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Personal account by Patricia Tshabalala, a member of Women of Zimbabwe Arise
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
October 01, 2003

(Patricia is a mother of six and is chairperson of Vulindlela Guardians and Orphan Care a Mpopoma based community based organisation.)

On 13 August 2003, forty-eight of us gathered at Tredgold Provincial Court in Bulawayo. We had been arrested on 24th July 2003, whilst participating in a protest calling for the repealing of the Public Order Security Act (POSA). We appeared in Remand court and will appear again on the 5th November 2003. We were remanded out of custody on free bail. We respect the court but we will continue to call for the repealing of unjust laws for the good of our communities where people are suffering the most. We do not want POSA as it is used to stop us from grouping and talking about our problems. Since the beginning of the year about 200 women have been arrested and charge under POSA, they were peaceflly trying to propose solutions, as women should.

When we met in Court, many of the women are still unwell but remain strong in spirit. We were very sad to hear that Precious, pregnant with her first child has since miscarried. We know that the over crowding in the cells and the lack of proper toilet facilities contributed towards this miscarriage. We will continue to pray for a quick recovery for Precious and sincerely offer our condolences to her family.

I would like to share the experience of 24th July. On that day clusters of women were dotted around the Lobengula Shopping Mall, it was a warm sun shiny day although it is winter. We were gathered together as concerned citizens of Zimbabwe. Our group represented all walks of life, different church denominations, different political parties and individuals who joined us spontaneously. At 10 o'clock we all walked to Tredgold Court, as some of us were to deliver a letter calling for the repealing of the Public Order Security Act (POSA).

Jenni Williams led the women singing the African National Anthem Nkosi Sikelela iAfrica and for sure the Lord blessed us. We felt anointed with the Holy Spirit and had extra strength and courage to go on with our mission. The sun stood still, birds stopped singing and motorists and passersby watched. Even Policemen just stood and watched. Some people joined us in song. After the letter had been delivered to the Provincial Magistrate we marched up past Tredgold turning left into H Chitepo Street. We started singing Seliwile iBabylon (Babylon has fallen). As we reached 9th Avenue, we started singing Kunini Sahlupheka Kuletilizwe (We have suffered long in our country).

Thanks to the lord, we sang loudly, making sure our message was being heard. We also waved our placards, which said NO TO POSA. As we approached the Bus Terminus where we were going to disperse, we saw the boys in Navy Blue, called the Riot Police arrive. We were singing peacefully and still filled with the courage of the Holy Spirit. When the Riot Police jumped from their vehicles, the youngsters with us dropped their placards and ran away as they had been instructed to do. Prison is no place for our children as they often undergo torture. Amongst us were mothers with babies on their backs and we even had old grandmothers who have long forgotten their age.

When the Riot approached most of the women ran away forgetting that they had agreed to sit down and I decided to monitor who was beaten or arrested. As I observed, some Riot Police approached me and one said to me, "Mama Sizaku Karaba" meaning 'Mother we will scrub you'. I was irritated and replied that I only know of pigs being scrubbed not humans. I told them - ' you will not scrub me!'

I then saw Jenni walking with plain clothes and riot policemen and she told me that they wanted to arrest her alone. I told her that they would take me too. Women were so brave that day; I saw more and more join us under voluntary arrest. Some even walked the eight blocks to Central Police Station to be arrested with us until we numbered forty-eight.

While we were being arrested, policemen insulted us labeling us as 'witches'. We were then questioned one by one before being taken into cells. We had to remove our clothing, leaving one item on the top of the body and one on the bottom. We were happy that the night was warm as there were only a handful of blankets between all thirty-nine of us. We did not see Jenni and the other women until the next evening as they had been taken to Entumbane and had spent the day being questioned. The cell was the darkest and dirtiest and smelliest room I had ever been in. The handful of blankets were the dirtiest rags you could imagine.

We passed the night hungry and spent most of the next day in hunger. Only bits and pieces of food made it through the police to us. More and more prisoners joined us and we kept complaining that we could not even stretch our legs or walk without tramping someone. Jenni and the others joined us in the evening and we heard that we were to go to court on the next day Saturday. When we tried to squeeze our colleagues in with us, the policeman saw that they could not fit and agreed to shift us to another cell. But the bigger cell became small as we were now over 50 prisoners and worse still the toilet had not been flushing for some time and we choked with the smell of urine and stool. It was horrible and soon women fell ill. Gogo MaNdebele felt sick and we called for her to be taken out into another room. A short time later Elizabeth fell ill; she is asthmatic and could not breathe. They had to take her to the detention room for the rest of the night.

We felt that the Lord had forsaken us until we started to pray and sing. Although some of the women who had been arrested on Mothers day said we should sing quietly. Five of them had been slapped by a policeman for singing in the cells.

Morning came and we were told we would go to court. They called Jenni, telling us that she was supposed to help them find petrol to take us to court - they had nothing in stock. We finally left for Tredgold Provincial Court where our demonstration began and should end. Relatives and friends were there in support but most of us were so sleepy and hungry that we did not realise what was happening but just heard the magistrate say that we should report on 13 August.

As we left the Court we celebrated, saying GO GO WARRIORS. We had suffered what warriors suffer, we had been imprisoned for the cause of peace, justice and freedom of speech.

Women of Zimbabwe lets arise and shine. Point out our trials and tribulations to the Lord almighty for the anointed hand to help us fight for peace, fight for justice, fight for democracy, fight for freedom of speech and for all our rights.

Let us win the battle by being unified the way women were on the 24th July and lastly if God is with us, who is against us? Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Shine

Thank you WOZA Warriors for your courage:
1. Agnes Tanga
2. Catherine Phiri
3. Egnes Ndlovu
4. Elia Majola
5. Elinorah Mlilo
6. Elizabeth Moyo
7. Emily Mpofu
8. Ethel Moyo
9. Ever Nkomo
10. Flatter Mwenda
11. Georgina Phiri
12. Getrude Masuku
13. Gladys Moyo
14. Gladys Sibanda
15. Grace Mdlongwa
16. Jane Lunga
17. Janet Dube
18. Jeniva Nyakurimwa
19. Jennifer Williams
20. Josephine Sithole
21. Julia Ndlovu
22. Kuthala Ngwenya
23. Lina Dellerk
24. Litah Mlalazi
25. Lulu Shave Mantengwegwane
26. Magret Mnkandla
27. Margareth Ncube Nyoni
28. Mary Tshuma
29. Mavis Dube
30. Mavis Mathuthu
31. Melphine Nyathi
32. Mildred Moyo
33. Ntombizodwa Moyo
34. Ottillia Mhlanga
35. Patricia Nkomo
36. Patricia Tshabalala
37. Philipine Sithole
38. Precious Sibanda
39. Priscilla Mthimkhulu
40. Rachel Kumalo
41. Rita Sibanda
42. Sidelani Moyo
43. Sinini Mhlanga
44. Sithabile Sibanda
45. Sithembiso Nkala
46. Sophia Mhlanga
47. Virginia Ndlovu
48. and one other

Visit the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) fact sheet

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