Hundreds of activists from the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) pressure group marched to police headquarters at Southampton House in Bulawayo Thursday, to deliver a letter of complaint about police harassment of their members. The event was to commemorate Women Human Rights Defenders Day, which falls on November 29th.
As the WOZA members passed St. Mary's church they knelt and prayed, but a truck load of riot police arrived and started beating them.WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams told SW Radio Africa that there were no serious injuries.
Their complaint letter was eventually accepted by the District Commanding Officer, Inspector Masina, who actually drove to meet the WOZA members on the street.
Williams said the protest was a continuation of their own version of the global 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The international theme this year is "From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women!" But WOZA has adopted a shorter version, simply "Peace Now!"
Williams said they were concerned with statements made by police earlier this month, saying there were no Ndebele people left because they were all killed during the Gukurahundi in the 1980s. To show their defiance, the WOZA members sang in Ndebele as marched through Bulawayo streets.
The group had just returned from Harare where they launched their campaign with a demonstration on Tuesday. Hundreds of WOZA activists marched to the parliament building to deliver a letter with their "16 Days demands" to legislators.
WOZA said about 500 members marched in two separate processions and merged at the entrance, where riot police tried to send them away. But the brave women continued with their program of song, prayer and speeches.