“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9
In February 2007 WOZA turned FIVE and commemorated with five protests to launch the Peopleâ€™s Charter. Courageous Human Rights Defenders in Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare took to the streets. We congratulate Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare for their first protest and welcome them to the human rights defenders honour roll!
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognised their work and awarded an International Women of Courage award to founder, Jenni Williams. The award reads â€˜for her work to effect lasting social change and democratic reform in Zimbabwe by giving a voice to women through Women of Zimbabwe Arise.â€™ This award encourages us to work harder for a free and socially just Zimbabwe!
As WOZA turns five we are saddened to compare the Zimbabwe of five years ago to the Zimbabwe of today and we find that the levels of violence that led us to form a non-violent movement are back with a vengeance. When we formed WOZA in 2003, politicians were beating each other up, police were beating up activists and people were afraid for their lives. It seems to be a cycle of violence that dates back hundreds of years and we can quote Joshua Nkomo from 1983 saying, â€œToday, the people of Zimbabwe live in fear, not of enemies but of their own government.â€
As we look back upon our footsteps as an organisation, we must rededicate ourselves to non-violent action and to building a spirit of love so that we can finally find the dignity, justice and peace our hearts beat for. We must also move within our communities preaching about non-violence as an effective way to bring social justice and equality for all. There is no weapon stronger that that of love and non-violent direct action by a people determined to be free. True freedom cannot be won through bloodshed. Even Mugabe himself recognises the power of non-violent resistance. When he heard about the work of Gandhi in India, he said, â€œThis gave me personally a new kind of vision, a new philosophy, that if Africans were united in the same way as the Indians were, even if they resorted to an non-violent struggle they should eventually emerge victorious.â€ Zimbabwe came about through bloodshed â€“ let us give non-violent protest a chance.
We recognise the deep frustration of our youth whose lives have been stolen by a regime that calls them â€˜born freesâ€™ and then trains them to be violent in militia camps. We need to be able to see a clear difference between violent politicians and non-violent human rights defenders and ask those committed to a new Zimbabwe to make clear statements as to where they stand. To the youth we remind them that when they choose to love, they choose lasting liberation. When they choose non-violent direct action, they choose to be brave – as violence is the weapon of the weak.
Zimbabweans spoke out clearly in the Peopleâ€™s Charter about the Zimbabwe they want. We would like to remind politicians that lives have been lost; their families live in expectation that they sacrificed for a better future for their children. We are watching to see how politicians consult us as they travel back and forth to South Africa to cut deals. We remind them that we expect transparent and honest consultation with the people and we will not accept â€˜political dealsâ€™ that are irrelevant to people and their basic needs. Indira Gandhi once said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.â€ What is hidden in the fists and what is the open palm covering up?
To use the words of Cesar Chavez â€“ a workers rights activist from the United States – “We are convinced that non-violence is more powerful than violence â€¦ If you use violence, you have to sell part of yourself for that violence. Then you are no longer a master of your own struggle.â€ When a politician tries to cut a deal without input from the people he is selling his soul and our hopes for a better future. OUR SOULS AND THE HOPE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW ARE NOT FOR SALE! We are suffering day in and day out but have the patience to wait for a free and fair election under our own people-driven constitution to elect leaders with the people and their desires at heart. Stability and peace does not come from the barrel of a gun.
We close with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have the compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight; we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”
Nonviolent action Guidelines
1. We will not harm anyone, and we will not retaliate in reaction to violence.
2. We will be honest and will treat every person with respect, especially law officers.
3. We will express our feelings but will not harbor hatred.
4. We will be alert to people around us and will provide needed assistance.
5. As peacekeepers we will protect others from insults and violence.
6. During a demonstration we will not run nor make threatening motions.
7. If we see a demonstrator threatening anyone, we will intervene to calm down the situation. If demonstrators become violent, and we cannot stop it, we will withdraw.
8. We will not steal, and we will not damage property.
9. We will not carry any weapons.
10. We will not bring or use any alcohol or drugs, other than for medical purposes.
11. We will keep the agreements we make with other demonstrators. If there is a serious disagreement, we may withdraw.
12. We will accept responsibility for our nonviolent actions. We will not lie to escape the consequences of our actions.
If you agree to the non-violent discipline guidelines and would like to join WOZA send your application letter to P.O. Box FM 701, Famona, Bulawayo. Tell us who you are and why you want to join WOZA. Write in any local language. Send us a self-addressed with postage stamp for us to send your Sisterhood Promise. Once you have signed this and posted it to us we will send you your membership card in the second self-addressed and postage paid envelope.