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Declaring a Health Emergency is Not Enough – a communique from WOZA

In memory of Julia Chapeyama and Thembelani Lunga

The outbreak of cholera in epidemic proportions has brought Zimbabwe back to the attention of the region and the world.  Zimbabwe’s complex emergency, which is now causing so much suffering, taking lives and breaking the society apart at its seams, has been several years in the making. A key factor in creating a perfect environment for the breeding and spread of the cholera bacterium has been the neglect of essential services by the ZANU PF government over the years. But this has only been one effect of complete mismanagement and deliberate disregard for the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. ZANU PF rule has brought a decline in basic standards of living for many years now; but in the months while Robert Mugabe has clung to power in the face of rejection by the people at the polls in March this year, the downward spiral has changed into a precipitous plunge.

In August this year, just when the first cases of cholera were being reported in Harare and Chitungwiza, WOZA undertook research designed to present a picture of the living standards of our members in Harare-Chitungwiza and Bulawayo.  Some of the results of that study are now available, and present a stark demonstration of the circumstances, which have provided the backdrop for the cholera epidemic.

Please click here to read the communique: communique-declaring-a-health-emergency-is-not-enough

WOZA AND MOZA commemorate Human Rights Day in the streets of Bulawayo – no cause for celebration

WOZA members outside The Chronicle, 10 Dec 08
WOZA members outside The Chronicle, 10 Dec 08

OVER 1,000 members of WOZA marched through the streets of central Bulawayo today to the offices of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper. The peaceful group distributed flyers calling on the so-called government to stand aside to allow the United Nations to deal with the humanitarian crisis. Other flyers distributed by the group demanded the immediate release of Jestina Mukoko, Violet Mupfuranhehwe and her two-year old baby and the other pro-democracy activists abducted in the last few weeks. They also sang custom-composed songs to portray their message. No arrests have been reported at the time of this release.

The peaceful protest also commemorated Human Rights Day and the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights under the theme – Human Rights of Women – Human Rights for All. Zimbabweans – stand up for the TRUTH and it will set you free of this regime.

Eight riot police, accompanied by a senior ranking officer, arrived at the Chronicle offices after the protest dispersed. They were overheard asking each other who to arrest. The officer was observed radioing for instructions, whilst the others arrested the placards and newsletters and started to follow the trail of the protest. At this time, an audit is being conducted to check if any arrests have been made.

Both protests yesterday in Harare and today in Bulawayo were lead by different levels of leadership to send a clear message to the regime that even if they arrest WOZA leaders, there are others to step forward and lead. Strict non-violent discipline was observed by all participants.

Comments overheard from bystanders in the bank queues included one woman saying to another, “this is WOZA – and they are singing the truth – children are crying.” To which the other woman replied, “why don’t you join them?” The answer: “I am a coward”.

On this Human Rights Day, WOZA would like to pay tribute to all human rights defenders in the country, commend them for their courage and urge them to remain resolute in the fight for a better Zimbabwe.

Woza Moya newsletter December 2008 – English edition

Human Rights of Women – Human Rights for All:
Universal Declaration for Human Rights 60 years after.
Zimbabweans – Stand up for the TRUTH and it will set you free of this regime.

WOZA members are commemorating the 16 Days of Activism and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The truth is that there is nothing to celebrate, human rights abuses are on the increase and Zimbabweans are dying day by day. Politicians who call themselves the government do not show that they care. As WOZA members expose what is happening, they are beaten and put in jail. Their only crime is peaceful protests that tell the truth about the plight of Zimbabweans.

What we think about the political agreement, ministerial portfolios.
Zimbabwe is now a “complex emergency”, a failed state, without a functioning government and with the destruction of the economy, the infrastructure, and social capital. This requires an immediate political solution and we call on the international community, and in particular the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), to act in defense of the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe.

In the meanwhile we call on all Zimbabweans to refuse to recognise or legitimise in any way any and all ‘government officials’, we should cease to use the word government but refer to them as ‘Zanu PF, the illegitimate ruling party’.

About the political agreement – it remains not worth the paper it was written on until it is genuinely implemented. Even if implemented Zanu PF’s behaviour indicates that they are not serious about sharing power. It has been WOZA’s long-term position that we require a transitional authority whose mandate should include dealing with the humanitarian crisis as an urgent priority, as all politicians can no longer be trusted to deal with this catastrophe.

