More than 100 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were arrested June 11 in Filabusi, Zimbabwe during a peaceful demonstration to launch the Peoples’ Charter, which includes demands for social rights and liberties. According to WOZA, “The Peoples’ Charter is the result of an eleven-month process of consulting ordinary Zimbabweans on what they want in a socially just future.” Among the priorities are racial and political tolerance, the repeal of unjust laws, equal access to land, education, and housing.
At Monday’s demonstration, two WOZA members were arrested by an armed police officer before the protest even began. WOZA estimates that between 100 and 150 other women voluntarily handed themselves in to the Filabusi Police Station in a show of solidarity. When questioned by a female officer at the station as to the cause of their protest, the detained members explained their grievances. The officer sympathized and called in the District Administrator, who promised to provide food assistance and released them.
WOZA considers the protest a success, declaring “a victory for non-violent protest” and acknowledging “the ‘sisterhood’ from the officer in charge who treated the WOZA activists with respect.” The group also announced its gratitude for the District Administrator’s pledge to supply food.
The arrests on Monday followed a similar incident in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe last week. Some 20 members of WOZA held a march to launch the group’s “10 Steps to a New Zimbabwe” campaign. The two leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were charged with promoting public violence but were granted bail of $100,000 each. The activists will be brought back to court on June 18.