Six WOZA women arrested for wanting power for the poor

SIX members, all women, were arrested along Khami Road in Bulawayo and detained at Western Commonage police station between 8 and 9pm Wednesday.  The women are from Iminyela and Pelandaba suburbs. The members were arrested by police officers who accused them of painting messages on the road. The messages read- ‘power to poor people’ ; ‘no lengthy load shedding’ ; ‘prepaid meters now!’; focus on the electricity crisis in Zimbabwe.

WOZA fear torture of members, 14 members were tortured while in custody in March 2011. This morning, food brought by relatives and lawyers access was denied by Assistant Inspector Purazeni, the officer-in-charge at Western Commonage police station whose officers arrested the six, he is said to have indicated that the orders came from above.

WOZA, a women’s movement identify electricity supply as directly targeting the role of a woman in the home. As a result WOZA have lobbied the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) for close on 5 years to provide an affordable and regular service. A multi faceted protest strategy is used peacefully targeting local and city based company officials.

These arrests follow  a 10th May protest to the Bulawayo electricity power station to launched a 6 week ‘Power to Poor People’ Campaign to ‘discipline’ the ZETDC for its daylight robbery to consumers. Members are also continuing to engage suburban office of the power company with consumer deputations to deliver ‘yellow cards’ with their demands.

The campaign 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!!

The campaign includes obtaining signatures to 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. In response to a campaign demand the company have just advertise power cut schedules but have indicated that there will be longer cuts as this is winter in Zimbabwe.

Please help save our activists from torture by calling +263 9 403996 up to 8 speak to Assistant Inspector Purazeni,  the officer-in-charge at Western Commonage police station or call the Law and Order Dept on +263 9 72515. Please remind them to conform to international standards of detention and ask them to allow WOZA members to lobby for and power for all to enjoy.

Note: A ‘Deputation’ or Delegation is one of the forms of nonviolent direct action from the 198 methods authored by scholar Gene Sharp. Members met and select a smaller group to ‘represent’ them in delivering their demands to an official of an organisation viewed as violating people rights.