OVER 100 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) are in custody at Bulawayo Central Police station, many are handcuffed in violation of women’s right protocols. Riot Police ran wildly around the Main Street and 8th Avenue intersection on orders of their Officer Commanding Bulawayo who was present to demand they arrest members.
Lawyers have been denied access on three separate occasions. Those in custody include WOZA leader Magodonga Mahlangu, three minor children who are not members of WOZA and 3 breastfeeding mothers in custody. WOZA national coordinator Jenni Williams was not arrested.
Ten protests were due to start at 11am Wednesday 27 June 2012 but Riot police had already arrested 40 members and by-standers by 10:30am. Only 3 of the ten protests made it to the sit-in location will be the road surrounding the space where the memorial statue of late Joshua Nkomo should be.
Four additional protests were conducted after 11:30 am marching from the Statue to the Bulawayo Central Police station. Riot police were deployed to refuse them entry into the police station and threatened to beat them before dispersing them from handing themselves in.
The protest were organised to push for the release of a draft Constitution in a Bulawayo sit-in protest. WOZA are using this occupation style of protest to demand their full right to peaceful protest, freedom of assembly and expression. 1000 members were expected to participate in the sit-in.
Members were singing a popular song sung in the early 1980s. It is sung in isiNdebele language – ‘ilitshe likaNkomo limbomboziwe, liyovulwa ngubani, limbomboziwe? (Loosely translated it means Nkomos ‘stone’ denoting a plan has been hidden or turned upside down, who is going to put it right?)
The choice of location is to expose the disrespect to late Joshua Nkomo, called ‘Father Zimbabwe’. He came from a crop of genuine nationalist and he remains unrecognised. The block of cement ‘statue’ and airport named after him and a brand new unopened hospital are caught up in centralised power struggles – not one of them finished. Devolution in the new constitution would mean we can recognise our own heroes in our own way as the sit-in attempts to do. WOZA also wanted to focus on him. He was the kind of unique politician who could develop clear ideology with people at heart. The current batch of politicians seem empty minded and recycle Zanu PF political cultures. In the end Nkomo put peoples welfare before his political ambition and surrendered his party ZAPU to Zanu violence. A mistake that can never be repeated again as people must decide their own destiny and refuse to be silenced by violence.