Should there be some form of ‘unity’ government we will not accept Zanu PF holding the posts of home affairs, justice or women’s affairs. Our experiences as activists put us on the sharp edge of these posts and we therefore know how the destructive and violent Zanu PF policies filter down the structures of these ministries onto the baton stick that beats us until it draws blood or into the minds of police and prison officers that jail us while Women’s Affairs officials remain silent. They are even silent about the abduction of Jestina Mukoko, Director of Zimbabwe Peace Project.

We note the thread of gender equality running through the power sharing deal and applaud the effort made by the mostly male negotiators. Yet as we recently declared in the streets of Bulawayo, actions speak louder than words. WOZA therefore encourages the selecting of a gender equal cabinet, as we will not be silenced by empty promises.

16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Theme: Human Rights of Women – Human Rights for All: Universal Declaration for Human Rights 60 years after. WOZA has also adopted the theme. However WOZA members have boycotted any events organised or conducted by any current official from Zanu PF so called Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development in line with our view on current governance. We conduct non-violent protests all year round to demand our rights and will continue but Zimbabweans the time has come for you to join us as we demonstrate.

Zimbabweans you are not demonstrating enough – you spend days queuing and only complain to one another without acting. It is heartbreaking for a hardened WOZA activist to watch people in the queues day after day, watching the shoulders in front of them and not thinking of doing something to change their situation. We see that in Thailand, eight days of nonviolent determined action by a unified mass of people resulted in the removal of their Prime Minister. He was banned from politics by the court after he was found guilty of buying votes. Why can’t Zimbabweans learn a lesson from Thailand and act together to stop the mismanagement of our country.

As mothers of the nation, we therefore wish to tell Zimbabweans that if they do not ACT to DEMAND their rights, their children will judge them as cowards. Even a frog can decide to jump out of sewerage pond because it stinks. Do something but do it non-violently. Join ZCTU, join NCA and join our demos to change our plight.

The Universal Declaration for Human Rights came into being because of the work of a woman – Eleanor Roosevelt who is called the “First Lady of the World”. She was chairman of the Human Rights Commission during the drafting of this document. It was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The real challenge, she liked to tell United Nations delegates in later years, was one of ”actually living and working in our countries for freedom and justice for each human being.” She also said, “People have a right to demand that their government will not allow them to starve”. We need to study the example of Eleanor and demand that human rights are respected in Zimbabwe. But our rights will not just be given to us we have to demand them.

Excerpts from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights- 60 years old

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Article 21. (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26. (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Zimbabweans – Stand up for the TRUTH and it will set you free of this regime


400 WOZA members demonstrate in Harare today – theme: Human Rights of Women – Human Rights for All: Universal Declaration for Human Rights 60 years after

APPROXIMATELY 400 members of WOZA held a peaceful demonstration in the streets of Harare today calling for the immediate intervention of the international community to address the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. The peaceful protesters marched to the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to hand over a petition declaring the so-called government of ZANU PF incapable of dealing with the crisis and demanding that the United Nations step in immediately to resolve the crisis in order to protect the people of Zimbabwe. No arrests have been reported at the time of this release.

The protest also marks the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which was released on 10 December 1948.

As they marched, the peaceful protesters sang a Shona song that decries the hunger facing all Zimbabweans and handed out fliers and copies of the Declaration on Human Rights, which bystanders rushed to receive. Some comments overheard from Zimbabweans reading the flyer were, ‘these women have a very good point. They are speaking the truth.’ Upon arriving at the UNDP offices, a representative attempted to enter the offices to hand over the petition, when the doors were closed. Two representatives from the UNDP came out to receive the petition however.

The group then dispersed before police arrived. A vehicle of riot police and a water cannon were seen to respond to the scene after all protesters had dispersed.

The protest started at the point where 14 members were arrested on 28 May 2008. They were denied bail and imprisoned for 6 weeks but on this occasion have walked home free.

Trial of Williams and Mahlangu postponed to 22 January 2009

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, leaders of WOZA, appeared in Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court this morning before a packed courtroom. They were on trial for charges relating to the combined cases of the 16 October 2008 case and a 19 June 2004 arrest. The state, represented by Mr. Shawarira, was not ready for trial however and so Magistrate Msipa postponed the trial until 22 January 2009. All bail and reporting conditions were removed after an application for relaxation by the defence.

