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An open letter to Business, Minister of Industry and Commerce and Minister of Home Affairs

An open letter to:
Zimbabwean retail and manufacturing business people
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Obert Mpofu
Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Kembo Mohadi

Fellow Zimbabweans,
Firstly we wish to introduce ourselves to you; we are Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise, a socio-economic movement formed to press for the promises of the liberation war to be delivered. We want a Zimbabwe where there is equality and respect for all its people. The Zimbabwe that we dream of is outlined in our People’s Charter that came about after consulting Zimbabweans across the country last year.

Included in the People’s Charter is the demand for adequate, affordable food with price controls on basic commodities if necessary. We note that price controls have now been introduced by government, supposedly as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure that basic commodities are affordable. We thank you for taking a step in the right direction.

We also note however that the introduction of price controls on every item for sale in the country has also led to basic commodities (and just about everything else) disappearing from the shelves. Slashing prices it is not enough – something needs to be done to ensure there are enough supplies of basic commodities for everyone. This will not happen if corruption and inflation are not tackled by meaningful political change. Slashing the zeroes did not help – neither will just slashing prices.

For us to truly believe that government has the people at heart and wishes to ensure that its people will have enough to eat today and every day, we wish to ask that both business and government join hands to take the following steps.

1. Government and the manufacturing sector should negotiate in good faith to find ways to produce more affordable food without compromising the living wage of workers. As a priority, fuel needs to be made available at affordable prices to reduce transport costs.
2. The uniformed forces should join the queues with others, with immediate effect, instead of having their own queues. If the Minister of Home Affairs did an unbiased investigation into the parallel or black market he would find that it is the family members of police and army who are allowed to buy in bulk – they take these goods onto the pavements and sell to us at inflated prices.
3. We ask the Ministry to reshuffle the Price Control Task Force as they are now corrupting the programme. There should be transparency as to how they are selected and what formula is used to work out the new prices.
4. We call on Government to stop harassing shop owners and allow them to stock and trade freely and honestly at the price set.
5. We ask shop owners to sell basic commodities through their formal businesses and their front door rather than out the back door and onto the black market.
6. We call on all Zimbabweans to be part of the solution – not part of the problem. We should not support or spread the black market and allow prices to skyrocket. Let us all help to bring down prices so we can have enough food in our homes. Please our children are starving – stop hoarding!
7. We also ask the Ministries of Home Affairs and Industry and Commerce to realise that WOZA and MOZA have a constitutional right to peaceful protest. We have the right to demand that food be available and affordable. Stop arresting and beating us when we only want to feed our families.

The Tale of Two Trials

Bertha Sibanda (55), a Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) member, who is on trial charged under the Public Indecency and Public Exposure Act, appeared on trial in Tredgold Magistrate Court, Bulawayo. She appeared before Magistrate Ms Charity Maphosa on Monday 30th September 2013 for continuation of trial and was defended by Kossam Ncube. A ruling is expected on 9th October 2013.

On the same day, Magodonga Mahlangu also appeared on trial in court one before Magistrate C. J. Mberewere, charged with making offensive calls without reasonable cause. Defense lawyer, Nontokozo Tachiona applied for Mahlangu’s discharge when the stated closed its case. The complainant, MDC T ward chair for Matshobana in Bulawayo, and the two state witnesses contradicted their own evidence and disassociated themselves with their statements prepared by the law and order department of the police who insisted the matter be prosecuted. The Magistrate will rule on if Mahlangu must take the stand in her own defense and present witnesses for the defense on 8th October 2013. (For more info see this link

Bertha Sibanda was amongst 180 WOZA members who were arrested during the Valentine’s Day protest on the 14th of February 2013. She was detained after the rest of members were released as she had removed her outer garments whilst in the Bulawayo Police station courtyard.

Mr. Shepherd Nhamburo prosecuted for the State, leading evidence that on Sibanda removed her skirt and blouse in public in full view of the police who were arresting the protesting group of WOZA women.

The business before the court on 30 September was for the accused person and defense witnesses to take the stand. Ms Sibanda told the court that she stripped following an instruction from the arresting police officers who shouted bvisa (a Shona language word meaning remove your clothes).

She said, “Police officers shouted ‘bvisa’ to the group and I asked them if we should removed our clothes and they responded with same word ‘bvisa’. I asked them about three times if I should go ahead and they still maintained that we should strip.”

According to Sibanda, there was nothing wrong with her stripping since she only stripped after enquiring if she should do it and got an affirmative response from the police officers. “I thought they wanted me to strip following the arrest. I have information from other people’s narrations that women are required to remove their clothes when they are arrested,” explained Sibanda.

Two witnesses, both members of WOZA arrested on the day in question, Hlalaphi Ndlovu and Joyce Ndebele took the stand and both maintained that the instruction to remove clothes came from the police officers. The members felt that the command shouted to the group of arrested women, misled them to think that they were under arrest and expected to remove their clothes in the courtyard. The two said that they did not strip as WOZA leader Magodonga Mahlangu stopped them told them to sit down and await for formal procedures after a telephone conversation with WOZA leader Jennifer Williams.

Ms Mahlangu took the stand on 1st October 2013 when the trial resumed. She testified that she had stopped the mass undressing after calling Jennifer Williams to advise her that over 180 members had been arrested. Williams had been part of the protest and Officer Commanding Bulawayo District Chief Inspector Maninge had asked her to come upstairs to his office so as to discussing the cause of the protest. When Mahlangu called Williams to advise of the arrests, Williams was in the office of the chief Inspector and she immediately advised him of the news and announced to him and to Mahlangu on the phone that she was walking out of the meeting as the police boss had obviously not negotiating in good faith by arresting members.

