Contact: Roland Watson, roland@lessonsindemocracy.org


April 16, 2013

May update: The trial for the activists was postponed, to May 14th, and then a second time, to June 10th. Also, their legal counsel from Bulawayo had to withdraw, and the court is now trying to force them to use a lawyer from Harare, which they oppose.

Twenty-three Zimbabweans were arrested last week in Bulawayo, in the Southwest of the country, during a demonstration. One of the leaders of the protest, Busani Sibindi, is our coordinator in the country. He organized the translation of Lessons in Democracy into Zimbabwe's two main languages, Shona and Ndebele.

The twenty-three individuals were part of a larger protest, of over one hundred people, under the banner of the Mthwakazi Youth Joint Resolution. They are opposed to the local hiring practices of the country's energy supplier, ZESA, which is doing significant work in the area, and which the prior week hired more than three hundred workers from another region. The protestors had been attempting to deliver a petition, asking the company to hire local unemployed people, for the jobs that are available. Bulawayo has a high unemployment rate.

The police accused the group of holding a protest without permission. The leaders have been charged under Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act. The rest are charged with being a criminal nuisance.

There has been massive local support for the protestors. Funds were collected, and they were bailed from prison after two days. Their court date is set for April 23. The correct course of action for the government would be to drop the charges, and to hire local workers.