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Women Take to Harare's Streets in Protest
October 03, 2004

A militant women's group staged a wildcat demonstration in Harare today demanding stronger action from neighbour South Africa to pressure Zimbabwe to resolve its political and economic crisis.

The noisy demonstrators, waving banners, handed in a petition at the South African embassy that urged South African President Thabo Mbeki and his country to take a leading role in forcing democratic reforms in Zimbabwe.

The militant Women of Zimbabwe Arise group staged the protest and dispersed before police arrived to quell the illegal gathering.

Demonstrations in Zimbabwe are illegal without police approval under sweeping security laws. The women did not have approval.

The women's loud chanting and their banners demanded a return to human rights and the restoration of the rule of law.

Anticipating a possible police baton charge, one placard said: "You strike a woman, you strike a rock."

With political gatherings routinely banned, pressure groups say they are secretly planning more quick, wildcat protests to catch police off guard.

Jenni Williams, an organiser of today's protest, said Mbeki's policy of "quiet diplomacy" failed to ease state repression in Zimbabwe.

"We are killing quiet diplomacy with our noise. We want more fire," Williams said.

In the past, the women's group has protested against food shortages with mothers banging pots and pans on the streets and has organised hymn singing and prayer vigils for the victims of political violence.

Zimbabwe faces its worst political and economic crisis since independence in 1980, with the world's highest inflation and acute shortages of food, petrol and essential goods.

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