Williams duly arrived at Bulawayo Central police station with the police boss. He had addressed the protest promising that no one would be arrested whilst Williams meet with him and his police staff. Williams and members seated in the courtyard refused to leave pending the release of Bertha and 8 male members but Chief Inspector Maninge ordered the Police Reactions group to beat anyone who refused to leave the police station despite them having been brought there under arrest by the same Police Reaction group.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) would like to thank Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for their continued support in deploying their members to defend WOZA human rights defenders as they face persecution by prosecution by a police force selectively applying the law.

Zimbabweans +solidarity friends beat the drum of peace and development to break the silence of violence

WOZA calls on Zimbabweans to beat the drum of peace and development to break the silence on violence

WOZA joins the rest of the world’s activists in campaigning for an end to gender-based violence in the year 2013. To mark the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, the organisation chose to look beyond the sphere of physical violence to consider the position of women in a society which perpetrates systemic violence and socio-economic disadvantage. Violence against women includes the range of abuses committed against women that stem from gender inequality and women’s subordinate status in society relative to men.

WOZA, an organisation of human rights defenders campaign against violence in all its forms all year long, but chose to march on women human rights defenders day 29 November 2013 to raise the profile of this special day. WOZA will march the same route they marched on this day in 2006 to launch their peoples charter. On this day over a hundred members were beaten and arrested, broken limbs of adults and a baby the brunt of police baton sticks.

To mobilise for this special day, WOZA conducted a survey amongst a total of 7 180 of its members, with 6 428 being women, to investigate their perceptions of women’s position in their communities. Special attention was paid on whether women’s economic status was improving or deteriorating. Members were asked to comment on a series of statements arrived at as a result of the discussion around the ZANU PF Elections theme, the “Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset) and the continuing engendered analysis of development on how women were fulfilling their role in their homes and in society. Since the universal 16 Days of activism campaign calls for more substantial responses on the part of governments to act with due diligence in protecting and preventing gender-based violence, members were also required to give comments regarding benefits from government development programmes.

The results were clear. 81% of WOZA Harare and Bulawayo members do not believe that women are respected and do not believe that violence against them has ceased. 89% of member do not believe that they will be able to benefit from the ZANU PF’s indigenization policies, and 68,2% expressed that the police harassment and criminalization of women informal traders must stop for socio economic growth but many called for job creation as an alternative. All believed that women were working very hard to create food security for their families, but many noted that this was done against all odds. The vast majority believe the development situation in their communities had deteriorated. They do not believe that ZANU PF will implement the new constitution effectively. The responses show great disillusionment with and distrust of government and a keen sense of the disadvantages felt by women in spite of their hard work to provide for their families. The scars that women bear today are not just a result of physical violence but are deep rooted in years of poor governance by the state, emotional and psychological manipulation in the home, community and workplace as well as deliberate marginalization of women in all spheres of life. It does not need to be physical violence for women to bear the scars of abuse.

In a list of demands contained in the report, WOZA members demand Free primary education was promised, but children are still chased away from school due to non-payment of fees; A programme and funding plan for the better roads promised by the president in his inauguration speech and an initial position was taken against the proposed urban toll gate project. Members also demand land, inputs and to be shared equally among men and women and in a non partisan framework. Moreover, women and youth are waiting for the re-opening of industries to create employment and the detailed plan as to how these firms will create 2 million jobs with a living wage as promised during campaigns.
The same group of citizens demand income generating projects for women and these projects should be distributed in a non partisan system. The vulnerable and the disadvantaged in communities, such as the elderly, the orphans, disabled and widowed are still suffering and being made to complete food aid forms to no avail. WOZA members demand home ownership; city council should build homes for people and there should be transparency in the distribution of stands. Residents are tired of being lodgers and paying high rentals. Last but not least, they demand the ZimAsset programme to urgently provide affordable and nutritious home grown food and to put women first in all the ZimAsset implementation programmes

WOZA made additionally recommendations on a number of premises that include devolution, activation of the constitution, working public institutions, community involvement, civic education, as well as justice and fairness.
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See the full report on our website at the following link

CSO Statement on President Mugabe’s inflammatory tribal comments

On April 29, 2015, the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, who is also the current SADC and AU Chairperson, speaking at a press conference at the end of a special SADC summit on industrialisation in Harare said the ‘…the Kalangas were/are very notorious in South Africa,… known to be crooks because they are not educated enough to get (descent) jobs’.

This blatant insult to the Kalanga people comes a few months after Grace Mugabe’s insults to men in Matabeleland South, accusing them of being ‘lazy’, ‘interested in sex’ and ‘run away to South Africa’, while in Gwanda during her whirlwind meet-the-people rallies. These statements reflect the ZANU PF Government’s thinking about the people of Matabeleland.

The President’s statement was a direct affront to the constitution of Zimbabwe’s Section 56(3) of the Zimbabwean Constitution, under the Bill of Rights (Chapter 4) provides for non-discrimination, unfair treatment on such grounds as their tribe, ethnic or social origin, culture, or economic or social status. The statements also negate Section 90(2) which outlines one of the duties of the President as being to ‘promote unity and peace in the nation for the benefit and well-being of the people of Zimbabwe’.
President Mugabe’s tribal insults are only a perpetuation of his tendency to destroy every opportunity for realising national peace and cohesion. Over the years, the President has been quoted advising his ZANU PF supporters to treat fellow Zimbabweans as ‘snakes’, ‘weeds’, ‘rotten pumpkins’, ‘puppies’, ‘sellouts’ among other derogatory names. He has previously labelled ‘Zimbabweans who are descendants of Malawians, Zambians, Mozambicans and other nationals as totem-less outsiders’ among other names and insults.

