At noon, five processions began with approximately 2 000 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise; all five protests were disturbed by riot police officers who indiscriminately beat the peaceful activists. The small group who had made it to the Lobengula Street office of Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) managed to deliver the yellow cards to the door but police quickly ran to beat them. WOZA leaders are still confirming that no arrests have been made and that the injured have all been assessed and attended. Six members have already attended the WOZA triage team to receive medication but the team are following up on an estimated 40 members who were witnessed being beaten.
One of the injured is Jenni Williams who managed to make it to the office entrance. In an obviously racial targeting, every time other members crossed the road to join Williams at the office steps, police officers ran to beat them trying to make sure they would not manage to congregate. At this time, members started to sing Mapurisa; Musandishungurudze (police officers do not harass us)
Seeing that police were intend preventing a gathering on the steps, a huge group of members managed to regroup a block away and made a fast seven city block dash for the fife street office of ZETDC. At this office, the peaceful protest occupied the front entrance causing the security guards, one armed to lock the door. The hundreds of frustrated activists spent 20 minutes toyi toying (danced) and sang – ZESA Into oyenzayo siyayizonda – (ZESA we hate this thing you are doing). Members were dispersed with a speech by Magodonga Mahlangu who told people that police had beaten members at the main ZETDC office so we had to relocate to this office to call on ZETDC to provide prepaid meters and stop disconnecting people.
The police officers left behind at the Lobengula street office were shortly joined by a contingent of 30 riot police helmets and shields displayed only to find the protest had relocated down town.
The office staff, were heard to support the solution of prepaid meters, one officer asked why the Riot police had disturbed their visitors who had a genuine grievance. Many bystanders joined the protest upon hearing that the issue was related to electricity. There was a general booing of the police for beating the women when they are also affected by the power cuts.
The load shedding schedule means that most people cannot get their rest as the electricity comes from 10pm to 3am. Most areas of Bulawayo have not had electricity from 5am this morning and many go for days without power or reduction of their bills.
This protest signals the beginning of a 6 week ‘Power to Poor People’ Campaign to discipline the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) for daylight robbery. Along with a protest launch, the campaign will feature the signing of a petition dubbed the ‘Anti Abuse of Power’ Petition; completing of a time sheet of power cuts and the delivering of a ‘yellow card’ to the company. WOZA has campaigned for affordable and available electricity since 2006 with its ‘power to the people’ campaigns. It is also hoped that today’s protest will put pressure on the company to stop disconnections until they are able to deliver a better service to their customers.
Demands are: 1. Stop cheating fixed meter consumers, we demand prepaid meters.
2. Please provide cheaper firewood, candles and matches, we do not want to destroy our environment by cutting down trees.
3. We are tired of 18 hour power cuts -provide proper timetables of load shedding.
4. Urgently put in place a proper and transparent billing system. Stop sending metered consumer’s estimates, send ACTUAL bills.
5. Create a smoother process of customer’s claims for compensation.
6. Review recruitment policy and bring salaries to decent levels with our current economic record. Professionalise staff performance and honesty. No more luxury cars we need transformers.
7. We will record the exact hours we receive electricity for the last 2 weeks of May while we get petition signatures which we will take to Parliament and demand they review your monopoly and poor service. You have cheated us for long enough, after we submit our demand to parliament we will organise a RED card Campaign. Be warned POWER TO THE POOR – ZERO service ZERO bill. HOKOYO!!
Last year, the response of the company was to have their security arrest WOZA leaders who spent 6 days in custody, 3 of those days the Independence Holiday.
Ten members arrested in three batches from 28 February to 7 March who were tortured in custody had charges withdrawn before plea by the state at 8:30 am on 10 May when they appeared at the Bulawayo Magistrates Court. Inside sources confirm that the state decided to respect a Supreme Court ruling obtained by Williams and Mahlangu for a 2008 arrest. The ruling granted that the two women had been wrongfully arrested and detained and, as a result, had their rights and fundamental freedoms violated. The full bench of the Supreme Court also found that the state had failed to protect the activists from this abuse. The two had spent 3 weeks in Mlondolozi Prison after a peaceful protest. Yellow card link – http://wozazimbabwe.org
/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/yellow-card-zesa-2011.pdf Petition link – http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/may-2011-petition1.pdf Time sheet link – http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/power-cut-time-sheet1.pdf