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100 arrested in Byo protests

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At least 100 members of the militant Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) were arrested in Bulawayo yesterday after they embarked on peaceful protests calling for devolution of power.

The women held their protests at the corner of Main Street and 8th Avenue where government plans to erect late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s statue.

Jenni Williams, the Woza leader, said they held the protests at the site to voice their anger at delays in the completion of the statue and the uncertainty over the inclusion of devolution of power in the draft constitution. Zimbabwe will on July 1 commemorate the 13th anniversary of Nkomo’s death.

“Nkomo was an advocate for a devolved system of government and his wish is being disrespected to the extent that all that has his name is being neglected,” she said.

“The statue is not there but if governance was devolved, it would be up there on the pedestal. The Ekusileni Hospital (Nkomo’s brainchild) is just there, but its not being put to use. Main Street has not been renamed after Nkomo because the statue needs to be put up first. We are tired of this.”

Williams said more than half of the demonstrators were arrested including co-leader of the pressure group, Magodonga Mahlangu.

She added: “Why must people from this region be persecuted and marginalised when it is our right to stage peaceful demonstartions?”

But Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo said he was not aware of the arrests as he was in a meeting out of the city.

During the protests, the placard waving women chanted “IlitshelikaNkomo limbomboziwe, liyovulwangubani, limbomboziwe?” which Williams said translated to “Nkomo’s “stone” denoting a plan has been hidden or turned upside down, who is going to put it right?”

The song was a popular motivational song coined by Zipra fighters under Nkomo’s command during the liberation war.

The Woza women also sang: “iBulawayo imbomboziwe, idevolution, imfundo (education), iconstitution, who is going to bring back Nkomo’s plans?”

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