These have incited, Gukurahundi and destruction of infrastructure, physical, emotional and other forms of violence against white farmers, opposition party members, women and human rights defenders among other groups.

President Mugabe, unlike other Presidents who have sought to protect their citizens against xenophobic attacks, fuels further xenophobic attacks against Kalanga people whom he has described as ‘criminals’. The implication also is that the Kalanga and people in Matabeleland have invited xenophobic attacks on all foreigners in South Africa.

President Mugabe’s utterances that Zimbabweans are ‘voluntarily’ leaving the country to enjoy life in South Africa, are a disingenuous attempt to hide the real reasons why Zimbabweans have left the country in numbers to look for opportunities elsewhere. If Mugabe is to be sincere, he should surely know that Zimbabweans have not risked their lives skipping borders to other countries out of choice but have been pushed by economic hardships violence and his failed leadership.

We, the undersigned organisations, urge the President to personally and unequivocally retract the blatantly discriminatory, derogatory, divisive, demeaning and unwarranted statement and apologise to the Kalanga people in particular and people of Matabeleland in general without delay.

We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to disassociate itself from such statements which promote tribal hatred and scandalously flout the constitution of the land and take corrective measures to ensure that the Kalanga and all Zimbabweans leaving in South Africa are protected both in South Africa and back home.

President Mugabe, as Chairperson of SADC has made statements that are against the vision and common agenda of the regional bloc which are geared towards the attainment of social protection of citizens. His statements are also an affront to the SADC Treaty which upholds the principle of non-discrimination in Article 6(2).

We thus call upon SADC, to reprimand its chairperson and disassociate itself from his statements that promote discrimination and violence against a people.

The President has a duty, as the Chairman of the African Union to uphold the African Union Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognizes the right to freedom from discrimination (Article 2 and 18(3)), equality (Article 3), life and personal integrity (Article 4), dignity (Article 5). President Mugabe’s insult to the Kalanga people and indeed all people of Matabeleland South is a direct affront to these provisions.

We then call upon the African Union to also disassociate itself from the statement from its Chairperson and ensure that the AU Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Charter on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Zimbabwe has ratified are respected and implemented by its Chairperson and member states.

We also call upon the Roman Catholic Church in particular and Christians in general to denounce the statements by President Mugabe as they are against Christian values.

The leadership and membership of the undersigned civil society organisations convey heartfelt condolences to families who lost their beloved ones in the xenophobic violence in South Africa, state-sanctioned violence in the post-independence Zimbabwe. We call upon fellow Zimbabweans to vigilantly safeguard the constitution and demand responsible leadership and Government.

(Note South Africans may colloquially refer all people from as Kalanga)

List of Organisations:
1. Bulawayo Agenda
2. Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)
3. Bulawayo Unemployment Youth Agenda (BUYA)
4. Christian Alliance
5. Christian Legal Society (CLS)
6. Freedom First Project
7. Grace To Heal Trust
8. Gwanda Residents Association
9. Habakkuk Trust
10. Ibhetshu Likazulu
11. Makokoba Development Trust
12. Mission to Live Trust
13. Mthwakazi Heritage Trust
14. National Youth Development Trust
15. Plumtree Development Trust
16. Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe
17. Radio Dialogue
18. Rural Communities Empowerment Trust
19. Shalom Project
20. Umkhonto kaMthwakazi
21. Victoria Falls Residents Association
22. Victory Siyanqoba Trust
23. Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
24. Zimbabwe Chambers of Informal Economies Association (ZCIEA)
25. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
26. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
27. Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

Trial of two WOZA members set for Monday 23rd June 2008

In her judgement that was delayed from Monday, Magistrate Rose Dube ruled this morning that the two WOZA members arrested last week for distributing materials likely to cause a breach of the peace should go on trial and set the trial date for 23rd June.

Police approach WOZA marchers near High Court, 5 May 08Trust Moyo and Cynthia Ncube had been arrested in Bulawayo last Monday, 5th May, after a demonstration calling for an end to the recent spate of politically motivated violence.

The two are charged under Section 37 1(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘… distributes or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation that is obscene, threatening, abusive or insulting, intending thereby to provoke a breach of the peace…’

The defence had argued that materials carried by the two were not ‘obscene, threatening, abusive or insulting’ and therefore the charges should be dropped. The Magistrate ruled that as the two had not denied carrying the materials, a trial was necessary to decide whether the messages were obscene etc. The materials in question are a banner stating ‘we want bread and roses’ and a newsletter that includes the sentence; “we immediately call on Robert Mugabe to hand over power to the winner of the presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai”.

To read a copy of the newsletter that is deemed to be ‘ obscene, threatening, abusive or insulting’, click here. Woza Moya English May 2008

Ruling of Magistrate Msipa on constitutional application in the matter of the State vs Williams and Mahlangu

The applicants are the founder and coordinator of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). They were arrested on 16 October 2008 and 19 June 2004 upon allegations of having committed both jointly acts likely to interfere with ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public and also on allegation acting together in any place realising that there’s a real risk or possibility of the disturbing peace, security or order of the public.

On 22 January 2009, counsel for the applicants challenged the right of the state to prosecute the applicants. He did so, on the ground that the facts with the particular sections do not disclose any offence and further he stated that there would be previous prejudice if the accused are prosecuted. It is apparent that their conduct is protected by law. The state responded by opposing the application and stated in its argument that the charges should stand as they are; that both charges disclose an offence in this application the court dismissed the application and reasons were availed to both counsel.

On the 27th January2009 the applicants through their lawyer approached the court seeking a postponement due to the fact that he had other commitments and needed sufficient time to go through the ruling that had been made on the 22nd January 2009.

Once again the state was opposed to the postponement and reiterated by indicting the court that witnesses were in attendance and the defence’s request to postpone the matter was meant to delay the trial.

The court ruled that the trial should proceed and the appellants filed a notice of appeal against refusal to grant a postponement on the 28 January 2009. The order was granted on the 13 February by the High Court that matter should be postponed to 26 February. On the 25th February 2009 counsel filed yet another notice of appeal again the ruling that had been made by the court on the 22 January 2009.

On the 26 February 2009 the matter could be heard because the court did not have the High Court’s order and hence the matter was postponed to the 05/03/09.

On the 05 March 2009 where the matter was supposed to proceed to trial counsel for the applicants indicated to the court that he was requesting the applicants’ matter be referred to the Supreme Court for its decision in terms of S.24 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

In the three application the applicants made in this occur referred above, the matter could not commence to trial. Despite the fact that the matter had been set down for trial on the 22 January 2009 by consent. In essence on one was caught by surprise. The witnesses attended the accused persons and the defence attended, the state was ready for trial but defence counsel sought to a postponement as highlighted above by making an application to quash the charge/indictment on the basis that the facts did not disclose a charge.

Subsequently on two other occasions, despite the presence of the witnesses and the preparedness of the state counsel the defence asked for another postponement and the trial was further delayed.

Before this court for determination is a fourth application made on the 5th March 2009 which date was again a trial date.

Section 24 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe has been interpreted clearly by the Supreme Court in the case of Martin vs A.G and Aruss 1993 (i) ZLR at 153 Supreme Court as right to approach the Supreme Court for relief. In that case the Supreme Court laid down the test to be used by the court before which the application is made in terms of that section.

Gubbay C.J as he then was and the other 4 judges of the Supreme Court held “…………the test of whether a request for referral under S24 (2) of the Constitution is frivolous/vexatious is whether or not it would constitute on abuse of the process of the Supreme Court and had to be determined by applying conscientious and objective thought to the question.”

The bona fides of the application can be commended probably by conscientiously and objectively looking at the circumstances preceding this application. The issue of the constitutionality or otherwise of the charges the accused are facing is only being raise now after three other application brought by the defence to present the trial of this matter on three other dates.

It is my objective view that matters brought before this court must be tried on trial date if all witness are present, the court is properly constituted, the defence is present and was aware of the final date and if the accused are in a healthy state making it proper for a comprehensible proceeding. A postponement must e refused save for compelling reasons.

From the attitude of the defence, it would appear from the circumstances and the charge and the facts of the case, the accused are playing for time and are deliberately frustrating the course of justice by preventing the commencement of the trial. The various application made before have not been without merit save for one postponement that they were granted by the High Court from these circumstances. I am convinced that this application is without bona fides and is clearly an abuse of the process of the Supreme Court. My conclusion therefore is that this request for referral under S24 of the Constitution is therefore frivolous and vexatious and must be denied and I order that the matter must proceed to trial.

The People’s Charter – English version

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Dreaming of a New Zimbabwe
The People’s Charter

Zimbabweans, united and resolute, announce:

  • That after 26 years of independence, the freedoms and equal opportunities we were promised have not been fulfilled;
  • The dreams we had of a good life – of dignity, comfort and security – have become nightmares. Zimbabweans must dream once again and turn their dreams into a living reality.
  • We must keep in mind, however, that we deserve better and we must not be afraid to believe that we have the right to a brighter future and we have the right to contribute to building it.
  • And therefore, we, the people of Zimbabwe, women, men and children, of all races, tribes and religions, come together with respect for each other and as equals to adopt this Charter, knowing that united we can deliver its possibilities;
  • And we undertake to work together with strength, courage and hope, until all Zimbabweans can live in a genuinely democratic country in peace and with dignity.

We shall all be Free and Equal

  • All Zimbabweans shall be equal, regardless of gender, physical ability, colour, national origin or tribe. Women’s and children’s rights shall be promoted and protected;
  • We shall be educated about the rights and freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution and by international law, both regional and universal; and shall enjoy them freely;
  • We shall be free to meet, organise and speak our minds without fear or intimidation.

People Participating in Governance

  • People shall be informed of and encouraged to participate fully in all aspects of how the country is managed and run, fully exercising their rights as citizens;
  • Any person born in Zimbabwe shall be allowed to become a citizen of the country. Birth certificates, national identity documents and passports shall be easily available for all citizens;
  • People shall be free to choose the leaders they want, without fear and intimidation. Leaders at all levels shall be chosen through free and fair elections, without rigging;
  • Women must also be encouraged to take up leadership positions to ensure gender balance;
  • There shall be an independent electoral supervisory commission to oversee the conduct of elections and elections shall be monitored by neutral observers, both local and international;
  • People shall be free to belong to the political party of their choice and shall not be discriminated against because of the party they support;
  • All other arms of government, especially civil servants, police and army, shall be non-partisan and shall effectively serve the interests of the people.

