It has been established that eight members have been arrested, four women and three men. This number could be higher as reports that several members have not yet returned home are currently being investigated. Three members required medical treatment, including an elderly woman who was pushed to the ground by police causing her mouth to be injured. The arrested members are being held at Bulawayo Central Police Station. It is not known what charges they are facing.
One member was arrested before the protest began but her fellow protestors went ahead anyway, ignoring the plain-clothed officers present. The strategy of simultaneous multiple protests has become a signature of WOZA’s peaceful resistance and demand for delivery of promises made too lightly by politicians. A great spectacle was to be witnessed as the processions arrived in waves, coming from different directions.
One protest was due to start close to the police station as a test to see if they would respond with respect. The leaders of the protest changed the starting point at the last minute. In a show of courage they chose to start at the side of the police station, marching right by, turning to go to the appointed route. Many police officers looked out of windows and came out and shook their heads in amazement. It is thought that the police van that arrived at the Chronicle offices to beat the peaceful group came from the Central Police Station, meaning that they too over 10 minutes to respond.
One of the leaders was pulled out of the protest by an exited bystander who went on to explain that he had to tell her how exited he was to see WOZA putting pressure and asked her to keep it up. Other comments overheard from bystanders included, “police should leave these women alone and concentrate on real issues”; “these women are rocking the boat for change and accountability from our leaders”; “bravo WOZA, bravo, I bow before these women for their stubbornness about the problems we are facing.”
Once again three plain-clothes police officers tried to locate WOZA leaders Williams and Mahlangu but they were heard saying they could not locate them amongst the dispersing activists.
Songs sang by the activists included: “the sun is setting where am I going to sleep? I will sleep like a bird on the trees”; “we are filling up other countries – what is wrong?” and “we are going expose police harassment”. When the protest arrived at the Chronicle, the song changed to “men are failing to deal with the issue of the unity government’s inability to deliver a better life” and “the Chronicle does not want news!”
To read the demands that WOZA was marching for today, please see the Woza Moya newsletter below.
Please phone Bulawayo Central Police Station on + 263 9 71515 to ask why they it necessary to beat and arrest peaceful protestors and to demand the release of the WOZA activists.