UPDATE January 25th: Today a delegation of 200 women and men marched again in Bulawayo to deliver the WOZA report regarding the collapse of the education system in the country. Once the ministry of education official had attended and received the report, members began to disperse. As they dispersed, seven riot police officers ran out of the police drill hall and started to beat the peacefully dispersing activists, innocent bystanders and vendors. One member who tried to avoid arrest by walking into the passport office was followed and beaten, after being beaten she was then told to ‘run’ to the drill hall whilst being beaten all the way there. It was finally determined that a total of eleven WOZA members were arrested, however they were released within hours without charge or explanation.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets recently demanding education reform in Zimbabwe. In a report published by the organization, WOZA calls for teachers to quit demanding extra money from parents to supplement their income, the Education Ministry must improve the quality of the curriculum including the addition of human rights education, the examination system must be re-vamped and no increase in school fees in 2010.
Over 800 WOZA members marched in Bulawayo on January 13th, singing and chanting the WOZA MOYA! slogan. The demonstration proceeded without violence or arrests but they were not able to deliver their report at the government complex as police dispersed the demonstrators upon arrival. On January 18th-MLK Day, the members of WOZA marched to the Education Ministry offices in Harare and were dispersed, this time by riot police. One WOZA member, a journalist and a bystander were arrested. The demonstration was broken up before WOZA members were able to deliver the report to education minister David Coltart.
The journalist, Andrison Manyere, was released that same afternoon with a caution. Mr. Manyere was previously disappeared and tortured by state agents in December 2008. The bystander was detained most of the day before being released and WOZA member Thabita Taona spent one night in jail without charges before being released. She was interrogated by police during her detention for the identities of fellow marchers.
In other Zimbabwe news, President Mugabe continues to rail against the West as the root cause of all Zimbabwe’s troubles while 2 million people will need food aid this year due to drought conditions harming the summer harvest. Reports continue of arrests and harassment of MDC political activists, and the Central Bank is reportedly near collapse.
Last but not least, the constitutional reform process continues to limp along a very bumpy road. The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) charges that government officials are receiving $350 a day during the revision process while the process has been delayed and is behind schedule due to budget deficits. The NCA firmly opposes government involvement in the constitutional revision prcoess and believes it should be a people driven effort.
South Africa’s President Zuma, in his role as negotiator of Zimbabwe’s unity governemnt, said this past weekend that Zimbabwe should have new elections in 2011. Which means nothing because Zimbabwe must complete it’s constitutional reform process before new elections can be held; but it does signal growing regional irritation with the constant squabbling between Zimbabwe’s political parties. In response, Prime Minister Tsvangirai stated
“The elections will be defined by the GPA. The GPA says after the referendum the president and prime minister will set a date for the election.”
Which is disconcerting because the GPA, the Global Political Agreement under which the unity government was established, says no such thing. Perhaps Mr. Tsvangirai should read the GPA. If he likes, I can provide him a copy.