Women of Zimbabwe Arise leader Jenni Williams claimed a significant victory when she organised a “People’s Charter” campaign in Filabusi, about 100km South-East of Bulawayo and was addressed by the district administrator.
She told United States embassy officials that their planned march was stopped by police before they staged it indicating that police had advance knowledge of the protest.
Police arrested two WOZA members and the rest marched to the police station demanding to be arrested as well.
Police, however, called the district administrator to addr4ess them and listen to their complaints.
Williams said WOZA was pleased with the district administrator’s attempt to engage the group and was encouraged that police kept copies of their charter to pass on to provincial leaders.
She said that in contrast to the brutal treatment they had received in Bulawayo, WOZA members considered the event in Filabusi a significant victory and a reaffirmation of their peaceful resistance approach.
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SUBJECT: WOZA LEADERS RELEASED THEN CLAIM VICTORY AT SECOND
REF: A. HARARE 503
¶B. 06 HARARE 01433
‘Silent March’ Arrestees Released
¶1. (U) All seven Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA) activists
arrested in Bulawayo on June 6 (Ref A) have been released.
On June 8 police released without charge the five WOZA
members initially arrested at the demonstration, and released
WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu on June 10
after charging the two leaders with violating public order
sections of the Criminal Code. The two women posted
Z$100,000 bail (about US$1.50 at the parallel market exchange
rate) and are due back in court on June 18.
¶2. (U) Neither Williams nor Mahlangu was injured while in
custody; however, they told us that conditions at the jail
were deplorable. Several of the other arrestees were not so
fortunate and required medical attention upon their release,
mostly for severe bruising from baton wielding police at the
time of arrest.
WOZA Keeps Up the Pressure and Claims Victory
¶3. (U) With Williams and Mahlangu fresh out of jail, WOZA
kept up the pressure. On June 11 more than 150 WOZA
supporters gathered in the rural town of Filabusi, located
about 1.5 hours from Bulawayo in Matabeleland South Province,
for a local launch of the group’s “People’s Charter” campaign
for social justice (Ref B.). Williams told us, however, that
the police must have had advanced warning because they
arrived at the staging area before the demonstration began
and arrested two WOZA activists.
¶4. (U) As was the case in Bulawayo on June 6, the WOZA
members not arrested marched to the police station and
demanded to be arrested in a show of solidarity. This time,
however, the police allowed them into the station and called
in the ruling party ZANU-PF district administrator to meet
with the women and listen to their complaints. Initial
reports from WOZA indicated that police had arrested the
group. When contacted later by lawyers representing the WOZA
members, the police claimed that they had only met with the
women and never made any arrests.
¶5. (SBU) Williams told us that WOZA was pleased with the
district administrator’s attempt to engage the group. She
was also encouraged that the police kept copies of the
“People’s Charter” to pass on to provincial leaders.
Williams added that in contrast to the brutal treatment they
had just received in Bulawayo, WOZA members considered the
event in Filabusi a significant victory and a reaffirmation
of their peaceful resistance approach.
¶6. (SBU) WOZA continues to be one of Zimbabwe’s most active
and successful civil society groups. Despite police getting
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the drop on the Filabusi demonstration, WOZA’s strategy of a
series of quick strike actions of one to two hundred
supporters in various parts of the country keeps the
government guessing where they might pop up next.
Additionally, their consistent focus on bread and butter
issues — school fees, food security, jobs — resonates well
in both urban and rural areas. End Comment.