I want to dedicate this day to the beautiful and brave women of Zimbabwe. Never to be deterred, only last week 11 of their members were arrested, the women and men took to the streets in five separate protests against the continued arrest and torture of their members. The women of WOZA have from the beginning been at the forefront of the struggle against Robert Mugabe’s regime. They have never faltered despite repeated beatings, arrests, imprisonment and torture. This report from yesterday’s march by Sokwanele.
The five protests began from locations surrounding the High Court. Two of the protests managed to reach the 8th Avenue Court but three protests were dispersed by riot police and army. Three women have been arrested but have not been located at the police station by human rights lawyers. WOZA is concerned for their safety as police are hiding them. The three are Eneles Dube, Janet Dube and Selina Dube.
As Bulawayo awoke to heavy police and army presence in the city, WOZA leaders decided to reduce the protest to the bravest of the brave numbering 500 female and male members. Another strategy adopted was to conduct flash protests, (appear and disappear as soon as police arrive). Additionally, headlines from the daily newspapers revealed an unofficial ban of rally and protests.
Higher numbers of riot police were deployed at the previous target of WOZA protests — The Chronicle. However they quickly heard the loud singing and ran up several city blocks to respond. The song that carried a strong message — Kubi kubi siyaya — noma kunjani — besitshaya; besibopha; besidubula, siyaya. Roughly translated “the situation is bad but we will still get where we are going, even if the beats us, arrest us, or shoot to kill us, we will get there”. One police officer ordering one of the protests to disperse said — what rights are you talking about? — you are lying, you want to start a revolution!
After they dispersed the protests, about 40 uniformed and plain clothed police officers picked up every single placard and newsletter, exposing two of their colleagues who had tortured members. One police officer came across a man holding the placard. He asked the man to show him it and asked why he was writing on it. The man said he needs scrap paper to write something down. The officer took it and proceeded to carefully fold this A2 size placard into the smallest piece imaginable and put it in his pocket telling the man, holding such a thing is not allowed.
The protests taking place around International Women’s Day provide an opportunity to demand respect for Women’s rights and for peace in Zimbabwe. The theme adopted as part of the Constitutional reform process is ‘the rising of the women means the rising of the nation — No more poverty and starvation, many sweating for a few to benefit”.