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leaders meet with Ministers of Home Affairs
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
March 01, 2010
Leaders of Women
and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) today met with the co-Ministers
of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa. The meeting was
requested through the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). The human
rights defenders were accompanied by Dzimbabwe Chimbga from Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
The two hour meeting
was attended by the Permanent Secretary of Home Affairs, Mr. Melusi
Machiya and three other unnamed officials. Surprisingly, Registrar
General, Tobaiwa Mudede was also in attendance.
The ministers advised
that they had called the meeting after receiving numerous reports
from law enforcement agencies regarding the activities of WOZA.
Minister Mutsekwa opened by advising that the motive of the meeting
was to "bring WOZA and the ZRP to equal terms, restore harmony
and to remove discord and suspicion". The minister went on
to mention that the power sharing government is negatively regarded
locally and internationally as an oppressive government as a result
of WOZA's negative publications and that this is affecting their
ability to attract investors.
admitted that the police had been accused of being partisan in the
past which had led to the sharing of the Home Affairs ministry.
He stressed that Zimbabweans should obey their laws fully or if
they do not like the Public
Order and Security Act (POSA), which is on their statute books,
they should lobby parliament for amendments. He went on to say that
when the ministers had come into office they had announced to Zimbabweans
that the time for squabbles is over and that they should desist
from any activities that could jeopardise the inclusive government
and that WOZA should have taken their cue from that. He also insisted
that WOZA should put their trust the police as they are supposed
to keep order.
With that introduction,
they asked the WOZA delegation to respond. National Coordinator,
Jenni Williams related that at first WOZA had notified police of
their intention to hold peaceful demonstrations. Police interpreted
'notify' as 'apply' and that had lead to police trying to refuse
our right to assembly. At one stage they had threatened that they
would shoot to kill if members went into the streets. Williams also
mentioned that police do not comply with POSA regulations as regards
how to disperse a gathering, be it lawful or unlawful, but use excessive
force. Williams also advised that WOZA does not need to notify police
as it falls under POSA exemption schedules as a non-political organization.
In this regard, WOZA has successfully defended its right to assembly
in seven trials.
At this point a legal
argument began which continued for over 30 minutes with the ministry
interpreting the exceptions to suit their demand that WOZA must
notify before their demonstrations. Despite clarity that a 'gathering'
included a procession or a demonstration, and therefore exemptions
applied, the ministers were adamant that exemptions do not apply
to a demonstration. This matter remained unresolved and Minister
Mutsekwa insisted that the legal matter be argued between the Attorney
General and Mr. Chimbga.
In closing the meeting,
Minister Mutsekwa lectured on the "need for peace and tranquillity
in the country and we have to correct the wrong impression that
we are a lawless country." "We ask you to start to obey
the country's laws so that investors start coming in and we can
all benefit. There is a bigger picture than your issues. We are
going to call a press conference about our meeting with you."
With those comments they
then declared that if WOZA notify police before any demonstrations,
both ministers would not be found wanting in personally disciplining
any police excesses. Implicit in this statement is the threat that
if WOZA continues to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom
of expression and assembly and their exemption under the Public
Order and Security Act, they will continue to allow the police to
ignore clear instructions for dispersing a procession covered under
opinion remains as follows: the Public Order and Security Act currently
provides the law for the maintenance of public order and security
in Zimbabwe. Under Section 2 of the Act, a public gathering is defined
as a "public meeting or a public demonstration". Sections
23, 24 and 25 outline the procedure to be followed by a convener
who intends to organize public demonstrations as defined under the
Act. At the end of the Act appears a schedule of gatherings to which
sections 23, 24, 25. Of particular relevance to this situation is
paragraph (i) of the schedule which excludes "any club, association
or organization which is not of a political nature and at which
the discussions and matters dealt with are not of a political nature'
from having to give any notification.
WOZA therefore clearly
falls within the provisions of section (i) of the schedule and is
not obliged to give notice whenever it has its peaceful processions
on issues, which are non-political in nature.
the opportunity to directly engage with the co-ministers and acknowledges
the time they spent discussing with us. We will continue to stand
firm on our right to enjoy fully our freedom of expression and assembly
without hindrance. And in so doing, know that we are obeying the
letter of the constitutional provisions and the unfortunate Public
Order and Security Act. Peaceful protest is not the only means by
which WOZA members choose to engage with their leaders about issues
that affect them in their daily lives. In a country where democratic
space remains limited, however, we the ordinary people of Zimbabwe
will continue to grab any space possible to get our voices heard.
the WOZA fact
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