Williams and Mahlangu were arrested on 16th October at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex. They were part of a group of 200 demanding that the humanitarian crisis in the country be de-politicised and declared a national disaster. They were denied bail by Magistrate Charity Maphosa and detained in Mlondolozi Prison for three weeks before being granted bail through an appeal to the High Court. They were placed on strict bail conditions, which included reporting to police twice a week and not being allowed to travel outside a 40 kilometer radius of Bulawayo without written permission from a magistrate.

The pair had been with C/S 37 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 9:23: “any person who acts together with one or more other persons present with him or her in any place or at any meeting with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of the public …”

On Friday 28th, the State summonsed Magodonga Mahlangu for a arrest in 2004 under c/s 7(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act chapter 9:15 – “acting in a manner which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace or to create a nuisance or obstruction”. Jenni Williams did not actually receive the summons although her name is reflected in the summons given to Mahlangu.

Both cases were combined into one trial.None of the state witnesses were present in the courtroom for the 2008 matter. Only one of the state witnesses for the 2004 matter was present.

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu look forward to travelling outside of a 40 kilometre radius of Bulawayo and thank all friends who offered their solidarity.

Charge Sheet, State Outline and Witness Statement against Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu 17.10.08

Bulawayo Province CHARGE SHEET – Bulawayo Central 311/10/08

C/S 37 (1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 9:23
“Acting together with one or more other persons with him/her in any place realizing that there is a real risk or possibility of disturbing peace, security or order of the public”

In that on the 16th day of October, 2008, the accused persons MAGODONGA MAHLANGU and JENNIFER WILLIAMS one or more of them unlawfully and acting together with one or more other persons with them gathered at Mhlanhlandlela government complex singing, chanting slogans and carrying placards realizing that there is a real risk or possibility of disturbing peace, security and order of the public.

Bulawayo Central 311/10/08
C/S 37 (I) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law Codifaction and Reform Act Chapter 9:23


The accused persons in this matter is Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu who belong to a certain organization called “Women of Zimbabwe Arise” (WOZA).

The complainant in this matter is the state.
On the 16th day of October, 2008 and at around 1115hrs, the two aforesaid accused persons led a group of about 300 women and proceeded to Mhlanhlandlela complex singing, chanting slogans and carrying placards with various messages. Some of the placards were written ‘ideal lenu selibulele ilizwe, umangoye uselala eziko; sifuna amatisha esikolo”. (Translation: Your deal has destroyed the country/ the cat is using the stove as its bed (implying there is no cooking)/ We want teachers in the school)

When this group arrived at Mhlanhlandlela, they were addressed by Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. The group was then ordered to disperse by police but the two above accused persons refused to comply to the orders leading to their arrest.

The accused persons had no right whatsoever to act in the manner they did.



SIBANDA F. 064876R

1. I am a male adult aged 23 years serving in the Zimbabwe Republic Police stationed at Nkulumane Police station but currently attached to Bulawayo Provincial Reaction Group.
2. On the 16th October 2008 at about 1130hrs, I was at PRG base together with my collegues when I was summoned by OIC Byo Central to proceed at Mhlanhlandlela Complex where an unlawful demonstration was taking place.
3. On arrival I found a group of about 300 women some sitting down and some standing holding placards being addressed by Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu.
4. The gathering was ordered to disperse by OIC Central and some complied but Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu refused to disperse and they were arrested.
5. The placards had different messages written in Ndebele some had the following message:
a. Ideal lenu seli

WOZA wins Amnesty International Human Rights Award

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) has been awarded the 5th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International German Section. The award was presented at an award ceremony at the ‘Berliner Ensemble’, a well-known theatre in the centre of Berlin on Sunday 16th November. WOZA leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, received the award on behalf of the organisation.

Williams and Mahlangu, who were released on bail from Mlondolozi Prison on Thursday 6 November, won an application from Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court to be allowed to travel to Germany to receive the award.

The pair had been released on bail with strict reporting conditions. They had to report to their nearest police station twice a week and were not permitted to travel outside of a 40 kilometre radius of Bulawayo Post Office without the written permission of a magistrate.