The Leaders We Want

  • All leaders shall be responsible, care for the people they serve and take their issues and problems to heart, taking action to develop their communities;
  • Leaders at all levels shall respect all people equally, listen to their concerns, consult them when making decisions and feedback to them;
  • Leaders shall understand that they will be held accountable and accept that the people who elected them have the right to criticise policy;
  • Leaders at all levels shall publicly renounce corruption and nepotism;
  • Traditional leaders (chiefs and headmen) shall not be chosen by politicians but by traditional methods. They shall be non-partisan and stay in the communities they serve, rather than sit in Parliament.

Justice in the Law

  • There shall be a new constitution – written by the people of Zimbabwe for the people of Zimbabwe;
  • All unjust laws that deny basic freedoms shall be repealed;
  • There shall be rule of law and no single person will be above the law of the land and everyone shall have equal access to fair and just treatment under the legal system. Law breakers will be pursued, prosecuted and punished without regard to their political affiliation;
  • The judiciary shall be independent and non-partisan, committed to upholding the law and promoting a culture of justice;
  • Prisoners shall be treated with dignity, kept in humane conditions and given access to rehabilitation. Juveniles will not be treated as adults by the police, the courts or the prisons.

This Land is our Land

  • The Land Redistribution Programme needs to start again and land be distributed fairly to any Zimbabwean – of any colour or gender – who will use it properly for the benefit of the country;
  • There shall be respect for property rights;
  • Farmers shall be helped with loans and inputs, so that they can develop the land productively;
  • Farmers shall receive a fair price for their produce and shall be allowed to trade freely.

Wealth and Prosperity

  • Government shall make every effort to bring development, infrastructure and prosperity to all parts of the country, both rural and urban, equally;
  • Government shall encourage investment in commerce and industry that shall create employment and promote prosperity for all Zimbabweans;
  • Government shall make every effort to control inflation by promoting production;
  • Zimbabweans require a transparent and fair system of taxation with feedback on how their taxes have been spent;
  • Government shall genuinely act to stamp out corruption and not let it continue to destroy our economy;
  • Real currency shall return and our money shall have real value once again.

The Right to Earn a Living

  • All people shall have the right to earn a living so that they can be dignified and do not need to rely on handouts to survive;
  • There shall be enough employment, with decent working conditions and a liveable wage; equal pay for equal work.
  • There shall be access to resources to start self-help projects, especially for youth and widows;
  • People should also be allowed to trade; licenses and stands shall be fairly distributed.

Good Living

  • There will be enough food for everyone;
  • All basic commodities shall be available and affordable. If necessary, there shall be price controls to make sure that everyone has access to them;
  • Every person shall have access to decent, affordable housing. Rents shall be lowered and there shall be respect for property rights;
  • All areas, both urban and rural, shall have affordable access to the services necessary for safe, healthy living – clean water, proper sewerage and sanitation systems and refuse collection;
  • All areas, both urban and rural, shall have affordable, regular access to electricity;
  • There shall be a regular, affordable public transport system that provides adequate coverage of all areas of Zimbabwe. The elderly should be allowed free local travel;
  • The vulnerable in our society shall be protected; the elderly, widows, people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and the disabled shall be properly cared for by the state;
  • All people shall have the right to rest, sports and recreation.

Educating the Nation

  • Every child shall have equal access to an education without any form of discrimination. Those who cannot afford it shall have access to financial assistance;
  • Primary education shall be free and secondary education affordable as we were promised in 1980;
  • All students shall have a good quality education, taught in classrooms with enough resources – books, desks and equipment.
  • There shall be enough qualified teachers committed to educating the next generation. We must respect their contribution enough to give them a living wage.

We Want to be Healthy

  • There shall be adequate access to good healthcare, which shall be affordable for all Zimbabweans;
  • Hospitals and clinics shall have enough medicines and equipment;
  • Those living with HIV/AIDS shall have adequate access to Anti-Retroviral medication; those who cannot afford to pay shall be given the medicine and, if necessary, food aid for free;
  • The elderly shall not have to pay for medical treatment or medicines.
  • There shall be enough qualified medical staff committed to treating people with dignity and care. We must respect their contribution enough to give them a living wage.
  • People shall be allowed to die with dignity; burial charges must be affordable.

Access to Information

  • There shall be independent radio stations, newspapers and television stations that shall provide accurate, independent information
  • News reporting shall be balanced, unbiased and all political parties shall receive equal coverage.

Righting the Wrongs

  • There should be a meaningful apology made by those responsible for Gukurahundi and a truthful explanation of why it happened;
  • Survivors of Gukurahundi and family members of the ‘disappeared’ should receive compensation;
  • The pots taken from the Njelele shrine in Matobo, Matabeleland, must be returned and the desecration reversed with a full apology.
  • Those affected by Murambatsvina should receive the housing that they were promised; they should also receive compensation;
  • Leaders who have looted our wealth through corruption should be brought to justice.

Respect for Culture

  • All people shall have equal right to use their own language and to observe their own culture and customs.
  • Zimbabweans, especially the youth, should be taught their own and other traditions, so that there can be respect for all different cultures.

Peace and Friendship

  • Zimbabweans are by nature friendly people – we must once again extend a hand of friendship to our neighbours, regionally and internationally, so that they can help us rebuild our beloved Zimbabwe.

Let all those who love Zimbabwe join hands to turn our dream of social justice into a reality.

