FIVE hundred members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) marched in two separate processions to Parliament at noon on 27th November 2012. This protest is the launch of the WOZA 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence under the international theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women! But WOZA will use a shortened version – PEACE NOW!
The protest groups merged 5 meters from Parliament entrance and closed the distance between them and a squad of Riot police manning the entrance door into Parliament. As the activists arrived, Police immediately tried to send them away from the door but the determined human rights defenders began their protest program. The program included the singing of a Shona language song and kneeling in prayer.
WOZA National coordinator Jenni Williams then went to the entrance to deliver the Woza Moya Newsletter containing the 16 Days demands. Two ‘shivering with fear’ parliamentary officers managed to take the document before being shoved out of the way by glaring intelligence officers. The intelligence officers attempted to ensure Williams only spoke with them. As this engagement happened Williams was roughly pulled by the arm from the back by a suited man who seemed to be a parliamentarian intent on violence, he pulled Williams out the way to get into the chamber.
Seven members then made short speeches outlining the demands. A male member chanting a WOZA slogan ‘you strike a woman and you strike a rock’ to the amusement of male bystanders, spoke of the need to remove the Zanu PF militia who are now manning boreholes and politicizing the distribution of water.
The protest programme was then closed with more slogans. Journalists who were in attendance then began to ask questions of Williams and other participants and a mini press conference ensured. Impatient Riot Police took exception to this and became loud in their attempts to disperse Williams and the journalists.
Many members of parliament were seen looking through the windows and smiling their encouragement. WOZA pray that they took time to read the list of demands contained in the Woza Moya newsletter.
No members were beaten or arrested during the protest and apart from over zealousness on the part of some junior officers who threatened to beat members at the back of the protest, police behaved with restraint.
WOZA members demand a strong Declaration of Rights a. Equality – right to equality on basis of gender – women to have equal access to jobs and employment, equal pay, to acquire land and inherit property. b. Right to education – free but quality primary and affordable secondary education and access to vocational education. As a way to correct the injustice of the past 10 years of prioritising defence over education we demand this right be fully justiciable. c. Right to protest and assemble freely (section 4:16) and the police to respect this right and to protest without clearance. d. The Right to personal liberty and right to be informed of the reason for arrest. We want the right to free and safe streets and personal security. e. Affordable and quality health care. f. Clean water, sanitation, clean environment. g. There should be a better provision for children’s rights and expansion in the bill of rights including social economic political and cultural rights. For example the right to earn a living (protection of informal sector). h. Labour rights – the right to strike, safety, non-discrimination in employment on ethnic basis
WOZA members general DEMANDS
1. A Ministry of Women’s Affairs to promote affirmative action
2. There must be separation of powers and members feel that devolution will help promote total people participation in how they want to be governed.
3. Members said the executive must not interfere with the judiciary and must let the judiciary be independent and for justice to prevail in the country.
4. Members said they want the rule of law to be protected and promoted in the new constitution.
5. Members want to see a change in the police force behaviour and in the way they do their job. They believe that the presidential appointment method is the root cause for politicisation of the security sector.
6. Members want equal representation of women in all elected institutions and commissions.
7. Strong Human Rights Commission that will fully recognise and protect all human rights ensuring that all cases of human rights are dealt with.
8. National Peace commission for transitional justice which will provide for restitution from perpetrators for Gukurahundi crimes and those victims will be compensated.
9. Culture Commission to promote traditional culture that respects human rights
10. Development Commission to identify disadvantaged and provide affirmative action
11. Independent Land Commission for distribution of land ensuring that women benefit the most as they are serious farmers.
12. A strong Provincial and Local Government. Members want a devolved system of government and that can effectively administer devolution for development within its region and ensure natural resources develop their immediate community. Members said they want devolution of powers ‘high and low’ but are prepared to accept a start toward this system and develop it by amendments to the constitution. They do not accept Zanu PF’s version – decentralisation as it has already been in place and has not resulted in shared and devolved decision making.
a. Members said they want policy change. They want to elect their provincial governors as a principle of democracy. b. Members want a Local authority that has the power to control natural resources and make all development decisions. c. Fair distribution of revenues between centre and provinces.