WOZA protesters arrested in Bulawayo
By Violet Gonda
6 June 2007
Seven members from the group Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) were arrested during peaceful protests in Bulawayo on Wednesday. The pressure group had taken to the streets to call for the inclusion of all stakeholders in the Thabo Mbeki led talks that only involve the main political parties at present. WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were also detained after they handed themselves in at Bulawayo Central Police station, in solidarity with their colleagues.
WOZA said the current set up that only involves the two MDC factions and ZANU PF is unfair and will not address issues of social justice and socio-economic issues. The group said part of the march was also to launch its position on the current talks with “10 Steps to a New Zimbabwe.”
But riot police violently broke up the demonstrations that took place in two different locations in Bulawayo. It’s reported that several people were beaten and five people were arrested on the spot and taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station.
Those that weren’t arrested regrouped and marched to the police station to hand themselves in. WOZA said: “Police refused them entrance, grabbing only Williams and Mahlangu. When the rest of the group tried to follow them into the station, police at the gates began to viciously beat people to disperse them.”
WOZA spokesperson Annie Sibanda said the march was to give a word of advice to leaders in Southern Africa and the political parties in Zimbabwe that the civic society and grassroots movement should be included at the negotiating table. But the response from the authorities was to beat and arrest the activists. According to the spokesperson there has been no response from both the ruling and opposition parties. She said: “We are not surprised by that as it’s quite often that the people of Zimbabwe are ignored by the politicians until it comes time to vote in elections.”
The pressure group is adding its voice to calls by many civic groups who insist on their inclusion in the talks. Among the demands being made by such groups is the cessation of violence, repeal of oppressive legislation and an all stakeholders conference that includes political parties, labour, churches, students and NGOs.
We were not able to get a comment from opposition and ZANU PF officials.
Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) appointed the South African President mediator to the Zimbabwe crisis in March. Mbeki is expected to produce a progress report on the crisis talks to the SADC Heads by June 30.
Scores of opposition and civic activists have been under systematic attack despite attempts to bring the main political parties to the negotiating table. Observers do not hold much hope given the repression and signs that Robert Mugabe is not ready to give up power. Last week a meeting between ZANU PF and MDC officials in South Africa had to be postponed due to stalling by the ruling party. The second round of talks is expected this Friday.
It’s reported the regime wants the opposition to recognise Mugabe as the President of Zimbabwe and that the 2002 elections were legitimate. The MDC on the other hand is calling for an end to violence, the repeal of draconian legislation and a new constitution among other issues.