One thousand eight hundred members march for love in Bulawayo

AT 10am, five simultaneous protests began in different locations in downtown Bulawayo. One thousand eight hundred women and men, members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) turned out for the ninth edition of the Valentines Day protests, the biggest protest since WOZA these protests began in 2003. The target of the peaceful protest, the offices of The Chronicle newspaper with the objective of testing if there is free media or state propaganda remains entrenched.   The huge mass of singing protestors completely closed off 9th avenue for over 30 minutes.

The second group arriving at The chronicle at 10:15 am 12 Feb 2011.

The second group arriving at The chronicle at 10:15 am 12 Feb 2011.

The men and women aged from 17 to 93 years old, sang songs as they marched and handed out hundreds of red roses, specially prepared Valentine Cards and the Woza Moya (Come healing wind) Newsletter bearing the top ten point on constitutional reform and on the Inclusive Government. Although different songs were sung by the marching formations, one song was featured at The Chronicle offices – ‘Why are Zimbabweans populating other countries – why is that?’ The chorus answers was mentioning the instances of political violence in which people have died forcing people to flee to other countries for their better survival.

A police vehicle arrived on the scene and three plain clothed officers (in striped dresscode, so easily recognisable) went into the protest demanding cards and newsletters. They then started to make their way to the front of the protest making for leaders Williams and Mahlangu but fortunately it was at that point that the protest dispersal slogan was being shouted and people were turning away to go home. Williams and Mahlangu were swept along with the dispersing masses. All that was left was for the three officers to gather up the placards, cards and red roses left for them.

A police BMW vehicle attempted to disperse another protest just after they began by dangerously driving through the protest. Police Officers of the Riot squad came upon some dispersing members at Jason Moyo Avenue and jumped from their vehicle to try to quicken the dispersing activists.  A vehicle full of Riot police was also seen at the bus terminus after the protest monitoring the movement of commuters.

The singing of songs was so well coordinated that several bystanders thought WOZA should form a choir. Another bystander commented ‘please can they say their message well so maybe things can change in Zimbabwe’. Many cars hooted and stopped to get their copies of cards and roses.

WOZA Statement 12 February 2011 – Constitutional Reform and the inclusive Government

Zimbabweans, its time to sweat for a Love that’s the real deal. Demand your rose; Demand a dignified constitution written with love so that it mends our broken hearts. Today we march to the theme: The RISING of the women means the RISING of the nation; No more poverty and starvation, many sweating for a few to benefit!

Valentines Day 2011 sees the passing of the second anniversary of the swearing in ceremony of the Inclusive Government, agreed to on 15 September 2008 by the three principals and witnessed by then SA President, Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the SADC guarantors. We continue to study the agreement between the ZANU PF and the two MDC formations and note the selective implementation and the focus of this is still based on their own interests and not the interest of the population at large.

Despite the promises in many of the articles, we do not see any equality; national healing; increased respect for the constitution and rule of law; we long for the freedom of assembly and association and are still desperate for free political activity. Instead of the promise of security of persons and prevention of violence, we are seeing more militia camps being set up than we saw in 2008 and once again we have hundreds of displaced people.

We were encouraged by the formation of COPAC and the beginning of implementation of the constitutional article points in article 6 (VI) and the setting up of the Select Committee of Parliament (COPAC) despite their slow and painful conducting of public outreach. We are waiting for the draft Constitution to be presented to the 2nd All Stakeholders Conference and referendum but COPAC you are living on borrowed time! If we follow the timeframes set out in the GPA, we should be having the referendum now. Anyway as you are now writing the constitution draft, we expect to see our views respected and included. We wait to see our top ten views featuring, these are:

1. National values, aspirations and founding principles of the constitution – We require a constitution that allows for: value and respect the sanctity of human life, with dignity and respect; for democratically elected leaders at all levels who consult people; separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary complete with checks and balances to prevent corruption and misuse of office and right of recall;
2. The state should allow everyone born in Zimbabwe to be a citizen automatically and the constitution must disallow the arbitrary deprivation of citizenship.
3. We require and expanded Bill of Rights with rights guaranteed and fully protected (justiciable) with clear protection provisions and remedies for violations provided in the courts.
4. Special emphasis on the full enjoyment of the Political Rights free and fair and regular elections; vote in secrecy; right to form political parties and participate in political activities; right to stand for public office and to campaign freely.
5. Right to personal security and fair treatment when in lawful custody; protection from arbitrary displacement from their homes; Protection from public and domestic violence; Right to liberty, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.
6. We demand full enjoyment of all Social, Economic and Cultural rights. Social rights must include, but not be limited to the right to affordable and decent basic living needs-shelter, water, food and health delivery systems. Special emphasis on the full enjoyment of and the right to free compulsory and quality primary education, affordable secondary and tertiary education.
7. We demand full enjoyment of all Women and gender rights. Women have the right to affirmative action to correct past injustices and promote women’s participation and gender in all spheres of life.
8. We demand democratic Systems of government: Devolution of power, that allow for local controls over all resources and local councils. There must be sharing of power at provincial and local levels.
9. We demand a constitution that limits executive power, which has long been abused. The Arms of state points should include an Executive President who is elected directly by all voters in the first past the post system, 2 terms of office of no more than 5years, age limit should be between 40-65year. Such a President must not be above the law-no special privileges and be able to be prosecuted, sued and recalled.
10. We require a Public finance system that includes public hearings to determine priorities and the presentation of local, provincial and national budgets for public approval. Government must be transparent and accountable and present a gendered analysis of any budget presented to parliament.

The principals said they were signing the agreement to form the Inclusive Government in the name of the ‘suffering masses of Zimbabwe’ but in reality, the IG was imposed on us by SADC. Our suffering continues and violence is increasing. It is clear from the timeframes of the constitution reform process that Zimbabwe should now be having a referendum, which would be followed by an election. As we analyse the current situation, we realize that the Inclusive government is living on borrowed time. Time borrowed from COPAC delays and the people’s good nature. Politicians are now taking advantage of our good nature and our patience is wearing thin. We demand the dismantling of militia bases and prosecution of all perpetrators of violence; that government leaders begin to put Zimbabwe first and give us a genuine chance of rebuilding and reconstructing our livelihoods. We demand the right to trade needed to end poverty and starvation; We also demand the lifting of sanctions on the people’s peaceful existence imposed by a politicized police force and their handlers in Zanu PF. We demand a real deal – a real love that can mend our broken hearts!