U.S President Barack Obama on Monday honored one of the co-founders of the Zimbabwean human rights group Women of Zimbabwe Arise and the group itself, presenting the Robert F. Kennedy human rights award to Magodonga Mahlangu and WOZA in a ceremony at the White House.
In his remarks Mr. Obama also took a swipe at President Robert Mugabe, referring to him as a "dictator" though not singling him out by name.
Mr. Obama praised WOZA's fight for social justice in Zimbabwe, noting that Mahlangu and co-founder Jenni Williams are due back in court in Zimbabwe on Dec. 7, charged with "conduct likely to cause a breach of peace" and if convicted could face a prison sentence of five years.
"By her example Magodonga has shown the women of WOZA and the people of Zimbabwe that they can undermine their oppressor's power with their own power, that they can sap a dictator's strength with their own," Obama said.
"Magodonga and WOZA have given so many of their fellow citizens of Zimbabwe that voice, and tonight we express our gratitude for their work," the president said in presenting the JFK Human Rights Award.
Mahlangu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the ceremony was "very touching" and that President Obama "has a full grasp of the Zimbabwean crisis." WOZA co-founder Jenni Williams said Mr. Obama "was so specific...he knows the oppression we are facing from Robert Mugabe."