Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) note with concern the arrest of six activists in the last week at the Robert Mugabe Airport in Harare. The six activists represent various organisations working in Zimbabwe. We note that four of these activists have been denied the right to remand and remain in custody.
WOZA is informed that the activists are accused of plotting to overthrow the Government by attending a workshop on non violent theory and practice. WOZA is a social movement that practices nonviolence direct action as a method to ensure citizens can demand social accountability by policy makers and use peaceful marches as a way to expose injustices. In the pursuit of our mandate WOZA as an organisation capacitates members in all forms on non violent protest and in how to compile their demands so as to ensure their citizenship has meaning in democratic spaces that should inform our governance. It is important to put nonviolent strategy in the context of democracy in the words of Mahatma Ghandi. “People must be prepared to take back their power. We have long been accustomed to think that power comes only through Legislative Assemblies. The truth is that power resides in the people and it is entrusted for the time being to those whom they may choose as their representatives. Parliaments have no power or even existence independently of the people.”
WOZA call on Government to realise that participating in a workshop where non violence as a principle is taught cannot be criminalised and be exaggerated to be an act of overthrowing Government as it is by its nature the means for people power and participation in their Governance. Hundreds of WOZA activists have faced similar charges and detentions since formation in 2002 but no member has been convicted as people have a protected right to protest peacefully.
WOZA call on Government to also respect the space of activists and civic society to pursue their mandates unharrased and unhindered by overzealous state agents. As it is the people mobilised by and capacitated by civic society that own the right to judge our democracy and this right cannot derogate to state agents.
Government must respect, protect and fulfil the constitutional right to protest and petition as contained in our Constitutions Bill of Rights section 59 and seriously rewrite the Maintenance of Peace & Order Bill 2019 as it makes a mockery out of the spirit of our 2013 Constitution.
WOZA also call on Zimbabweans to respect that the United Nations Protocol on Human Rights Defenders and remain nonviolent in their practice approach and deliberations. A Human Rights Defender is described in Article 1. A human rights defender can be a single individual acting independently or as member of an association as well as of groups only occasionally gathered together such as during a public protest. According to the Declaration, a human rights defender, to be considered as such, must accept and respect two principles: universality and non-violence. The principle of non-violence requires that any actions taken by human rights defenders must be peaceful. Violence cannot be used to protect or promote human rights under any circumstances.
WOZA suggests Government should take serious measure to mitigate the heavy burden poor governance is putting on lives of citizens. Government should stop Zimbabwe Republic Police from using prosecution as persecution of activists but should instead demand facilitate the right to peaceful protest as the levels of suffering have become unbearable for continue silence and inaction.
For more information, please contact Jenni Williams 0772 898110 or Magodonga Mahlangu 0772362668 or email firstname.lastname@example.org