the centre of the economic empowerment action plan’.

 

As WOZA members marched to the government complex police officers in vehicles watched and followed. On arrival at the complex, the security guards immediately locked the gate preventing access to the building. However, they continued their peaceful protest, singing their composed songs that stated their demands and expressed their views.

 

As the final stage of the demonstration was coming to an end, 15 riot police arrived and started to push the women away with baton sticks. WOZA leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, both advised the police officers that the protest was now dispersing and asked them to allow for closing slogans and for peaceful dispersal. Both were rudely told to shut up and manhandled as they tried to stress that police officers were now causing disorder. The police then herded the women in a forced procession going out of town, prodding, manhandling and beating them. Six members received medical attention for soft tissue damage, and one fainted.

 

The WOZA leaders have resolved to write a formal letter of complaint to the Police authorities about the police officers’ behaviour and the denial of their rights to peaceful assembly and protest.

 

WOZA’s demands for the right to earn a living and the need for a countrywide plan to get the country out of its economic doldrums comes at a time when it is reported that more than half of Zimbabwean adults earn less than$100 a month. The Finscope Consumer Survey Zimbabwe 2014 also revealed that nearly half of the population had to skip meals for lack of cash, and that 36% of children are unable to attend school as their families cannot afford the fees. Job losses continue to be reported with the recorded loss of 7000 in 2014 with companies going into liquidation. The Zimbabwe Trade Union Congress reported that 52 firms cuts jobs last year and these included some major employers like the Grain Marketing Board, Nissan Zimbabwe and First Mutual.

 

Other groups have also tried to make their voices heard. In February, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe had a planned march blocked by police in Harare. The latter on the eve of the march issued a series of demands that the organisers needed to meet for the march to go ahead. The teachers’ leaders claim that they had given the authorities sufficient notice of their intentions, but as the new requirements were only made known to them 24 hours before the scheduled date, the march was effectively prevented.

 

The political situation in Zimbabwe continues to be uncertain and the necessary Constitutional reforms are still to be made. Meanwhile rights to freedom of speech and rights of assembly are being denied to its citizens.

 

ACTION

Please ask your groups to write to the police authorities, with copies to the Ambassador in London asking them to ensure the right to assembly and peaceful protest are protected by all officers and that any contraventions are investigated and those responsible held to account.

 

Also please send solidarity messages to WOZA. They have been silent for so long, let’s give them some further encouragement to continue their struggle for human rights in Zimbabwe.

 

Suggested action follows:

 

1. Suggested letters:

Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri

Zimbabwe Republic Police

Police Headquarters

PO Box 8807, Causeway

Harare. Zimbabwe

 

Dear Commissioner-General

 

 As members of Amnesty International we are writing to urge you to ensure that all officers under your command uphold the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of expression and rights to peaceful assembly.

 

On February 13 2015, members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise were effectively denied those rights by the actions of police officers who used batons and unnecessary force to disperse an otherwise legal and peaceful march through the street of Bulawayo. Six members needed medical treatment following the police actions.

 

We call on you to investigate this matter and to ensure that those responsible are held to account. We also urge you to ensure that all police officers are fully trained in the provisions of the Constitution and that they always act in a professional and impartial manner.

 

Thank you for your attention in this important matter.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 Please send copies of your letters to:

 Zimbabwean Ambassador,

 His Excellency Mr Gabriel Mharadze Machinga

Zimbabwe House

429 Strand

London WC2R 0JR

Address him as ‘Your Excellency’.

 

 If you wish you can also send copies to WOZA.

 

2. Solidarity action.

Please use your ingenuity for this!

You could send a large card from the group – perhaps of red roses, a photograph of your group members, a photograph of a local scene where you live, a collage made by group members and/or member of the public if you have an event coming up…..

 

Suggested wording:

  • ‘In solidarity with your important human rights work’;

  • ‘The power of love will overcome the love of power’;

  • ‘We support you in your struggle for human rights in Zimbabwe’.

     

    Send your messages in English, Shona or Ndebele to:

    WOZA

    PO Box FM701

    Famona

    Bulawayo

    Zimbabwe

     

    Thank you.

 

How can you help?

The Zimbabwe Vigil exists entirely on donations from the public and well wishers. You can help us by donating via a deposit into our account Thank you.