Ministers ask WOZA to put country in better light

kembo_gilesHARARE - Leaders of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) have met with the ministers of home affairs, Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa (Pictured).

The ministers said they had called the meeting after receiving numerous reports from law enforcement agencies regarding the activities of WOZA. Mutsekwa said the motive of the meeting was to bring WOZA and the ZRP to equal terms, restore harmony and to remove discord and suspicion. The minister went on to mention that the power-sharing government was negatively regarded locally and internationally as an oppressive government as a result of WOZAs publicity, and that this was affecting their ability to attract investors. Mohadi admitted that the police had been accused of being partisan in the past, which had led to the sharing of the home affairs ministry. He stressed that Zimbabweans should obey their laws fully or lobby parliament for amendments.

He also insisted that WOZA should put their trust in the police as they were supposed to keep order. WOZAs national co-ordinator, Jenni Williams, said that, at first, WOZA had notified police of their intention to hold peaceful demonstrations. Police interpreted notify as apply and that had led to police trying to refuse their right to assembly. At one stage they had threatened that they would shoot to kill if members went into the streets. Williams also mentioned that the police did not comply with POSA regulations with regard to how to disperse a gathering, but used excessive force. Williams also advised that WOZA did not need to notify the police, as the organisation came under POSA exemption schedules as a non-political organisation. In this regard, WOZA had successfully defended its right to assembly in seven trials.

In closing the meeting, Mutsekwa lectured on the need for peace and tranquillity in the country. He said: We have to correct the wrong impression that we are a lawless country. We ask you to start to obey the countrys laws so that investors start coming in and we can all benefit. There is a bigger picture than your issues. We are going to call a press conference about our meeting with you. The ministers then declared that if WOZA notified police before any demonstrations, both ministers would not be found wanting in personally disciplining any police excesses.

WOZA, however, said it stood firm in the knowledge that they did not need to notify police. In a statement, the group said: WOZA values the opportunity to directly engage with the co-ministers and acknowledges the time they spent discussing with us. We will continue to stand firm on our right to enjoy fully our freedom of expression and assembly without hindrance. And in so doing, know that we are obeying the letter of the constitutional provisions and the unfortunate Public Order and Security Act.

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