Posts Tagged ‘Women of Zimbabwe Arise’

This is how Zimbabwe celebrated Women Human Rights Defenders Day:

November 30, 2013

Scores of peaceful marchers from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were beaten and some arrested by police in anti-riot gear on Friday. The women were on their way to the Mhlahlandlela Government Complex, where they submitted a petition outlining the needs and expectations of Zimbabwean women in the context of the on-going campaign against gender-based violence. WOZA leader Jenni Williams said baton-wielding officers, who were accompanied by dogs, pounced on the group of women, chasing and beating them up.

She added: “We have long argued that police in Bulawayo have seemingly a tribal and regional agenda. Why is it that when we demonstrate in Bulawayo our demos are either stopped before they even start or our members are beaten up? Yet I can go to parliament (in Harare) and nobody will arrest me?”Some women were arrested and then released without charge three hours later, at the intervention of the officer in charge at Drill Hall in Bulawayo, who simply said the women were free to go, without offering any explanation why the women had been violently and brutally arrested in the first place. Williams explained: “He just came in and said we could go, there was no problem. We said to him ‘Just like that? When people have been beaten up and dogs almost set on them and you say there is no problem?’.” The WOZA leader, who has been arrested more than 50 times, expressed concern at the heavy-handedness of Bulawayo police.

WOZA activists brutalised on Women Human Rights Defenders Day | SW Radio Africa.

Human Rights in Zimbabwe: disappointing compromises, but progress

January 8, 2013

Somewhat different from the Observatory’s report on Zimbabwe I referred to in my post of 26 November 2012, this report by a broad coalition of local NGOs (listed at the end of the document) paints a more mixed picture. The report of the Zimbabwe NGO Human Rights Forum covers the period September to december 2012.

After reflecting on the deadlock in the constitution making process, the report documents the continuing harassment of civil society and political activists that characpreviewterised the period. The operating environment for NGO’s continued to be very challenging. Police arrested and ill-treated peaceful protesters, especially the Women of Zimbabwe Arise activists. Other organisations that faced raids and arrests included the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the Counselling Services Unit and many other civil society organisations offering vital services to vulnerable Zimbabweans. Human Rights lawyers were hampered at every turn as they tried to carry out their professional duties and protect Human Rights Defenders.

Fears of the same levels of political violence that characterised the 2008 election period were re-ignited when President Mugabe announced to the UN General Assembly that there would be a constitutional referendum in November 2012 and harmonised elections in March 2013. The news was greeted with great concern. In September 2012, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network stated that it would be logistically impossible to hold a referendum in November and elections in March. They cited disputes in finalising the new constitution, continuing political intimidation and gross inaccuracies in voters’ lists that still name ‘ghost’ electors who have long been dead. The organisation called for a number of important issues to be dealt with first. These include resourcing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, revision of the outdated Referendum Act and effecting technical changes to the Electoral Bill as well as updating and cleaning the voter’s roll. This led to the passing into law of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Electoral Amendment acts.

Sadly as 2012 drew to a close the Annual ZANU PF Congress rang a warning bell against NGO’s and, as if nothing had ever changed, within days, the police began wantonly raiding and arresting human rights organisations all over again.

Despite the setbacks narrated above, it is our view that Zimbabwe is in a better place today than it was 2008. All the credit is due to the Human Rights Defenders who have tirelessly worked on the ground as well as our regional and international partners and without whose input the country could have descended into lawlessness. The attainment of democracy is a process not an event and indeed Zimbabwe is currently in transition although that transition is fraught with unnecessary detours and compromises. However such compromises, disappointing as they may be in the short run, may aid the transitional process in the long run. A case in point is the limited temporal jurisdiction of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and Zimbabwe’s failure to ratify the Rome Statute.

Ironically a focus on ratification of the Rome Statute for some countries in transition can impede the chances of a peaceful transition. In other words whilst Zimbabwean civil society is absolutely committed to ratification, that long-term necessity should also not derail the process of transition, and this indeed calls for a judicious balancing act. ‘In other words it was important not to allow perfection to become the enemy of the good.’

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And the Women in Zimbabwe need all the support they can get…..

