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A WOZA Tribute to Dudu
Jenni Williams, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
May 16, 2004

This week I was arrested and spent 24 hours in custody with Dudu and 8 other women. Dudu tells me she was born in 1980 the year Zimbabwe became Independent. She could be referred to as a 'Born Free'. She is already a mother of a 6 year old and is 6 months pregnant. We were together in a demonstration calling for a new constitution. Women of Zimbabwe Arise, WOZA partnered with the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and about 400 women, old and young answered that call braving arrest and a possible beating by police. Many men also joined in and we marched through the streets of Bulawayo during lunchtime on Wednesday. Eight of us were arrested first off and Dudu, Juliet and a man arrived later. The police opted to release the man and keep pregnant Dudu in custody despite our pleas for her release.

WOZA is pressure group for women, the word WOZA is a Zulu word meaning ' come forward' and women in Zimbabwe are coming forward to speak out rather than suffer in silence in their homes. We ask women to come out into the streets and join us in solidarity rather than weep in their homes until the tears flow out of the front door into the streets.

This was my twelfth arrest and Dudu's first for participating in peaceful demonstrations and exercising basic freedoms allowed for by God and the constitution. Riot police arrested us and crammed us in their Defender vehicle, forcing us to squash in and then seating themselves around us to hide us from public view. Were they also embarrassed at having to arrest peaceful women? The same riot policemen were even more embarrassed later when they were called in to identify whom they had personally arrested. One of the younger officers insisted he had arrested Patience, so she removed his hat in order to see his face clearly. The Investigating officer tried to tell her she had committed an offence in removing his hat but she replied that she had removed the hat of her 'child' as she normally does to be able to see his face. No one argued back. Inspector Ncube with pips all over his shoulders and a Zimbabwe Flag on his lapel puffed up his chest saying he had arrested Patricia and myself identified as the ringleaders. Next came the identifying of who had been carrying which piece of 'evidence'. The evidence was 3 pieces of material, one a flag and 2 scarves printed with the WOZA message: Enough is Enough - Zvakwana - Sokwanele. They also had some pamphlets calling for a new constitution, taken off the man they set free. All the evidence was recorded as having come from us. A lawyer from the Lawyers for Human Rights arrived and was told to leave without seeing us or being able to lobby for Dudu's release.

After further intimidation we were then sent off to the cells. Those of us who had expected arrest had dressed up for a cold jail cell but an unfeeling female officer watched us undress and made sure we only had one article of clothing up and down. We managed to share the spare warm clothing around and got Dudu a warm tracksuit top. After this we were taken into cell number one where a cold cement floor and the stench of an unflushed toilet awaited us. There were no blankets and requests for one were ignored. We sang and danced to keep warm but had to stop when a police officer came and told us they would hose us down with cold water if we did not stop. We were tired and hungry but happy to see the face of one of our friends risking arrest to bring us food. She had been in the demonstration but had escaped arrest. We pondered on why none of the churches had come to give us some food. We later found out that the church leader felt that they should not get involved in 'politics' and gave the order not to bring provisions to us. We said our evening prayers, huddled up and tried to get some sleep.

The next morning we were taken for interrogation, finger printed and photographed like common criminals. There was some negotiation on charges and in the end, charges on the Public Order Security Act (POSA) could not hold and the investigating officer opted to charge us under the Miscellaneous Offences Act, the essence of the charge being 'blocking the pavement and conduct likely to breech the peace'. Our lawyer said we had an option of paying a $ 5000 admission of guilt fine or going to Court. We opted to go to Court as felt we had committed no wrong. It was amazing that we would be taken to Court within 24 hours as under POSA we could be held for 48 hours, we presumed that friends were telephoning the police station and putting them under pressure to release us.

While we were in the Law and Order offices, a new officer we had not met before, now the second in command of law and order came in and asked us why we were demonstrating. I answered that we were exercising our God given right to call for a new constitution. He then said we would never be able to demonstrate again. Thinking he was referring to our being taken to Court, I said we would see what happened in Court. He replied that he was not talking about a Court solution but that he would stop us permanently. Seeing the evil intention in his words, I felt I had to give him a second chance to retract the threat on our lives. My own heart was beating loudly at the evil in his words. I calmly told him that I would pray for the devil to leave his heart. Instead he repeated his threat by telling me that I would not even have time to pray for him. Strange though it seems, I still only felt love for him and said we would still pray for him. His threat was delivered in the presence of one female officer and directed at myself and the other WOZA women.

It is Sunday today and we have gone to church to pray for this officer, Inspector Ndlovu. We were released that afternoon on one hundred thousand dollars bail, an amount that shocked even the prison officers. Perhaps if we had not made bail we would not have been alive to pray for Ndlovu today but God is in control not Satan. We go back to court on 28th May on remand and will continue to be alert to threat on our lives but we will not be deterred from our struggle for women's rights. We will keep up the pressure for a better form of governance to ease the suffering in our nation. The most important objective of WOZA is to foment a spirit of hope. We work in the streets so that Dudu, a Born Free Zimbabwean and her children will take back their citizenship, enjoy sovereign power and be free to elect accountable leaders who respect those who elected them.

Today we heard that over 20 of our colleagues in the NCA were beaten by Gweru police and are languishing in cells there being denied legal access. Dr Lovemore Madhuku is amongst them. A message from an NCA friend reminded me that 'We are our own liberators', to do this we must continue to make injustice visible and sacrifice some hours in custody to have a more genuine freedom for the future.

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