Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) Hundreds march on Parliament Valentine's Day
Five hundred members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) in two separate
protests marched to Parliament to commemorating Valentine's Day and
WOZA 10th Anniversary under the theme - Shosholoza for love! The
first protest arrived and was stopped 50 meters from the Parliament
door by 8 baton stick and shield wielding Riot Police who refused to
allow them to pass.
The activists took the opportunity to sing their love songs to the
police and chant their slogans. Four leaders took the opportunity to
address the gathering on the constitutional reform requirements of
members and the role police should have been playing instead of
stopping the peaceful activists.
A 20 minute impasse was broken up by the arrival of a police Landover.
The second protest arrived and was also blocked. A senior officer then
began to demand the activists disperse and pleas to allow one person
to hand over the Woza Moya newsletter with demands fell on deaf ears.
He then threatened to use 'minimum' force to disperse the gathering
but before he could give any orders, a bigger vehicle arrived with
over 30 riot police who did not speak to the officer but started to
use their shields to push the women and men away from the road. One
officer with the tear gas gun cocked the weapon in the air making as
if to shoot it.As they pushed members away, some police officers began
to beat the peacefully dispersing crowd and this cause pandemonium and
people started to run away at speed.
One of the participants was beaten by 4 police officers at once taking
turns to slay her across the neck and shoulders. She apparently was
being beaten met with this level of severity for telling them -'the
thieves are going free while you beat us'. After they set up her she
then told them off saying - you are now the ones starting violence.
Ten members had to seek medical attention for soft tissue bruises and
lacerations caused by baton stick injuries.
WOZA call on the police officers to be more professional. It is
illogical to beat people as they are actually dispersing and a sign
that police officers have too high an appetite for violence. WOZA also
wish to draw comparison between the semi professional behaviour of
police at parliament who go through the motions of engaging protest
leaders whereas in Bulawayo the police offices just jump from their
truck and thump anybody in sight showing a greedy appetite for
violence. On 7th February the Bulawayo edition of the protest was
violently dispersed by police officers and over 30 members had to seek
medication for abrasions and bruises.
An opinion by Lawyer Andrew Makoni WOZA counsel 2009 on the role of
police from the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter
9:23).....the legislature is aware that processions inevitably
interfere in some way with other people's movements, hence the
provisions of section 29 (1) (c) which prescribes what a police
officer may do if a regulatory authority has not received a notice of
the intended procession more than 48 hours before the gathering, where
such notice is required. In terms of this subsection, an officer may
restrict the gathering to a place or guide the participants along a
route. This section does not give the police the power to arrest in
the event of an unlawful gathering but the power to regulate the
gathering. Neither does the act provide police officers with the right
to brutally disperse peaceful human rights defenders.
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