Hundreds of members of WOZA and MOZA took to the streets of Bulawayo at lunchtime today, 12th February, to mark WOZA’s sixth Valentine’s Campaign. No arrests have been reported as yet.
The aim of the peaceful protest was to encourage Zimbabweans to stand up for their children in these times of extreme hardship and as an election looms. WOZA was formed in 2003 amidst severe political violence to demonstrate love and courage to all Zimbabweans. In 2008 this motivation is still equally relevant.
800 men and women processed for four city blocks through central Bulawayo, singing and handing out red roses and Valentine cards to passers-by. The response from people was exceptional with huge groups forming on pavements and motorists hooting to encourage the procession. Many people stepped forward to receive the cards and roses.
As the procession stopped for slogans outside the police administrative headquarters, bicycle police attempted to stop the procession but were informed that they would cause a pandemonium and that they should stand aside and allow the procession to reach its final destination. Those holding the banner proceeded to raise it up and over the police and continued to march.
A block later a senior ranking police officer arrived at the front of the procession and consulted with WOZA leader, Jenni Williams, who informed him that the march was under control. Obviously wanting to be reasonable, the officer allowed the group to reach their final dispersing point. He and several other officers then escorted the jubilant group to the main taxi rank to ensure that they did disperse. Later a truck load of riot police equipped with baton sticks and shields, as well as two carloads of plain-clothed officers were later observed moving through the rank. No arrests or assaults have been reported to date.
All WOZA and MOZA leaders were able to evade being arrested as they dispersed. In WOZA’s experience, it is often individual officers who try to be ‘heroes’ and arrest leaders after a call for peaceful dispersal would have already been made.