WOZA launch ‘Occupy for Devolution’ series in Bulawayo

WOZA launch 'Occupy for Devolution' series in Bulawayo More than six hundred members of WOZA conducted street occupation sit in protests as part of a campaign to pressure for a devolved system of government to be included in the constitution draft. Nine separate protests were conducted simultaneously at 11 am Saturday 2 June 2012 around the western suburbs.

Members' occupied traffic controlled intersections, traffic circles and main roads by sitting in for over 10 minutes bringing traffic to a halt. The placard-bearing activists also passed out leaflets calling for a devolved system of government and asking motorists and passers-by to make noise or 'hoot' for Devolution. The scenes of the protests where loud and noisy as motorists 'hooted' their support.

At the protest on Khami road Ntemba traffic roundabout, the 200 protesters were just completing their activity when a small black vehicle without number plates arrived and plain-clothed police officers jumped out of the vehicle and began to assault the members with sticks bearing thorns. Eight members suffered the beating with one having to be taken to the clinic as thorns were imbedded in a wound in her neck.

The demands of the protests are the release of a completed draft constitution that gives power to the people. As talk of a second GNU increases, WOZA demand an end to elite occupation of our systems of government and a devolved power and accessible provincial government and councils. WOZA make the charge that Bulawayo, Matabeleland is DYING because of centralized decisions which kill it. The elite have killed Bulawayo and now they are killing other parts of Zimbabwe.

The system required should include the following rights:

– The right to select our own provincial and council representatives.

– Powers to make local decisions, based on our views about control AND use of our local resources. And how we want resource distribution to develop the local economy and create jobs for locals.

– MPs and Councillors who will be accountable to us, the electorate, and the right to recall them.

The protests will continue and citizens of Bulawayo and other cities are asked to make noise in the street – Hoot or whistle to demand your human right to a livelihood.

WOZA members believe that a devolved system of government is necessary to save the city from sure death. Bulawayo is WOZA's home town and members have been watching as it becomes closer and closer to death by marginalisation and neglect. Once Bulawayo was the industrial hub of the country, but centralised decision making has been used to sideline many business, social and political initiatives that would have raised the resource-rich province to great heights. This neglect has nothing to do with the current economic downturn as in early 1920s, the then Government refused to initiate a programme that would have brought waters from the mighty Zambezi river into the dry arid earth of Matabeleland and created an industrial and agricultural oasis.

Recently public statistics quote the closure of more than 80 businesses and the loss of over 20 000 jobs. Over one million Zimbabweans are said to live in South Africa, with the majority being Ndebele speaking people from Matabeleland forced into economic exile by marginalisation.

WOZA selected this form of protest to make a point that public spaces are spaces for public expression. Since last year Bulawayo police have been taking occupation of the streets with large deployment of riot police, water tankers and other instruments of protest repression.

Bulawayo residents along with WOZA members have grown weary of the constant and indiscriminate 'stop and search' of pedestrians and commuters. Most of the time Police officers manning these points will directly tell people that they are looking for 'WOZA women' with placards or WOZA material.

Post published in: News
  1. Wilbert Mukori

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