On Thursday police in Bulawayo banned a march that had been organized by women from Zimbabwe’s umbrella labour union, the ZCTU, to commemorate International Women’s Day.
SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said the reason given was that Robert Mugabe was in town attending the Chiefs Conference that was taking place on the same day.
According to Saungweme, anti-riot police were deployed in Bulawayo central, some with AK 47 rifles. More troops were stationed near the ZCTU headquarters, where they searched commuter omnibuses and innocent civilians.
Saungweme said the ZCTU women decided to gather at their offices instead of marching and clashing with police, who threatened to unleash the riot squad if the women came near Drill Hall where the Chiefs had gathered.
“Barbara Tanyanyiwa of the ZCTU Women’s Advisory Council said police have personnel to beat us but none to protect us when we need them,” Saungweme explained.
This is not the first time that other important events have been banned by the police in Bulawayo because Mugabe was in town. Several MDC rallies were banned last year, with police insisting ZANU PF or Mugabe also had events planned on the same day.
International Women’ Day this year was held under the theme, “Empower Rural Women, End Hunger and Poverty”. Several civic groups released statements praising the country’s women for their strength.
The National Constitutional Assembly said they pay tribute to Zimbabwean women and “the role they have played in the struggle for national liberation, reconstruction and transformation of our country”.
“The matters that concerned women during the colonial era are the same issues that concern women of today – housing, food prices, unemployment, domestic violence, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, poverty, and gender discrimination,” the NCA said.
The MDC-T said their party is ready to deliver “real change” through elections and Zimbabwean women should be assured that for the first time they will “experience a new democratic Zimbabwe with jobs, food, upliftment and equal representation in decision making”.