Zimbabwe: 400 women activists take to the streets over Mugabe's rights abuses

BULAWAYO - About 400 members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activist group wearing black armbands on Monday marched through Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo protesting against human rights violations allegedly by President Robert Mugabe and his government.

The women, who wore black armbands to symbolise the death of freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe, also called on the government to repeal repressive security and press laws that have been used in the past five years to silence the independent press and other voices of dissension.

WOZA spokeswoman Magodonga Mahlangu told ZimOnline: "We are calling for the repeal of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, the Urban Councils Act and other repressive laws that are not in tandem with the goals of the liberation struggle."

The protests by WOZA come barely two weeks after 29 of the group's activists escaped possible jail after a magistrate dismissed charges against them that they obstructed traffic during a protest last June against the government's controversial urban clean-up campaign.

Mahlangu said WOZA also wrote to Mugabe on July 29 urging him to uphold human rights and to accept the recommendations of United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka to call off the urban clean-up drive and seek humanitarian assistance for the victims of the operation.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba could not be reached last night to establish whether Mugabe had seen the WOZA letter. But Harare has dismissed Tibaijuka's report saying it was biased.

Zimbabwe, at one time one of the best prospects for economic and social success in Africa, has one of the poorest human rights records on the continent.

Under Harare's security laws, Zimbabweans require police permission first to meet in groups of three or more people to discuss politics while journalists face up to two years in jail for practising without being registered with the government's Media and Information Commission. Newspaper companies must also be registered by the commission in order to operate in the country. - ZimOnline