Members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) marched through the streets of Bulawayo today to mark International Refugee Day, commemorated annually on 20th June. Four simultaneous protests began at 12.30pm under the theme – real people, real needs. The four different protests began at different locations, one of which was outside Bulawayo Central Police Station, converging on the offices of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper to test if media freedom exists in Zimbabwe today.
Three of the four simultaneous protests, including the one that had started outside the police station, arrived at the offices of the Chronicle at which point they were attacked by uniformed police officers who brutally beat them, arresting many. The fourth demonstration was stopped en route by police who also viciously beat the peaceful protestors. At this point, we are still trying to verify how many people have been arrested and how many require medical treatment.
WOZA traditionally marks International Refugee Day as we believe Zimbabweans are refugees in their own country – displaced, unsettled and insecure. Government is still targeting informal trading, the only means of survival for most people and so many find themselves unable to provide for themselves and their families. Informal traders are harassed by police, their produce often looted and stolen. In a country where all goods and services are now charged in foreign currency, the inability to earn forex places the vulnerable even more at risk and forces more and more Zimbabweans to flee their country of birth to try and provide for their families. Through these peaceful protests, WOZA is reminding the inclusive government and the world that the people of Zimbabwean remain the victims of this crisis – it is time to put the needs of the people first. ALL Zimbabweans deserve to enjoy the full rights of citizenship; amongst others, the right to earn a living, the right to personal security and the right to adequate shelter.
More information will be made available as it is received.