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Legal Monitor Issue 98
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

June 20, 2011

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It's game on: WOZA

Zimbabwe's often brutalised women activists are taking their campaign against repression and poor service delivery by public utilities such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) a gear up.

Despite constant arrests, imprisonment and lately the invasion of property, the women activists say they are pushing for more non-violent protests until their demands are heard.

In a multi-pronged strategy, the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) says it will intensify street protests as well as launch a passionate plea to families of ruthless police officers to talk to their relatives out of brutality.

The organisation, which has over 75 000 members countrywide, is also mobilising the international community to pressure Zimbabwe over human rights abuses.

"WOZA calls on Zimbabweans to mobilise themselves to non-violently demand respect for people will before it is too late. Your mothers need your help," said the group, whose members include elderly women.

"As a direct action non-violent movement and mother of the nation we will take action. We will not be silenced," the group said as police officers refused to vacate a house used by WOZA as an office claiming that they were searching firearms and subversive material. Police escalated its war on WOZA when officers invaded a private residence used by WOZA, demanding the "surrender" of the group's leadership.

The Bulawayo High Court on Friday reserved judgment on an application brought by WOZA lawyer, Kossan Ncube of Kossam Ncube and Partners Legal Practitioners, who is a board member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to force the officers to leave the premises.

Declaring its intention to continue fighting, WOZA appealed to those with police relatives to use their influence to stop police brutality.

"WOZA calls on all police officers to refuse to be used to carry out illegal acts in the name of political supremacy. We call on their family members to prevail upon them to think carefully about their future and personal sanity. There will be a time for their action to be judged if not on this earth then in heaven," said the group.

Since the beginning of the year, 38 WOZA members have been arbitrarily arrested and 24 detained and charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the group said.

"This police harassment of WOZA human rights defenders provides leaders of the South African Development Community (SADC) with direct proof of the intransigence of the Mugabe regime and their refusal to respect the Global Political Agreement of which they are guarantors and prosecution in the absence of any genuine suspicion of criminal activity needs urgent addressing through security sector reform," said WOZA.

WOZA said it was lobbying local, regional and international human rights defenders to directly press their governments to put pressure through diplomatic means to stop the persecution of human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders.

"Special emphasis should be on their rights to peacefully hold their own government to account by direct or indirect street engagement," said WOZA

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