Speech by President Barack Obama, Presentation of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, White House, Washington D.C., 23 November 2009

Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please, everybody have a seat.  Everybody have a seat. What a wonderful evening.  Before I begin, let me just acknowledge some folks here in the crowd.  First of all, Ms. Kerry Kennedy, for the great work that she’s doing day in and day out.  Mr. Philip Johnston, thank you to both of you for helping to organize this tonight.  Obviously I’ve got to say thanks to my favorite people — Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, also known as Ethel Kennedy. To Representative Donald Payne, Representative Gregory Meeks, and Representative Edward Markey, who are all here — thank you for your attendance and your support of this important award.

You know, every year for 24 years, starting the year this award was established, my friend, Senator Edward — Ted — Kennedy, spoke at this event.  And I’m told that he looked forward to it all year — that he relished the chance to shine a bright light on an injustice and on those fighting it, and to support them in that fight.  He also enjoyed a family reunion.  He relished the chance to pay tribute to those carrying on the unfinished work of his brother’s life — work that for nearly half a century in the U.S. Senate he made his own.

He was pleased that this award honored men and women across the globe doing a wide range of urgent work — fighting to end apartheid, advance democracy, empower minorities and indigenous peoples, promote free speech and elections and more.  Because Ted understood that Bobby’s legacy wasn’t a devotion to one particular cause, or a faith in a certain ideology — but rather, it was a sensibility.  A belief that in this world, there is right and there is wrong, and it is our job to build our laws and our lives around recognizing the difference.

A sensitivity to injustice so acute that it can’t be relieved by the rationalizations that make life comfortable for the rest of us — that others’ suffering is not our problem, that the ills of the world are somehow not our concern.

A moral orientation that renders certain people constitutionally incapable of remaining a bystander in the face of evil — a sensibility that recognizes the power of all people, however humble their circumstances, to change the course of history.

Those are the traits of Bobby Kennedy that this award recognizes — the very traits that define the character and guide the life of this year’s recipient.  And while we feel a certain sadness that Senator Kennedy is not with us to honor her, let us also take pleasure tonight in knowing just how much he would have loved and admired Magodonga Mahlangu and the organization that she helps lead — WOZA, which stands for Women of Zimbabwe Arise, and is represented tonight by one of its founders, Jenni Williams. As a young girl raised in Matabeleland — in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, Magodonga witnessed the — I’ve got to make sure I get this right — Gukurahundi massacres — the systematic murder of many thousands of people, including her uncle and several cousins — many of whom were buried in mass graves that they’d been forced to dig themselves.

She witnessed the fearful silence that followed, as talking about these events was forbidden.  Magodonga found this to be intolerable.  She wanted to speak out — she wanted people to know the truth about what was happening in her country.

So it was a revelation when, years later, she discovered a group called WOZA whose mission is the very opposite of silence.  WOZA was started back in 2003 to empower women to speak out about the issues affecting their families and their country — desperate hunger; crumbling health and education systems; domestic violence and rape; and government repression ranging from restrictions on free expression to abduction and murder of dissidents.

WOZA’s guiding principle is “tough love” — the idea that political leaders in Zimbabwe could use a little discipline.  And who better to provide that than the nation’s mothers?  Since its founding, the organization has grown from a handful of activists to a movement of 75,000 strong.  There’s even a men’s branch, I understand — MOZA.  And over the past seven years, they have conducted more than a hundred protests — maids and hairdressers, vegetable sellers and seamstresses, taking to the streets; singing and dancing; banging on pots empty of food and brandishing brooms to express their wish to sweep the government clean.

They often don’t get far before being confronted by President Mugabe’s riot police.  They have been gassed, abducted, threatened with guns, and badly beaten — forced to count out loud as each blow was administered.  Three thousand WOZA members have spent time in custody or in prison, sometimes dragged with their babies into cells.  Magodonga and Jenni are due back in court on December 7th, charged with “conduct likely to cause a breach of [the] peace.”  They face a five year sentence if convicted.

That so many women have decided to risk and endure so much is in many ways a testament to the extraordinary example of tonight’s honoree.

Each time they see Magodonga beaten back — beaten black and blue during one protest, only to get right back up and lead another — singing freedom songs at the top of her lungs in full view of security forces — the threat of a policeman’s baton loses some of its power.

Each time her house is searched, or her life is threatened, or she’s once again arrested — more than 30 times so far — she continues to stand in public and inspire the people of Zimbabwe — the power of the state then seems a little less absolute.

Each time she has emerged from incarceration after enduring deplorable conditions and brutal abuse — and gone right back to work — the prospect of prison loses some of its capacity to deter.

By her example, Magodonga has shown the women of WOZA and the people of Zimbabwe that they can undermine their oppressors’ power with their own power — that they can sap a dictator’s strength with their own.  Her courage has inspired others to summon theirs.  And the organization’s name, WOZA — which means “come forward” — has become its impact — its impact has been even more as people know of the violence that they face, and more people have come forward to join them.

More people have come to realize what Magodonga and the women of WOZA have known all along:  that the only real way to teach love and non-violence is by example.  Even when that means sitting down while being arrested, both as a sign that they refuse to retaliate, absorbing each blow without striking back — and a warning that, come what may, they’re not going anywhere.

They even manage to show love to those who imprison them.  As Jenni put it, “Many a time we have in effect conducted a ‘workshop’ for our jailers, acting out the role of a mother and teaching how the country can be rebuilt if we have love in our hearts.” When asked how they can endure so much violence — and what keeps them going in the face of such overwhelming odds — the women of WOZA reply, simply:  “each other.”

