Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) 300 member’s representatives delivered 101 000 ‘anti abuse of power’ petition signatures, red cards and symbolic ‘Coffins’ to Parliament for onward submission to the Anti Corruption and Monopolies Committee on Wednesday 24 August 2011. Riot Police made a police line and refused to allow anyone to cross. The coffin carrying protest group 50 meters from reaching the door of parliament. Some leaders managed to cross the police line with the red cards and box of petitions but the Coffin ‘pall bearers’ were stopped by the police officers who then ‘arrested’ the coffins.
A Riot Police officer was overheard making a call to his superior from his mobile phone. Obviously speaking to a secretary, he said – “Tell the boss I have WOZA here what should I do. Its urgent, the first group has arrived and there are many. “Getting no immediate solace, he had to keep insisting on the urgency and eventually was given some response and hung up the phone putting it his pocket and just moving to stand with others. A plain clothed intelligence agent was then heard calling his superior and confirming the orders ‘leave them alone and let them do what they want.” A 30 minute stand-off ensued whilst the activists used alternative routes to deliver the petitions.
During this time a huge group of passers-by gathered to read the flyers; watch the drama unfolding, and to comment on the Electricity issue. Members sang Shona language songs, calling for removal al of the ZESA monopoly. When the riot police became aggressive, they switched to song, Udzvanyiriri ndiwo unei (so what is this oppression all about) and ‘munu wese ane kodzero’ (everyone has rights, even police officers). Various members took the opportunity to address the gathering and bemoaned the challenges of continual power cuts and the need to spend money on alternative means light and fuel to cook food.
A police van approached driving at speed towards the procession causing the peaceful activists to scatter. The police officers then took the change to push their line with reinforcements and order the members to disperse.
Members had mandated their leaders to deliver the petitions calling for the Electricity monopoly to end. This is part of the WOZA anti Abuse of power campaign which has so far involved delivery of ‘yellow cards’ and now ‘red cards’ to suburban and central officers of the power utility. WOZA are pressurising the parliamentary committee as they have already conducted many public hearings but are yet to take action. ZESA has also recently threatened to raise rates. Member with a fixed system of Electricity which works on fixed amps, are given a fixed charge which does not cater for the power cuts. Members also feel that they could be better off with prepaid meters than paying a full bill for a part service.
These 101 000 petition signature sheets were what remained after police raided the WOZA office on after the 10 June raid and removed sheets of signatures. An initial count with was in progress when they raided revealed that at least one million signatures had been received.
On Monday 22 August 13 members were indiscriminately arrested in Bulawayo but released within a few hours. Police officers in Harare did not disturb the peace but violated our right to reach our parliament and to hand over our petitions.
Officials from the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Holdings have since called WOZA National Coordinator Jenni Williams to arrange a meeting to discuss members concerns.
At 2:15pm 25 Aug 2011, 30 members went to the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) offices in Avondale Harare to hand over a second further letter of complaint. Jomic is responsible for the monitoring and implementation of the Global Political Agreement. WOZA have complained of police harassment and the visit yesterday was to pressure Jomic to respond to previous letters of complaint about the 10 June 2011 raid of WOZA offices by Zimbabwe Republic Police. The members, found that the receptionist and serious officials were still away on the lunch break and had to hand over their letter to a junior officer. The spent 15 minutes singing and awaiting senior officers to no avail. WOZA Leaders, Williams and Mahlangu threatened to come back with a larger group if Jomic did not correspond and take their complaints seriously.