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protestors commend police for non-violence
December 13, 2006
More than 300 protesting Zimbabweans were arrested on Tuesday, but
as they braced for a repeat of the police crackdown at a similar
gathering two weeks ago, the group was unexpectedly and quietly
Over 800 members
Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men Of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) marched
on Parliament in the capital, Harare, to launch the 'People's
Charter', a declaration of political and economic rights, but
were met by riot police as they approached the parliament buildings
"We intend to
launch the charter in every city across the country in the coming
months," Jenni Williams, WOZA's national coordinator, told IRIN.
calling for Parliamentary and Presidential elections to be held
in 2008, WOZA and MOZA members from all over Zimbabwe, including
the second city, Bulawayo, in Matabeleland North Province; Mutare,
on the Mozambican border in the eastern province of Manicaland;
Chegutu in Mashonaland West Province; Gweru in Midlands Province,
and some rural areas, marched along Harare's streets handing out
copies of the charter, which calls on the state to provide affordable
housing, education and healthcare.
According to a
statement released by WOZA, police surrounded the demonstrators
as they sat peacefully in front of the parliament buildings for
more than an hour, "whilst riot and uniformed police were seen conferencing
and seemed to be in a dilemma as to what to do with the group."
the police would again turn violent: WOZA organised a march two
weeks ago in Bulawayo to bring attention to the charter, but a crackdown
by police brought the protest to an abrupt end. The demonstrators
were allegedly beaten and six were taken to a public hospital in
need of medical attention, including a woman who reportedly had
her leg broken.
This time the
marchers were happily surprised when the police let them off with
a warning. "After being warned that they were demonstrating illegally,
and that they were not allowed to walk or even sit like they were
doing, the group was dispersed and asked to go home," the women's
the mild police action as a success, saying, "The reaction of the
Zimbabwe Republic Police today was a victory for WOZA's nonviolent
strategy and for the power of social justice," and commended the
police for "showing that they are human beings also requiring social
justice in their lives."
Since its formation
in 2003, members of the women's rights organisation have repeatedly
been arrested for taking part in peaceful demonstrations to protest
the worsening social, economic and human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
Unemployment levels have risen above 70 percent, annual inflation
is around 1,000 percent, and there are chronic shortages of foreign
currency, fuel and basic commodities. The government blames sanctions
imposed by the West for its economic woes.
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