LEADERS of three human rights pressure groups have engaged in a 16 day and 16 night occupation of Africa Unity Square in Harare to demand solutions to a hoard of challenges facing Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Activists Alliance (ZAA), Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance (ZWIPA), and the Occupy Africa Unity Square Movement (OAUS) began their demonstration Tuesday, with eight activists staging an all-night vigil in the Africa Unity Square.
Addressing a press conference in the square on Wednesday, Lynnette Tendai Mudehwe, the founder and co-ordinator of ZAA, said the demonstration was meant to push the ruling Zanu PF government to take the issues raised by the citizens seriously.
“We are saying the government of Zimbabwe needs to address several challenges the citizens of Zimbabwe are facing. We need good governance and we are saying we are moving away from just talking about our issues on Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapping our issues. We are coming on the ground as we have always done to present our issues to government and any other authority that
is supposed to be responding,” she said.
She said the protesters would come up with a demand on every one of the 16 days relating to do with political, socio-economic and justice issues.
“We started the occupation last night. Eight activists slept in the square last night; we are still in the square and we are not going home. This is our home for now, so we are living in the streets. For 16 days we are going to living in the square. That is where we are, this is where we will eat and this is where we will stay,” she said.
Mudehwe said among their demands was the dropping of the introduction of bond notes, saying government had not consulted the people of Zimbabwe before coming up with the decision.
“A government that does not consult its citizens when it makes decisions, whose government is it? If it is a government for the people, it must know the people must be asked first. We had truckloads of Zimbabwe dollars and bearers cheques that lost value, our accounts lost value in a snap and now you want to introduce bond notes to us? Our questions to the government is what has happened to our money? Where did the money go? Why are we having cash shortages? Has anybody been arrested for externalising money?” she asked.
She said urged Zimbabweans to reject anything that the government tried to impose on the people without consulting them.
Cancer, she said, was another issue which government needed to look into as a matter of urgency as thousands of people were losing their lives due to lack of proper medical care.
“The radiotherapy machines are always down, right now since Friday, the machines have been down. People are dying in Zimbabwe prematurely. What type of a government leader do we have who seeks eye treatment outside the country, whose daughter could not deliver a child in Zimbabwe because the system is not good?” she asked.
Davis Junior Mukushwa of the Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe, said Zimbabweans had been oppressed for a long time and now was the time to stand up and speak out against the evils of the ruling regime.
“We have been oppressed by our own fear to speak out. We should be able to say no when it is a no. Slowly prices are rising and commodities are disappearing from the shelves and we cannot remain silent,” he said.
He said fear-induced silence translated to betrayal, adding that people should not just sit and watch while leaders decimated the country.
“The nation has spoken loudly and clearly, we don’t want the bond notes. Wherever we are as citizens, it is time to say no. It is time to challenge the government, we are the people. When the
government in 1980 accepted the Lancaster outcome, it was a belief that we are an independent Zimbabwe in all senses, freedom of speech, economic independence,” he said.
Linda Tsungirirai Masarira, founder and national coordinator of ZWIPA, said youths in the country bore the brunt of the country’s economic malaise and needed to stand up and be heard.
She said most youths faced the same problems but because of the fear cultivated in Zimbabweans, they did not speak out and pretended as if everything was fine.
“Nothing is okay in Zimbabwe right now, so our occupying this space is to reach out to every Zimbabwean to come out and come together and fight for justice. We have a problem where the system has manipulated us and oppressed us for so long. We are suffering from black-on-black oppression,” she said.
Musariri said they had chosen to be down where the people were as they did not believe in leaders who wanted to be high up and detached from the people.
She said government was deliberately turning a blind eye to issues affecting Zimbabweans and further silence by the people would only worsen the situation.
Surprising, anti-riot police who have made the Africa Unity Square their permanent base in the past, were not present Wednesday, with the demonstrating activists saying they had not faced any harassment from the security establishment. – ANA