Following on from the peaceful street protest in Bulawayo yesterday, members of WOZA and MOZA took to the streets of Harare at lunchtime today, 13th February.
Approximately 250 members had gathered to start the peaceful protest in Ruzende Street near Town House when the group was set upon by a truckload of riot police who threw tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd. Several members were badly beaten with baton sticks by riot and uniformed police officers after they regrouped.
Leaders called for a further regroup at the Post Office half an hour later. Approximately 80-100 members managed to start and march peacefully up George Silundika Avenue. The procession marched past the police post on First Street, where officers where given red roses and Valentine cards, arriving at the Herald. At the Herald, the group was addressed by WOZA’s National Coordinator, Jenni Williams, who announced to great cheers that in a new Zimbabwe the Herald would cover the fact that police had beaten Zimbabwean citizens in the street. The group then peacefully dispersed. As they dispersed, two trucks with over 30 riot police arrived too late to effect any arrests.
Eleven members required medical attention for injuries sustained by beatings with baton sticks. In most cases, police continued to beat the women until they drew blood and one woman required three stitches behind her ear and one on her arm.
As in Bulawayo, the aim of today’s 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.
Within an hour of the end of the Bulawayo protest, Jenni Williams had received a phone call from a person identifying herself as being from the President’s Office (Central Intelligence Organisation) who confirmed having seen the WOZA protest in Bulawayo. She asked to meet Williams for an explanation as to what the Valentine’s theme “stand up for your child” means. The officer explained that they had heard many things about WOZA and thought it is important to meet in person and clarify WOZA’s issues so as to brief the President.
WOZA would like to salute the Zimbabwean men and women who stood up for their children in Bulawayo and Harare during the last two days. In a time when Zimbabweans have become accustomed to be on the receiving end of hatred and violence, these brave individuals have chosen to set an example to their children of love and courage.