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An open letter to the Zimbabwe Republic Police
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
December 10, 2005

WOZA, the acronym of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, is an Ndebele word meaning 'Come forward'. WOZA is a registered trust formed in 2003. Our objectives are to:

  • Provide women from all walks of life with a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lives.
  • Empower female leadership that will lead community involvement in finding solutions to the current crisis.
  • Encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms.
  • Lobbying and advocacy on those issues affecting women.

We encourage women to speak out and hold their government accountable. Our mandate is to conduct peaceful protests in defiance of unjust laws that sanction our fundamental and god-given freedoms of assembly, expression and association. Through our actions, we create space to allow the general public to articulate issues they are too fearful to raise alone. WOZA has conducted over 30 protests in its three year existence. We recognize the sacrifice of over 800 women who have spent up to 48 hours in custody, some more than once. On 31 March this year, over 265 women and 20 babies spent a night in custody after conducting a prayer vigil on election night. These women, front-line human rights defenders, are willing to suffer beatings and unbearable conditions in prison cells to exercise their constitutional rights.

We have set out to prove that the power of love can conquer the love of power. 'Tough Love' is our weapon of mass mobilisation. 'Tough Love' is the disciplining love of a parent; we must practice it and bring dignity back to our families. Tough Love from the grassroots is the solution to the crisis of governance in Zimbabwe. Our rulers need some discipline; who better to dish it out than a mother! But what kind of mother would we be if we remained silent while our children cry from hunger? Do your children go to bed at night with full stomachs? Can you afford to send all your children to school and provide them with a promising future?

When WOZA was formed we adopted the highest risk option of demonstration when the most repressive laws were in effect. We had to find ways to speak out about our wellbeing rather that suffer in silence. We knew that police officers would support our struggle if they saw our love and determination. So when we march with love in our hearts, it helps us to bear the consequences. The consequences we suffer are arrest, assault and harassment by YOU - police officers. We know that you are our children, parents who are also trying to earn a living and feed your families.

Through our work we must break the chain of oppression. Rhodesia had an elite group of capitalists ruling over and oppressing people with unjust laws based on inequality. Little seems to have changed - we now have Zimbabwe and an elite group of black capitalists ruling over and oppressing people with unjust laws based on inequality. How many houses were some of you forced to destroy because of colonial housing laws? How may people did you make homeless and jobless through Operation Murambatsvina?

As the women of WOZA mark the 16 Days of Action Campaign with activities, we will be calling on Police officers to join us in saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, SOKWANELE, ZVAKWANA. During this time, and forevermore, WOZA demands that:

  • ALL Zimbabweans respect the rights of women and girls and violence against women is stopped. NO MORE VIOLENCE!
  • The police respect the rights of women human rights defenders and the women they represent. We call on the officers from all ranks to refuse to arrest WOZA women as they go about their peaceful business.
  • ALL police officers read and uphold the 2001 Harare Resolution on the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) Code of Conduct for Police Officials. The specific points that should be implemented to restore their dignity as professional police officers are, in particular, Articles 1- 5.
  • Article 1 - 'In the performance of their duties, police officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.'

Signed by

Your mothers, sisters and grandmothers
Women Human Rights Defenders

Visit the WOZA fact sheet

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