In 2007, WOZA observes its fifth Valentineâ€™s campaign. It was on Valentineâ€™s Day 2003 that WOZA held its first peaceful demonstration and Tough Love as born. Valentineâ€™s Day was chosen as a significant date in the WOZA calendar because of the association with love â€“ love of self, of family, of community and of country.
A History of WOZA and Valentineâ€™s Day
In 2003, WOZA marched against violence in Bulawayo and Harare, calling on Zimbabweans to â€˜learn to love againâ€™. In Bulawayo, 14 women and one man were arrested and held in appalling conditions for 24 hours. They were charged under the Public Order Security Act (POSA) and then released. The Harare protest was conducted outside the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office. Riot police arrested over 49 members, including a 65-year-old Dominican Nun. Only one member, Jennifer Williams, was charged and all members were released within hours of arrest.
2004 saw WOZA take to the streets again with the theme, â€˜choose love over hateâ€™. Whilst it had been originally planned to march in Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls, the marches in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls had to be postponed. In Victoria Falls, police threatened organisers who decided to postpone. In Bulawayo, police refused to allow the protest to go ahead and a court application taken by WOZA was never heard in the High Court. In Harare, police told organisers that they would shoot to kill if the women marched. Despite these threats, WOZA marched in four suburban centres in Harare. In Chitungwiza, they marched into the police station and handed over Valentine cards. When police accepted the cards, the march was declared a success.
â€˜The power of love can conquer the love of powerâ€™ was the message WOZA marched with in 2005. Peaceful protests were successfully conducted in Bulawayo and Harare. In both protests police did not respond during the protest but arrested members as they disbursed. In Bulawayo, 72 women had a hard time in custody. Police tried every dirty trick â€“ they hid members away in cupboards to avoid them having access to lawyers and harassed them into paying admission of guilt fines but lawyers finally managed to gain access and obtain their release. In Harare, the few members arrested were also released on admission of guilt deposit fines as they too lacked access to their lawyers. The campaign was a very important part of getting Zimbabweans out to vote for the March 2005 Parliamentary Election.
In 2006, WOZA called for â€˜Bread and Rosesâ€™ on Valentineâ€™s Day, bread signifying the need for affordable basic commodities and roses signifying the need for dignity and the better things in life. In Bulawayo, 181 men and women and 14 babies were arrested and held for one night before being released. In Harare, 242 women and five babies were arrested and held under terrible conditions for four days. Given the appalling nature of the conditions and the psychological pressure that the women were subjected to, several women paid admission of guilt fines. 63 defiant souls endured the harsh conditions to be taken to court on day four and be released on free bail. The Valentine 63 were charged under the Miscellaneous Offences Act with â€˜conduct likely to cause a breach of the peaceâ€™. They were finally acquitted in August 2006 in a trial that lasted seven months with 13 courts appearances. In his judgement, the magistrate declared that the women had been illegally detained and had been held in inhumane and degrading conditions.
In 2007, WOZA will be commemorating the fifth Valentineâ€™s campaign with the theme:
â€˜The Peopleâ€™s Charter: giving you a better life, a better Zimbabweâ€™.