NINE hundred and sixty members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) at 2pm on 6 May 2016 began 4 protest at separate locations in Bulawayo central business district. Police Reaction Squad of six had already been observed monitoring certain locations in the city since early morning.
At 9th Avenue and H. Chitepo avenue WOZA members remained undeterred and began their protest under the watchful eyes of the police officers who had no option but to escort the protest along their route. All four protest converged at the intersection 10th Avenue and H. Chitepo and began their final march to the Mhlahlandlela Government Complex. At the complex, the gates had been shut by security guards denying members access to deliver the petition and police officers quickly made formation blocking the entrance into the main gate at the complex.
In anticipation of this blocking tactic, WOZA leaders Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu had earlier delivered to the Resident Minister and Provincial Education department an open letter to Minister of Primary Education, Minister Dokora.
WOZA members, proceeded to conduct their protest programme undisturbed at the entrance to the complex. The programme included a speech by Magodonga Mahlangu defining the message to the Minister and calling on parents to defend their children against state brainwashing. Members then sang the African national anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelela iAfrica’ and recited the ‘Lord’s prayer’ before peacefully dispersing and going to their homes.
At the government complex Police officers in civilian clothing parked by the Drill hall and watched the procession. Uniformed officers noted their presence and went to consult with them on what to do with the crowd. At this time another vehicle with 7 Reaction anti Riot police officers drove out of Drill Hall and also parked next to the vehicle with plain clothed officers. These officers also then asked for instructions and were told “vakanetsa tichavarova” shona for ‘if they cause trouble we will beat them up”. Another police officer who was driving our of Drill hall called the reaction police officers and gave an instruction that they should ensure the demonstrators are not blocking the entrance into Mhlahlandlela offices, he also emphasized that they should not beat them “musavarove”, he said in shona.
During the march and at Mhlahlandlela complex, members distributed the Woza Moya newsletter detailing the issue for members of the public. People put their hands out of cars to receive it and others came to their shop door steps asking for publication.
The activity cause debate amongst the general public with many people saying they had not understood what it was all about but now they had information, they would not allow their children to pledge. One foreigner from Malawi said the government had chosen a wrong time to implement new things as the people are suffering and are waiting for socio-economic development rather than nationalism stunts. Some said that the national pledge which is forced on children will not develop or change the economic and declining education system of the country so Minister Dokora must try something else instead.
After the closing slogan was shouted out members peacefully dispersed escorted by police officers until they reached the corner of Herbert Chitepo and 10th avenue.