claim the streets of Harare and Bulawayo in fifth valentine's campaign
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of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
February 13, 2007
members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise
(MOZA) took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo today - a day
ahead of Valentine’s Day hoping to catch the police napping. The
peaceful protests marked WOZA’s fifth Valentine’s Day procession.
At present reports indicate that over
274 men and women
and 20 babies are in police custody in Bulawayo and about 10 women
in Harare. The Bulawayo protesters were arrested with real-life
images of Presidents Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur
Mutambara, who were about to be presented with copies of the People’s
Charter in a ceremony outside the state-owned Chronicle.
civic leaders were present at the demonstrations, including Dr Lovemore
Madhuku of the National
In Bulawayo, a
heavy police presence indicated that police were expecting WOZA
and the protest had to start under the nose of uniformed and plain-clothed
police. Riot police swooped towards the end of the protest at the
offices of the Chronicle and brutally beat up members. It is estimated
that over 1,000 women and men marched three blocks through Bulawayo
handing out Valentine’s cards, red roses and copies of the People’s
Charter to passersby.
Lawyers have been
deployed to attend to those in custody and attempt to get in medical
attention to those who need it. The walking wounded that were not
arrested are currently receiving medical attention.
In Harare, the
protest started with a handing over of a letter
to representatives of the United Nations Development Project
(UNDP) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance
(OCHA) asking them to assist Zimbabweans in getting political leaders
to deliver the People’s Charter. The UNDP offices was where the
first Valentine’s protest took place five years ago when WOZA named
then Secretary General, Kofi Annan, as their Valentine.
affixed three real-life images of Presidents Robert Mugabe, Morgan
Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara to the wall outside Takura House.
Copies of the People’s Charter were then figuratively ‘handed over’
to the Presidents - symbolizing the need for responsible leaders
to deliver social justice.
The peaceful demonstration
then moved on to Parliament, singing in Shona, ‘your term is up
– you have stayed too long’. As the group neared the entrance, riot
police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd. Initially the crowd
retreated but then bravely regrouped, stood their ground and threw
back the tear gas canisters; hitting the Parliament walls and sending
those watching from the parliament balcony scurrying back into the
building. The group, which included many leaders, sat down to await
arrest but found police only interested in firing tear gas. The
song then changed to ‘police do not harass us’. Eventually leaders
decided to declare a victory and disperse.
As they dispersed,
the activists continued to toyi toyi (fast march/dance) into Sam
Nujoma St, past the Herald offices into First Street. The protest
was then officially dispersed outside the police post in First Street.
In spite of this, a group of several hundred continued to toyi toyi
towards the Zanu PF offices but were blocked at Chinhoi Street by
riot police with dogs. Several members were arrested at the scene
but it is unclear if there any members were attacked by the police
dogs. Eight members were arrested in Kwame Nkrumah Street near the
WOZA would like
to dedicate this day to the contribution of Zimbabwean activists
to a non-violent struggle for social justice – we salute your non-violent
discipline and spirit of love. We call on the state-owned Chronicle
and Herald to honestly cover the events that occurred right on their
doorsteps in honour of journalist ethics. To the Zimbabwe Republic
Police we say – your children will also one day enjoy the social
justice we fight for.
Aluta Continua – Woza Moya!
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