September 18, 2012

The Press statement below was issued by the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and shows the need for the continued attention and support from the UN as well as NGOs:

AT noon on 12th September 300 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise
(WOZA) were prevented from conducting a peaceful protest to The
Chronicle in Bulawayo. Three small groups that managed to arrive at
the Chronicle but were quickly dispersed by Riot Police with raised
baton sticks. In 5 parts of the Central business district Riot Police
were standing in groups of 4 carrying baton sticks and obviously ready
to stop the protests as they began.

A block away, WOZA national coordinator, Jenni Williams was standing
alone when 4 police officers surrounded her. One of these police
officers had arrested Williams on 21 September 2011 while shopping in
an Electrical shop. On that day, 30 minutes previously he had also
arrested Magodonga Mahlangu. Both activists were then charged with
Kidnap and Theft, charges that are still being prosecuted in 2012.

On the 12 September, he once again refused to give his name but asked,
“Jennifer what are you planning here?”  To which Williams replied,
“What are you doing here beating people?” The other police officers
then started to lecture Williams on the need for WOZA to notify police
before any protest. A legal argument ensured. One the officers then
announced that the Officer Commanding of Bulawayo, Central Assistant
chief Inspector Rangwani wanted to see Williams. The police officers
then escort her to the station on foot.

As they began to walk, Magodonga Mahlangu arrived and asked Williams
what was happening. It was at this point that a further legal argument
ensued. Williams advised Mahlangu that it seemed she was under arrest.
The officers said she was not but then refused to allow her to go and
reschedule the meeting with the chief Inspector.

As the two arrived at the police station, eight members entered the
station in solidarity bringing the number ‘arrested’ to 10. They were
taken to the chief inspector Rangwani’s office and they were told he
would be arriving shortly. Lawyers were deployed to represent the
activists but were denied access. A two and a half hour circus then
ensued with the activists being told they were being charged but some
officers refusing to charge them, mentioning the letter of complaint
filed the week before. The arresting officers then stage-managed the
separation of Williams and Mahlangu from the other 8. The 8 and other
activists outside were rounded up by a Riot squad and force marched to
the bus terminus.

The WOZA leaders who were now back in the OC Rangwani office were
still unable to access their lawyers. Finally two senior officers
seated themselves in the OC chair and surprisingly asked the two if
they had wanted a meeting with the OC. Williams then asked the
whereabouts of OC Rangwani, the officers admitted he was on leave. The
WOZA leaders then stood up and said, ‘as we are told we are not
formally under arrest we are now leaving and will be submitting a
further letter of complaint.” Williams then left her phone number for
a meeting to be scheduled and the two activists walked out of the
police station.

WOZA wish to draw attention to the disparate police response between
the police at Parliament in Harare and the Bulawayo police. On 12
September it was obvious that the WOZA leaders were arrested to
prevent their exercising their right to protest. This right is
provided by constitutional law buttressed by Supreme Court ruling of
2010 after legal action taken by Williams and Mahlangu. ‘Once again
police in Bulawayo have acted overzealously and acted to discriminate
against WOZA members from Bulawayo which is regional and tribal
discrimination.

See the complaint against the police at
http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/WOZA-complain-of-police-harrasment-ZRP-Jomic.pdf

WOZA’s case shows that meetings can help generate support for HRDs

September 18, 2012

From 6 to 8 June 2012, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) national coordinator Jenni Williams attended an international human rights experts meeting is Oslo, hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She presented the story of WOZA and its mandate of peaceful protest and the brutality of the state in responding with violence.
Amongst those attending were the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association, Maina Kai; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and
expression, Frank La Rue; and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya as well as the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the Africa commission on human and people rights, Reine
Alapini-Gansou.
The African Commission Special Rapporteur Reine Alapini-Gansou and two United Nations Special Rapporteurs have since released statements.
http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Oslo-statement-FINAL1.pdf
and http://wozazimbabwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Press-release-PEACEFUL-PROTEST.pdf

Visit WOZA website at http://www.wozazimbabwe.org or follow on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wozazimbabwe.

This information was provided by the International Secretariat of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC)