Category Archives: Valentine’s Day

WOZA let love light the way in Harare on 10 February 2009

WOZA marches in Harare, 10 Febraury 2009
WOZA marches in Harare, 10 February 2009

On Tuesday 10th February, approximately 600 members demonstrated for several blocks to Parliament in Harare. Whilst riot police stationed outside Parliament looked like they might try to beat and arrest the group, they decided against it and the demonstrators dispersed without incident.

As they marched, the peaceful protestors sang Baba, tuma mweya (Father, send the holy spirit to heal this nation) and handed out red roses, Valentine’s cards, candles, matches and flyers to passersby. The group also briefly stopped outside the UNDP offices to give UN workers roses and Valentine’s cards to thank them for all their efforts in assisting people through the humanitarian crisis. When the group reached Parliament, they also delivered red roses and Valentine’s cards to a number of Senators and Members of Parliament that were standing at the entrance. They also left their placards and flyers at the entrance before dispersing.

In January 2009, WOZA and MOZA launched a new campaign – Take the Step/Qhubeka/Yendera Mberi, designed to encourage Zimbabweans to continue with the civic participation that they demonstrated in March 2008. The campaign is based on the premise that in March 2008 Zimbabweans began a journey towards a new socially just Zimbabwe, a destination that has still not been reached, despite the formation of a unity government. Life in Zimbabwe is incredibly hard and we are still in the darkness. WOZA is urging Zimbabweans not to just complain however but to light the darkness through their actions and by continuing to be active in demanding social justice. By allowing love to light the way, we can reach a socially just Zimbabwe. To demonstrate love in action and to literally light the darkness, WOZA is giving Zimbabweans candles and matches as part of the campaign to encourage them to take the step of joining the movement. Candles and matched distributed in the demonstration today were finished very quickly due to their popular demand. WOZA will therefore gratefully receive any donations of candles, matches and roses for the campaign. More information on the Take the Step Campaign can be found below.

For the last few weeks, members have been mobilising in underground meetings for the first public demonstration of the campaign, Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is traditionally an occasion that WOZA has used to urge Zimbabweans to choose love over hate and marks the 7th anniversary of WOZA’s birth.

Members in Harare decided to hold their Valentine’s protest before the swearing in of the new unity government, which is set to happen tomorrow, to test whether the so-called unity is genuine and will open space for the people of Zimbabwe to dialogue with their leaders about the priorities facing government.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediation process excluded the voices of ordinary Zimbabweans. Furthermore, when Zimbabweans spoke through the ballot in the 29 March 2008 election, SADC chose to ignore the results and the killing and mutilation of Zimbabweans that followed. This week SADC orders resulted in the passing of a power-sharing amendment to the constitution leading the way for a complicated dual power system of governing Zimbabwe.

Whilst it is too late for Zimbabweans to input into this awkward inclusive government, people can put pressure on them to prioritise humanitarian issues, like food access, the health delivery system to prevent further loss of life and the emergency situation regarding the collapsed education system. As we march we will be saying telling politicians ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

Eight women were arrested whilst dispersing from the demonstration and spent two nights in custody in Harare Central Police Station. Two lawyers who happened to be passing Parliament after the demonstration had dispersed were also arrested for holding their cell phones. Police insisted they were trying to take photographs and arrested them. The group of 10 spent two nights in police custody before being taken to court and released on free bail. The entire group, including the two lawyers, were charged under Section 37 1 a i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘disturbing the peace, security or order of the public’. They will appear in court again on 4th March 2009.

Those arrested were Nelia Hambarume, Clara Bongwe, Auxilia Tarumbwa, Gracy Mutambachirimo, Linda Moyo, Keure Chikomo, Edina Saidi and Kundai Mupfukudzwa. The two lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) were Roselyn Hanzi and Tawanda Zhuwarara.

Three of the women were beaten in police custody and all had to seek medical attention. The one woman, Auxillia Tarambwa, 35 years old and two months pregnant, was blocked by a plain-clothed policeman after she had dispersed from the demonstration and told to get into a police vehicle. She refused to get into the vehicle because she was not sure if they were police or not. When she refused, the policeman slapped her and when she got to Harare Central Police Station, the same plain-clothed officer beat her again, this time with a baton stick. She was taken to a clinic upon release and has received pain treatment for extensive deep tissue bruising. Two other woman, Linda Moyo (aged 29 years) and Grace Mutsambachirimo (aged 22 years), were beaten on the soles of their feet with a baton stick by the same officer, also for refusing to get into the vehicle.

All of these developments took place during the swearing in of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and the new unity government.

WOZA outside Parliament, Harare, 10 Febraury 2009
WOZA outside Parliament, Harare, 10 Febraury 2009

WOZA continues to urge people to stand up for their children in Harare

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.

A WOZA member shows where she was beaten by a baton stick at today’s Harare demonstrationEleven 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.

WOZA urges people to stand up for their children in the streets of Bulawayo today

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.

WOZA urges Zimbabweans to stand up for their children in Bulawayo, 12 Feb 08800 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.

Bulawayo members released without appearing in Court

News Update – 6pm

The 174 members arrested in Bulawayo on Tuesday were finally released at 5 pm without appearing in court. Police ran out of delaying tactics when lawyers made ready a High Court application. The members were arrested on 13 February as they conducted a peaceful Valentines Day protest. As members were arrest in one protest another sprung up elsewhere – police officers confirmed arresting people at five different locations in the city where protests had sprung up.

Late yesterday, it had been understood that only seven would be charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and that the rest would be released, Police made an about turn and only released mothers with babies and minors, leaving 141 in custody for a second night.

Today as lawyers attending prepared to go to Court, the investigating officers indicated they had had ‘orders’ to charge everyone and take them to court. This meant preparing warned and cautioned statements from everyone. This process of course meant the 48-hour deadline, up at midday, was exceeded by several hours.

Finally at 5 pm today, the group was finally released – five hours after their 48-hour deadline had passed. The Prosecutor advised Law and Order officers to proceed by way of summons. Another factor is that once again no police officer is willing to write the necessary affidavit to allow evidence necessary to charge the activist.

However whilst we recognize that it is positive step for them to refuse to be used to convict innocent people, we appeal to police officers to help ‘ name and shame’ the senior police officer who shouted at Riot police not to dialogue with the activists at the scene but gave the order for the peaceful women and men to be beaten. We also deplore the manner in which those arrested were beaten as they ascended the staircase into the law and order department of Bulawayo Central. Those who had sustained injuries due to beatings on arrest and in custody have been taken to receive medical treatment.

It appears that the group has been charged under Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as read with Section 2(v) of the schedule to the Criminal Code – ‘employs any means whatsoever which are likely materially to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or any section of the public, or does any act which is likely to create a nuisance or obstruction’.

This morning, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) located Magodonga Mahlangu at Sauerstown Police Station. Monitors were dispatched to ensure she was not abducted and their presence ensured she was moved with the rest of the group to Bulawayo Central. She has been released and is also receiving medical treatment for the beatings that she received upon arrest.

The petty nastiness of the Zimbabwe Republic Police was again evident today. Having informed those on support yesterday that the breakfast feeding time had been changed to 5am, volunteers were mobilised to provide food at 5am but were kept waiting until 7am, the normal feeding time. A woman at Queens Park was consistently denied her ARV medication. Reports have also come in that several members were forced to eat the paper placards that they had been carrying during the demonstration – some of these read, ‘love can bring a brighter day’ and ‘From WOZA with love’. Despite the inability of some officers to choose love over hate, WOZA would like to salute those officers who did treat our members with respect and professionalism and who recognized that WOZA is fighting for a better future for ALL Zimbabweans.

Woza Moya!

Valentine’s Day Arrests – News update 8pm

131 members remain in custody in Bulawayo for a second night. The 36 released into the custody of their lawyers once again have been allowed to return to their homes having spent the day at Bulawayo Central. Initial reports from one lawyer indicated that there were 274 in custody but the figure from another lawyer was 174 members that were arrested. This figure includes 17 juveniles, 20 mothers with babies and three pregnant women.

Only seven of the group are being charged under Chapter 37, Section (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry is committed whether the action constituting it is spontaneous or planned in advance, and whether the place or meeting where it occurred is public or private.’ These seven being the only ones that arresting officers were prepared to come forward to testify against. The rest of the group, including Magodonga Mahlangu, are not being charged and at 4 pm today, police dealing with the case agreed that they should be released. The head of the Law and Order Section at Bulawayo Central, G Ndlovu, refused to allow them to go home tonight however, insisting that they only be released in the morning after the seven had appeared in court – the lives of 124 people made miserable by the petty whim of one individual.

Magodonga Mahlangu remains isolated from the rest of the group as Law and Order officers have resisted attempts to have her moved back to join others, arguing that as a leader of WOZA, Mahlangu ‘deserves the dignity of having a cell to herself’ – having an entire police station to herself does seem a little excessive however! Concerns for her safety continue whilst she remains in solitary confinement.

Members in Queens Park are still being denied medication – please call Queens Park Station on +263 9 22641/2 to demand that those taking ARV treatment be allowed to take their medication.

The eight women arrested in Harare yesterday and held at Harare Central overnight are out of custody having paid admission of guilt fines early this evening. The women complained of terrible and inhumane conditions in the cells and having been beaten in custody. Attempts are still being made to ascertain exactly what happened in Harare Central and more information will be given when it becomes available.

Valentine’s Day Arrests – News update 11am

Lawyers were finally allowed access again last night and were allowed to negotiate the release of 36 members into their custody. These included the mothers with babies, juveniles, pregnant women and one badly injured woman who was taken to receive medical attention. They have all reported back to Bulawayo Central this morning. The group was also split between 7 stations – these are Bulawayo Central, Mzilikazi, Donnington, Hillside, Nkulumane, Queens Park and Sauerstown.

