WOZA Press Statement on the Zimbabwe Learning Exchange Meeting

WOZA  Press Statement on the Zimbabwe Learning Exchange Meeting

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) fully associate themselves with the statement made at the close of the Zimbabwe Learning Exchange Meeting Declaration of 28 August 2012 convened by the Action Support Centre. WOZA add their call for the opening up of space for the work of civic society as we move towards finalisation of our constitutional reform process.

We also call on the King Mswati and the Swaziland Police to allow all citizens the full enjoyment of freedoms of expression and assembly during the upcoming Global Week of Action on Swaziland.

The time has come for the people to people solidarity and WOZA members commit to active solidarity to their sisters and brothers in the region. It is in this spirit that we express our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Marikana tragedy.

WOZA adopted a mandate to practice peaceful protest as human rights defenders committed to the principles of non violence and universality. For the last 10 years we have conducted protests on a range of issues, including partnering with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in their right to a decent wage. The Zimbabwe Republic Police response to the peaceful protests have been beatings, arrests torture and our activists are persecuted on a daily basis for their peaceful protest mandate.

As victims of police brutality and use of excessive force, WOZA are especially concerned that police officers within the region must be trained in response to protest situations and in the case of Marikana, in how they respond to violence without killing the innocently non violent. We call on South African Police Commissioner general Riah Phiyega to follow the Southern Africa Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation protocols. And further probe the role played by the two rival unions in this tragedy. The articles therein call for respect for human life and the use of force and torture. Article 8 calls for a police force that the public can trust and police officials who can be above reproach. These principles have been called into account by the wanton shooting of the miners. Additionally we wish to raise our concern at the national prosecuting authority bringing of murder charges against miners in custody.

WOZA wish to ring very loud alarm bells that the current events in South Africa could set unfortunate precedents for the repression of the right to expression and assembly. We also wish to remind South African of the inspirational examples they have shown us in removing apartheid through the use of non violent protest and boycotts. It is unfortunate that some of the miners were carrying weapons that saw the initial slaying of 14 people including 2 police officers but still we do not condone the reaction of the police officers in the subsequent events. Some of these events inspired the formation of WOZA and its work to build a movement of committed social justice activists.

We pray our message will be heard by South Africans and other Southern African Development Community leaders and citizens.