HARARE police detained members of the Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance (ZWIPA) on Wednesday morning as the group exchanged harsh words with anti-riot cops who blocked their march on the Kuwaiti embassy in the capital.
ZWIPA called the protest to “demand justice” following reports linking embassy officials to the export of a claimed 200 desperate Zimbabwean jobs seekers to Kuwait where they were reportedly subjected to slavery and sex work.
Vendors who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com said anti-riot cops camped at the embassy’s central Harare office which is located at Megawatt Building, corner Samora Machel Avenue and Leopold Takawira Street as early as 6am waiting for the marchers.
The detained women were identified as Ndakaziwa Gatsi, Lynnet Mudehwe and Loveness Kudzanga. Police later released all the three women without preferring any charges.
Organisers said they wanted to hand over a petition to the Kuwaiti Embassy in Harare and the Ministry of Home Affairs demanding the quick return of the Zimbabwean women stranded in Kuwait.
The women reportedly fell prey to bogus employment agencies allegedly involving embassy officials and Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs Ministry workers.
However, the march which was dubbed #BringBackOurWomenFromKuwait was stopped by police around 10am. The cops claimed that organisers had not secured permission as required by the law.
Papers shown to NewZimbabwe.com showed that ZWIPA had made an application to the police seeking permission to hold a peaceful demonstration but police had not responded by Wednesday.
A senior ZRP officer who arrived at Megawatt House told the ZWIPA members and journalists to disperse, warning that “unspecified action” would be taken against them as the gathering was attracting members of the public.
“The march was not sanctioned, so the organisers are supposed to go to Harare Central Police Station and discuss the matter with police officials,” the uniformed officer said.
ZWIPA founder and coordinator, Lynda Masarira, said they were disappointed with the way police handled the protest.
“We are going ahead with our march because the Constitution of Zimbabwe allows us to demonstrate peacefully.
“Instead of arresting thieves, you want to stop people fighting for a good cause to disperse. We are not going anywhere,” fumed Masarira.
Opposition MDC-T legislator Tabitha Khumalo also arrived at the scene and demanded that police allow the march to proceed but police officers directed her to Harare Central Police Station “for more clarification on the matter”.
In a statement later issued to the media (ZWIPA) said: “We feel let down and surprised at the slow pace at which the government of Zimbabwe is dealing with the trapped women in Kuwait after a period stretching about a month now.
“This is a case of misplaced priorities by the government.
“Regardless of the ordeals of those trapped and reports of sexual abuses, ill-treatment of trafficked women and subjection to inhuman working conditions, the subsequent delay in repatriation of these women boggles the mind and is a serious violation international laws and treaties on human rights.”