At noon today, 500 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise marched to the offices of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), Megawatt House, in Harare. Three simultaneous protests converged at the ZESA headquarters where the peaceful group handed over ‘yellow cards’ to staff members of the electricity service provider along with a report that outlines WOZA’s demands.
The peaceful group waited patiently for management of ZESA to come and address them to no avail. Finally, riot police, armed with tear gas and shotguns arrived. ZESA security guards insisted that they arrest Jenni Williams, WOZA’s National Coordinator, who had been attempting to persuade management to come and address the crowd. Police officer initially demurred but the ZESA security guards insisted until the riot police arrested Williams. When the protestors saw the arrest of their comrades, many handed themselves in in solidarity, jumping into the police vehicles to ‘arrest’ themselves. Others followed to Harare Central Police Station where they also tried to hand themselves in but were turned away. Approximately 70 members are currently in custody in Harare Central Police Station, including Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. Human rights lawyers are in attendance.
As with the peaceful protest in Bulawayo on Monday, the demonstration sought to put pressure on ZESA to provide a more efficient service and billing system and to stop taking advantage of economic problems to bill people excessively for a substandard service. The ‘yellow card’ serves as a month’s notice to ZESA to shape up or face ‘suspension’. WOZA/MOZA also threaten to mobilise for a ZERO service ZERO bill boycott.
The protestors received immense support from bystanders and from people who were at Megawatt House to complain about high bills. One resident of Glen View high density suburb showed WOZA leaders his monthly electricity bill of USD 1,681.50.
It is believed that there is absolutely no electricity in any of the police cells at Harare Central Police Station. This is obviously a cause for concern should the activists be detained overnight. Please phone Harare Central Police Station on +263 4 777777 to demand that the WOZA activists be released immediately.
To read a copy of WOZA’s yellow card, click here: ZESA yellow card
To read a copy of WOZA’s report on electricity services in Zimbabwe, click here: WOZA report on ZESA