At 10am today, Monday 7 March, Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) sprang an early International Women’s Day protest. As well as issues related to this special day, members wanted to protest the ongoing arrest and torture of members this last week. As protestors marched they issued a newsletter calling on SA president Jacob Zuma and SADC leaders to help us end the violence.
The five protests began from locations surrounding the High Court. Two of the protests managed to reach the 8th Avenue Court but three protests were dispersed by riot police and army. Three women have been arrested but have not been located at the police station by human rights lawyers. WOZA is concerned for their safety as police are hiding them. The three are Eneles Dube, Janet Dube and Selina Dube.
As Bulawayo awoke to heavy police and army presence in the city, WOZA leaders decided to reduce the protest to the bravest of the brave numbering 500 female and male members. Another strategy adopted was to conduct flash protests, (appear and disappear as soon as police arrive). Additionally, headlines from the daily newspapers revealed an unofficial ban of rally and protests.
Higher numbers of riot police were deployed at the previous target of WOZA protests – The Chronicle. However they quickly heard the loud singing and ran up several city blocks to respond. The song that carried a strong message – Kubi kubi siyaya – noma kunjani – besitshaya; besibopha; besidubula, siyaya. Roughly translated “the situation is bad but we will still get where we are going, even if the beats us, arrest us, or shoot to kill us, we will get there”. One police officer ordering one of the protests to disperse said – what rights are you talking about? – you are lying, you want to start a revolution!
After they dispersed the protests, about 40 uniformed and plain clothed police officers picked up every single placard and newsletter, exposing two of their colleagues who had tortured members. One police officer came across a man holding the placard. He asked the man to show him it and asked why he was writing on it. The man said he needs scrap paper to write something down. The officer took it and proceeded to carefully fold this A2 size placard into the smallest piece imaginable and put it in his pocket telling the man, holding such a thing is not allowed.
The protests taking place around International Women’s Day provide an opportunity to demand respect for Women’s rights and for peace in Zimbabwe. The theme adopted as part of the Constitutional reform process is ‘the rising of the women means the rising of the nation – No more poverty and starvation, many sweating for a few to benefit”.
After the dispersal of members, they did not go home but went straight to Tredgold court to await the appearance of their colleagues. Forcing a further deployment of Riot Police and plain clothed detectives to the remand court where the stalemate seemed to endure.
Over the last week, members have been arrested and tortured by police officers in Bulawayo. Seven members on Monday 28th February and 4 on Saturday 5th March 2011. The four currently in custody all have swollen faces and Nomsa Sibanda could not use her hands to hold her baby. At 10am they were due to attend court but for unknown reasons they had still not attended court by mid afternoon. At 4:30pm, the state refused to prosecute and released the four without them appearing in court to be officially charged.
WOZA and MOZA wish to send a stern message to the police force – there is no basis for a state of emergency in Zimbabwe be it official or unofficial. According to the current constitution we have the right to protest and assembly peacefully. If they are wanting to declare a state of emergency they will have to justify it in law but the only people we see disturbing the peace are units of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, namely Riot squad, Police Internal Security Intelligence (PISI) like Mdawini, Law and Order detectives based at Bulawayo Central like George Levison Ngwenya. If they continue to arbitrarily arrest our members we will respond with more protests and expose those who commit torture.
WOZA leaders pay tribute to the courage of members who seeing the police and army all over could so easily have stayed at home but because of the pressure they brought to bear, their colleagues have walked away without charge when earlier in the week, their seven colleagues were being threatened with prison and had to pay for their freedom.
————————- Text of the Woza Moya Newsletter
International Women’s Day 2011 Demand Dignity; Demand Development and begin your Affirmative Action for Development on 8 march 2011
A message from the World March of Women International Women’s voices and actions are important to the construction of people power, and on International Women’s Day we commit ourselves to struggle alongside our sisters to ensure their active participation in their country’s transition processes. One year on from the launch of our 3rd International Action, we – feminists and activists of the World March of Women – continue to march, resist and construct alternatives. We renew our commitment to organise collectively until all of us are free from the oppressions and discriminations that we face as women. We are committed to strengthening, consolidating and expanding our permanent movement around the world.
We continue to be challenged by the need to build and strengthen the links between our action areas – Violence against women, Peace and demilitarisation, the common good and public services, Women’s work – in our struggle for autonomy over our lives and bodies. The systematic use of violence against women as a weapon of war in these conflicts; the exploitation of women’s productive and reproductive work and of the environment in order to strengthen patriarchy and racism protect capitalism.
We take direct action to pressurise our governments to reduce military spending, we are saying “enough!” to the militarisation of our communities and societies. When we mobilise outside embassies, our international solidarity is translated into action on behalf of sisters who are imprisoned, tortured, raped and criminalised in other countries. When we are loud, visible and irreverent in the streets, we challenge the patriarchal system within which a woman’s “natural” space is the home and the family.
When we demand equal salaries for equal work and workers rights, we are struggling for fair working conditions for all sisters exploited in the globalised, capitalist system. When we resist false solutions to climate change; we are demonstrating that we not accept the destruction of peoples and of our planet while big business continues to pollute and destroy. When we mobilise we are showing that we refuse to accept the exploitation of the environment and of peoples in countries whose economy is dependant on the exportation of metals and minerals. In a globalised, free-market world, the patriarchal and capitalist systems are borderless, while peoples are controlled within confined spaces, or else forced to flee from their ancestral territories. We will not be silenced by bullets, bombs and aggression! The 8th March is a historic day of women’s struggle and we will once again be out in the streets in protest, in denouncement and in commemoration of victories to come in 2011! Women on the March until we are All Free!
WOZA Statement on International Women’s Day 2011 As WOZA and MOZA members march their hearts are heavy. This last week our members, comrades and friends have been arrested for no clear reason. They were beaten and tortured in custody by police officers and Law and Order officers including Mdawini who is based at West Commonage police station and George Levison Ngwenya from Law and Order Bulawayo. These officers must learn to respect women’s rights, which are human rights. A police officer lifted up the dress of a member to expose her underwear for all other officers to see. We still remember late Maria Moyo who was abducted in August 2007 and tortured at Khami Dam. She died some days later. This Tuesday 1st March, George Levison Ngwenya cruelly showed a member her photograph and threatened to kill her the way late Maria was killed. It is this cruelty and hatred that must be stopped. As we march today, WOZA and MOZA members say, this our day to remind them of our rights and our need for peace and to demand that police and soldiers withdraw from the streets and allow us to live in peace. We call on SA president Jacob Zuma and SADC leaders to help us end the violence.
The RISING of the women means the RISING of the nation. No more poverty and starvation, many sweating for a few to benefit! As we go marching, marching, we struggle for men too – for they are women’s children and we mother them again! You strike a woman and you strike a rock!