EIGHT hundred members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) began two separate peaceful protests at 2pm on Monday 2 December 2013. Their objective to march to parliament and hand over a petition. The petition being a research report produced under the 16 days of activism against gender based violence – Zimbabweans beat the drum of peace and development to break the silence on violence.
Both protests began without incident and converged on the Kwame Nkrumah entrance of parliament at 2:15pm. WOZA national coordinator began to negotiate for someone to officially receive the petition. A female officer was assisting and asked Williams to please request silence from the singing members. Members then observed non violent discipline and sat down on the hot tarmac with the blazing sun on their heads.
Seconds dragged to many minutes and it became apparent the clerk of parliament would not attend to receive the petition. Police officers, schooled in the culture of harassment continued to attempt to disperse the protesters and tried to scatter members by attempting to drive their truck into the crowd. Despite this obvious attempt to curb the right to protest, WOZA members remained resolute and started to sing a shone song saying – we also have rights!
After a 30 minutes wait, Williams was directed to the counsel to parliament, Ms Gladys Pise who received the petition and provided proof.
WOZA national coordinator, Jenni Williams then addressed members informing them that the petition had been delivered and asked members to go peacefully home and await a formal response from parliament. WOZA members then formally left parliament with the police officers still obviously restraining themselves in frustration at the new constitution clauses on respect for the right to petition.
WOZA express dismay that the police in Bulawayo seem to have not had the same training on the new ‘right to petition’ as the Harare police officers seem to have had. Once again the Bulawayo police officers have shown that there is selective harshness in responding to protests in Bulawayo. WOZA members are still shocked that Bulawayo police bosses ordered the deployment of police dogs to run the peacefully protesting members out of town. WOZA expects to take legal action against the police for wrongful arrest and for curtailing the right to protest and use of maximum force against members.