Williams and Mahlangu appeared in Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court on Monday 11th November for a routine remand hearing where they requested permission to travel to Germany. Magistrate Maphosa requested however that the application be made in open court on Tuesday 12th. After several delays, the state decided not to oppose the travel application and reporting conditions were temporarily suspended until November 26th to allow the activists to travel to Germany. Upon their return they will resume reporting and remain within a 40 kilometre radius of Bulawayo until their trial which is scheduled for 2nd December 2008.

The German section of Amnesty International assigns the Human Rights Award every two years to people that defend and fight for human rights, especially under harsh circumstances.The award statue was designed by the internationally known sculptor Tony Cragg.

In the past, the prize was given to Turkish advocate Eren Keskin (2001), a human rights defender from Russia, Swetlana Gannuschkina (2003) and Monira Rahman from Bangladesh (2006).

Williams and Mahlangu finally released from prison after 3 weeks in custody

Jenni Williams and Magodonga were finally released from Mlondolozi Prison at 9:30 am today, three weeks to the day they were arrested. Their bail had been paid yesterday evening but prison authorities would not allow them to be released, saying the prison administration was closed and it too late.

They are in fair health, suffering from lice infections and needing to visit the doctor but otherwise okay.

They bring with them horror stories of prison conditions and treatment in both Bulawayo (Grey Street) and Mlondolozi Prisons. For the first two weeks, the activists were in the remand cell in Yard One, which is according to prison regulations. Their treatment took a bad turn last week Wednesday when Magodonga was moved into the yard inhabited by dangerous prisoners, both on remand and convicted. Yard Two also accommodates 15 mental health patients. She was put in a cell with a patient that is allowed to wander around naked and was moved from Ingutsheni Mental Health Hospital for murder. She was unable to sleep at night due to the antics of this and other patients.

The extreme hunger experienced by most prisoners means that even orange peels and the scraps on dirty plates are fought over. There is also no privacy for the female prisoners. Male prison guards are allowed to wander around the female prison and can see into washing facilities. Prisoners in Yard Two are also stripped naked every day for inspection by prison officers as they are locked down. At least three minors (aged 15 and 16) were being kept in the same cell as Williams.

Williams and Mahlangu will appear for a routine remand in Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court on Monday 10th November.

Jenni Williams and Magodonga MahlanguWOZA is delighted that the state’s petty attempt to pervert justice has finally been overruled and looks forward to challenging these farcical charges. WOZA would also like to thank Kossam Ncube and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for their support and their determination to secure the release of Jenni and Magodonga.

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu would also like to thank everyone who lobbied for their release, sent messages of solidarity and kept them in their thoughts and prayers. Solidarity from friends inside the country and around the world went a long way to ensuring that their time in Mlondolozi Prison was made more bearable. They are in good spirits and looking forward to continuing the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.

Williams and Mahlangu granted bail by High Court – still in custody

Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu have been granted bail by Justice Ndou in the Bulawayo High Court this afternoon. The two were instructed to pay bail of $200,000 each (roughly USD 1.50). Other conditions include reporting to their closest police station twice a week and not travelling outside of a 40km radius of Bulawayo Post Office without written permission from a Magistrate.

Jenni Williams and Magodonga MahlanguIn a hearing at which the two were not present, Justice Ndou ruled that the reasons Magistrate Charity Maphosa gave for denying bail were not sufficient.

Attempts to release the two were frustrated by administrative errors that meant the re-typing (twice) of their release documents. These delays meant that it was not possible to secure the release of the two this evening, although the support team did travel to Mlondolozi to try. The team will return to the prison first thing in the morning to collect them.

Bail appeal hearing set for 2.30pm Wednesday 5th November

WOZA’s lawyers have finally been given a hearing in their appeal to the High Court against Magistrate Charity Maphosa denying Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu bail. The matter will be heard before Judge Ndou at 2.30pm this afternoon, 5th November. Despite it being an urgent application, the High Court has taken over a week to give a hearing date.

In the meantime, worrying reports have been received from Mlondolozi that Jenni and Magodonga have been separated and that Magodonga has been put in the same cell as mental health patients. As well as serving as a remand prison, Mlondolozi also houses convicted prisoners and mental health patients that have committed crimes. The apparent cause of this separation is that prison authorities believe the pair to be homosexual because Jenni was observed massaging medicated gel into the injuries Magodonga received when she was beaten.