By Alex Bell
As questioned are raised about the growing calls for Robert Mugabe to be removed from power and whether the calls are yet more shining rhetoric in a time of desperation, members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets of Harare on Tuesday, demanding immediate international intervention.
An estimated 400 members marched to the offices of the United Nations Development Programme in Harare, to hand over a petition demanding that the UN step in immediately to resolve Zimbabwe’s combined crises. The petition also declared the ZANU PF government incapable of dealing with the crises and highlighted the urgent need for the UN to protect the Zimbabwean people.
The protest also marked the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence’ and came a day before International Human Rights Day on Wednesday, which will mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights released on 10 December 1948.
WOZA leader Jenni Williams described the aim of the march, saying the group is focusing “on the right to life, when cholera is killing so many of us, and our right to food and a new government.” Williams said there were initial concerns upon arriving at the UN offices after the doors were closed at the sight of the protesters, but she explained that two UN officials eventually came out to receive the petition. The group then dispersed, before police arrived undoubtedly planning to use force to disperse the peaceful group.
The protest march retraced the steps of the group’s last mass action earlier this year, that saw several members facing police brutality and arrest. Williams and her colleague, WOZA leader Magodonga Mahlangu, were detained for six weeks following their arrest, and Williams said the group was fortunate not to have a repeat police crackdown during Tuesday’s march.
“We out maneuvered them because they didn’t know where our protest started,” Williams said. “We took them by surprise so today (Tuesday) was our day.”
Meanwhile the planned peaceful demonstration led by pressure group the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), that was expected to take place on Wednesday, has been moved to next week. The mass action is set to build on the success of three previous protests which saw over 1,000 NCA members take to the streets in support of the organisation’s three-point plan for achieving democracy.
Last week’s action saw the arrest of 15 members when riot police clashed with demonstrators, but the NCA has said it will not be deterred by the police’s vicious clamp down in its demonstrations. NCA spokesman Madock Chivasa told Newsreel on Tuesday that Wednesday’s action has been moved to allow more time to prepare for the action to take place countrywide.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news