Woza on long march against NGO Bill

Loughty Dube

WOMEN of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), a women’s pressure group, has embarked on a 440-km march from Bulawayo to Harare to protest against proposed legislation to curtail the operations of non-governme

ntal organisations.


The group said it was protesting against government’s human rights abuses and Zimbabwe’s four-year political crisis.


At least 30 women activists left Bulawayo on Sunday and are expected to reach Harare in two weeks’ time.


“We expect to be in Harare in the coming 10 days. This march is the only way we can express our feelings about the NGO Bill without being arrested by police for allegedly disrupting the peace,” Woza spokesperson, Jenni Williams, said in a telephone interview from Kwekwe which the group had reached by yesterday morning.


“There were about 30 of us when we left Bulawayo but we were joined by about 15 other women in Gweru and we expect more women to join us along the way,” she said.


The government has in the past reacted heavy-handedly to protest marches organised by Woza and other civic groups. Woza members, including Williams, have been arrested several times for taking part in protests.


Williams said her group decided to embark on the protest march after realising that the police would crush any demonstration in Bulawayo. In the past three weeks there has been a string of arrests of opposition and civic leaders for allegedly holding illegal meetings or demonstrations. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s Bulawayo offices were raided by police who claimed they were looking for “subversive” material.


She said the women were determined to express their outrage at the Bill despite the hard march.


“Our spirits are high and we will not be deterred by anything. The walk also seeks to raise money for women activists who are likely to lose their jobs when government closes down some of the NGOs,” she said.


Civic groups and churches have labelled the proposed law an “overkill” which has drawn international condemnation because of its restrictive nature.