And that may be Magodonga’s greatest achievement — that she has given the women of Zimbabwe each other.  That she has given people who long for peace and justice each other.  That she has given them a voice they can only have collectively — and a strength that they can only have together.

They are a force to be reckoned with.  Because history tells us, truth has a life of its own once it’s told.  Love can transform a nation once it’s taught.  Courage can be contagious; righteousness can spread; and there is much wisdom in the old proverb:  that God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.

In the end, history has a clear direction — and it is not the way of those who arrest women and babies for singing in the streets.  It’s not the way of those who starve and silence their own people, and cling to power by threat of force.

It is the way of the maid walking home in Montgomery; the young woman marching silently in the streets of Tehran; the leader imprisoned in her own home for her commitment to democracy.

It is the way of young people in Cape Town who braved the wrath of their government to hear a young senator from New York speak about the ripples of hope one righteous act can create.

And it is the way that Magodonga Mahlangu and Jenni Williams and the women and men who take to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo and Victoria Falls because they love their country and love their children and know that something better is possible.

Bobby Kennedy once said, “All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people — speaking out — in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out — in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes — let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind.”

Magodonga and WOZA have given so many of their fellow citizens of Zimbabwe that voice — and tonight, we express our gratitude for their work.

It is now my pleasure to join with Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy to present the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Magodonga Mahlangu and WOZA.  (Applause.)

WOZA MOYA November 2006

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, force or denial of freedom, whether happening in public or in private life.’

Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Men of Zimbabwe Arise invite all Zimbabweans to join in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, from 25 November to 10 December. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international movement, which began in 1991. The dates 25 November (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day) were chosen in order to link violence against women and human rights and to show that such violence is an abuse of human rights.

This year, Zimbabwe will join the rest of the world in recognising 29 November, which is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. OUR SPECIAL DAY!

It is a step forward to have the promises of the Domestic Violence Bill delivered and put an end to state-sponsored violence so that we can concentrate on rebuilding our country and saving lives…

edical News Today reports: “The life expectancy for women in Zimbabwe is 34 years, the lowest in the world, according to the World Health Organization‘s World Health Report 2006. Men in Zimbabwe have a life expectancy of 37, according to the report.”

Gender Violence in Zimbabwe
Women form 56% of the population in Zimbabwe and usually it is the mother who must provide food despite the tight budget. We women bear the burden of the economic hardship. A government official said recently that 60 per cent of all murders in Zimbabwe were a result of domestic violence, with the majority of them being women.

The campaign also comes after the passing of the Domestic Violence Bill in Zimbabwe. The Bill makes domestic violence a crime and covers areas like economic and mental abuse, threats and pestering. Cultural practices that shame women, such virginity testing, female genital damage, wife inheritance and the custom of offering young girls as payment in disputes between families, will become illegal.

Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS
According to international studies, violence against women, especially forced sex, increases women’s exposure to HIV infection. Violence and fear of violence limits a woman’s ability to discuss safe sexual behaviour, even in agreement. Women who are infected with HIV, or who are suspected to be infected, may also face violence and/or dumped. Fear of violence and shame can discourage women from seeking information on HIV/AIDS, getting tested for HIV, disclosing their HIV status and seeking treatment and counselling. Since violence can affect women’s willingness to be tested, it can also have a negative result on larger HIV control, treatment and prevention programmes.

There are three kinds of violence, including state-sponsored violence, that are causing Zimbabweans to die young: Violence of the FIST, Violence of the TONGUE and Violence of the HEART.

Help us to expose this violence and hold those who practice it accountable.

Advancing Human Rights
When WOZA was formed in 2003, the founders recognised that it is mothers who have to find a way to feed their children or to raise the morale in the home so that the family can be peaceful and happy. So they mobilised and prepared each other for the burden of state-sponsored violence and continue to demonstrate against the shortage of basic foods, as well as poor governance and our children’s right to education. Instead of addressing our issues, the government of Zimbabwe arrests us, beats us up and harasses us. All the defenders of WOZA and MOZA require are to fully exercise their right to Freedom of Expression, to Criticise, to Protest and to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.

The majority of Zimbabweans fought the liberation war for equality and freedom of expression. Now state newspapers, television and radio are only for the tongues of the politically correct. While we know that there is a need for such a law as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), it is the selective application of the law that we object to. Where are the Daily News, The Tribune and other independent newspapers? Why is Radio Africa and Studio 7 jammed? Even Smith did not stoop so low as to jam Radio Chokwadi/Qiniso, broadcast from Mozambique during the liberation war. What is wrong with our views now – why can we not also hear Radio Africa and Studio 7? We demand our freedom of expression and we chose to bang pots at 8pm on purpose – to ‘jam’ propaganda news of this regime that does not want us to hear the truth.

Advancing – despite the risks
Although the Domestic Violence Bill could bring some relief to the many beaten and abused women and men, WOZA, as women human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, do not have much protection outside their homes. Harsh laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act continue to hound them. The passing of these unjust laws, even though most nationalists in government were arrested under the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), shows a bad heart on their part.

Through POSA and AIPPA, government thinks it has silenced the people. But some, like the defenders in WOZA and MOZA, are prepared to disobey what they see as unjust laws and speak out. Despite POSA, they continue to ACT. Despite harsh conditions in police cells and ill treatment by cruel officers, both uniformed and non-uniformed, they continue to SPEAK OUT.

