Police in Harare and Bulawayo broke up demonstrations Tuesday by the activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise, reportedly arresting hundreds as they marched through the two cities and in Harare tried to present a petition at the parliament.
The Bulawayo-based group, with its male counterpart, Men of Zimbabwe Arise, said it was protesting the economic crisis that has brought severe hardship to Zimbabweans, and against the political crisis that has deepened as the economy has collapsed.
Reporter Babongile Dlamini of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Bulawayo, where WOZA demonstrators marched despite a heavy presence of riot police.
In Harare, an estimated 800 members of WOZA and its consort organization marched to the parliament before being dispersed by the police. Sources said police unleashed dogs and teargas to disperse the protestors outside the parliament.
Rangu Nyamurundira of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights said 83 people were arrested in Bulawayo and eight women were arrested in Harare. But WOZA sources said that at least 274 members were being held by police in Bulawayo.
Harare demonstrators handed a letter to United Nations representatives asking them to urge the political leadership to accept what WOZA calls its "people's charter."
WOZA National Coordinator Jenni Williams told reporter Carole Gombakomba that her group was trying to tell Zimbabwe’s leaders that it is time to deliver social justice and on the eve of Valentine's Day to urge them to restore love to the country.