We quote a sister, Rhoda Mashavave, in her an article titled, ‘Women pin hopes on domestic violence bill’, from, “It is rather unfortunate, however, that the Bill will not cover state-sponsored violence which continues to follow women. Take a look at the case of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), the resilient women’s pressure group. These women have been on the front position, protesting against high food prices and human rights abuses in the country. As a result, these women have become jailbirds as they continue to be arrested each time they hold peaceful demonstrations. They have been harassed and beaten up by the police in the process”.

No matter what they do to us, WOZA and MOZA will continue to speak out and act against violence against all Zimbabweans – women, men and children. We will not suffer in silence. We need you to join us – in the words of one of WOZA’s founders, the late Sheba Dube, “Stand up, unite and call a spade a spade.”

WOZA goes door to door to confirm a ‘People’s Charter’

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have finished an eleven-month long programme of social justice consultations, which saw them holding 284 defiance meetings with approximately 10,000 Zimbabweans nationwide. In the WOZA way, most meetings were carried out in defiance of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

The response from the communities visited was overwhelming, especially in the rural areas. Although rural residents have been branded the regime’s most unwavering supporters, so desperate are they for change that they were willing to walk for several kilometres to a meeting just to be heard.

Areas covered include Bulawayo, Harare, Chitungwiza, Gwanda, Victoria Falls, Binga, Gwanda, Matobo, Insiza, Kezi, Hwange, Tsholotsho, Turk Mine, Binga, Chimanimani, Mutare, Masvingo, Nyanga, Nyazura, Rusape, Buhera, Bikita, Kadoma, Kariba, Mvurwi, Shamva, Norton, Chegutu, Gweru, Marondera, Karoi, Sadza, Guruve, and Chivhu.

“I am not valued” People’s disappointment was clearly evident in every meeting, bemoaning the fact that government has failed to fulfil its promises.

Said Mbuya Motsi from Chimanimani: “the people we chose to lead us have forgotten us and we have become ghosts in our motherland. The situation we are in right now is the same as a person who goes to bed but can not change sides, you need to change sides and turn now and again, without which one is most likely to wake up all sore and stiff”.

A dejected Jonathan Zimbe from Dzivarasekwa, Harare went on, “I do not feel part of Zimbabwe. I am not valued and I have no role in influencing the state.”

During the consultations the issue of lack of adequate medical services and ‘dying with dignity’ was raised countless times. Residents in Bulawayo’s Pumula suburb complained that ‘corpses are piling up like sacks of maize in mortuaries – you can barely recognize your dead’. In Victoria Falls people are now afraid to take sick relatives to hospitals because they get abused by hospital staff that shout at them, “what the hell do you want us to do with your sick ones?”

What was also clear in all the meetings was the outspokenness of the elderly. At the only health facility in Ratanyane, a mission hospital, old people are no longer accepted. “How can a nation be a nation without old people?” they queried.

The young are equally dissatisfied. In Ratanyane, Maphisa, young married couples complained of being unable to get their own land or permission to build houses so they are forced to live with their in-laws in overcrowded conditions.

In Chegutu, illiterate adults are still waiting for the free education promised to adults who missed the opportunity to be educated during the war of liberation. Nationwide, the crescendo of voices reminding leaders to deliver the free primary and affordable secondary education promised at Independence cannot be suppressed.

Injustices – past and present In Mleja, Dewe, Datata, Njube and Magwegwe, people are still upset about the desecration of the Njelele shrine in Matobo, Matabeleland, which they say angered the gods. They want those that dismantled it to appease the ancestral spirits and return the stolen pots. Another issue that caused great bitterness and anger in most areas in Matabeleland was that of Gukurahundi. Most people want those responsible to make a meaningful apology and compensation to be paid to survivors. Other calls were for psycho-social support for survivors, death certificates for the ‘disappeared’ and an overwhelming longing for people to know what happened to their loved ones. Another injustice, Murambatsvina, was also raised with calls for the perpetrators to be held accountable and victims to be given compensation and housing.

In Turk Mine, people also objected to being forced to go to ZANU PF meetings and chant slogans by the police. In Madwaleni, the situation is also similar, as one of them aptly put it: “People in Zimbabwe only have one right in their lives – to talk about ZANU PF.” Parents from Pumula, Bulawayo added that they eagerly waited for their children to come back from the Border Gezi National Youth Service, patriotic and empowered, but their children came back from the camps brainwashed and rude, pregnant or with sexually transmitted diseases.

Despite the eagerness of people to share their views, WOZA members were almost arrested and constantly harassed during the consultation period, at times having to avoid youth militia and state security agents. The most recent incident being the harassment of two members in the Chivhu area three weeks ago as they tried to talk about social justice and discuss with locals what their vision of a new Zimbabwe would be. Police forced nine villagers to sign statements hoping to charge WOZA leaders after the consultation. The villagers argued that they were only being consulted on a Zimbabwe that would dignify them and that they were very happy to be consulted by WOZA, which is not a political party. One elderly lady even insisted that her statement reflect that in South Africa the elderly receive assistance from the state and that she wanted similar support. Despite the reluctance of the villagers, police insisted on taking the WOZA leaders to court – only for the Prosecutor to refuse to press charges.

WOZA carried on amidst the harassment, spurred on by the despair of a nation which has ‘received nothing but distrust and fear from our leaders’, as one resident of Warren Park testified. WOZA’s mandate is to hold Zimbabwe’s leaders accountable because people “were promised silver and gold where as up to date they were paid by words without meaning.” (Matshobana)