Law and Order officers were also overheard briefing each other about a visit to Bulawayo Central by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). They were requesting that Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu be allowed to be abducted from police custody during the night and killed. Law and Order officers apparently replied that the two were not in custody. Jenni Williams had been in the Harare protest but had not been arrested. Magodonga Mahlangu was arrested in the Bulawayo protest, separated from the rest of the group and taken to Sauerstown Police Station. WOZA activists spent the night monitoring Sauerstown to ensure that no foul play occurred and are pleased to report that no attempts were made on her life. There remains concern for her safety however and lawyers are attempting to have her returned to the others.

Currently lawyers are in attendance in Bulawayo and warned and cautioned statements are being prepared. The group is being charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 37, Section (2) – ‘participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, a breach of the peace or bigotry is committed whether the action constituting it is spontaneous or planned in advance, and whether the place or meeting where it occurred is public or private.’

Further investigation of the alleged torture has revealed that one youth, who was arrested for continuing to hand out roses after the demonstration had been broken up, was badly beaten in custody. He remains in custody without medical attention, as do several others who were beaten during their arrest. It also turns out that several members were picked up after the main arrests had occurred as they continued to hand out roses and Valentine cards to members of the public.

This morning when food was being brought to those arrested, officers at Mzilikazi Police Station refused to allow one woman on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to take her medication and at Queens Park, they were refusing to allow any medication, including ARV’s, to be taken without a clinic card being produced to prove that they had a legitimate medical reason to take the medication. Breakfast was also denied to those at Nkulumane Station as the group of 11 had been moved from Hillside Station during the night and their absence from Hillside was only discovered this morning. The support team located them at Nkulumane 30 minutes after their breakfast feeding time ended and that delay was sufficient to have food denied.

It also appears that the power of love has those that love power seriously concerned as two water cannons were evidence in Bulawayo yesterday to deal with WOZA’s love marchers.

Police have not as yet allocated an investigating officer and told lawyers that they should come back after lunch.

You can contact the police stations on the following numbers:

  • Bulawayo Central: (+263 9) 72515 / 61706
  • Mzilikazi: (+263 9) 202908 / 212905
  • Nkulumane: (+263 9) 476755 / 467039
  • Queens Park: (+263 9) 22641/2
  • Sauerstown: (+263 9) 200960 / 218432
  • Hillside: (+263 9) 241161/2
  • Donnington: (+263 9) 474005 / 467309
  • Harare Central: (+263 4) 77 77 77

WOZA liberate the streets of Harare and Bulawayo in fifth valentine’s campaign

Breaking news from WOZA – Urgent Appeal
Reports have just come in from Bulawayo that human rights lawyers have been chased away from their clients and have been threatened with assault. We have been asked by lawyers to launch an urgent appeal as before they were chased out of the station, some youth indicated that they were being tortured.

Several people in custody are in urgent need of medical assistance following the beating they received during the arrests. They are being denied treatment.

In Harare, the number of arrests has been confirmed at eight. They are being held in Harare Central. Human rights lawyers were in attendance but have not been able to gain access as police are currently taking the particulars of those arrested.

Please call Bulawayo central on +263 9 72515/ 61706 and demand that lawyers are allowed access to WOZA members and that those that require medical assistance receive it. Please also demand that police stop torturing innocent men and women.

Two thousand members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo today – a day ahead of Valentine’s Day hoping to catch the police napping. The peaceful protests marked WOZA’s fifth Valentine’s Day procession. At present reports indicate that over 274 men and women and 20 babies are in police custody in Bulawayo and about 10 women in Harare. The Bulawayo protesters were arrested with real-life images of Presidents Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who were about to be presented with copies of the People’s Charter in a ceremony outside the state-owned Chronicle.Several prominent civic leaders were present at the demonstrations, including Dr Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly.In Bulawayo, a heavy police presence indicated that police were expecting WOZA and the protest had to start under the nose of uniformed and plain-clothed police. Riot police swooped towards the end of the protest at the offices of the Chronicle and brutally beat up members. It is estimated that over 1,000 women and men marched three blocks through Bulawayo handing out Valentine’s cards, red roses and copies of the People’s Charter to passersby.Lawyers have been deployed to attend to those in custody and attempt to get in medical attention to those who need it. The walking wounded that were not arrested are currently receiving medical attention.In Harare, the protest started with a handing over of a letter to representatives of the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) asking them to assist Zimbabweans in getting political leaders to deliver the People’s Charter. The UNDP offices was where the first Valentine’s protest took place five years ago when WOZA named then Secretary General, Kofi Annan, as their Valentine.WOZA activists affixed three real-life images of Presidents Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara to the wall outside Takura House. Copies of the People’s Charter were then figuratively ‘handed over’ to the Presidents – symbolizing the need for responsible leaders to deliver social justice.

The peaceful demonstration then moved on to Parliament, singing in Shona, ‘your term is up – you have stayed too long’. As the group neared the entrance, riot police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd. Initially the crowd retreated but then bravely regrouped, stood their ground and threw back the tear gas canisters; hitting the Parliament walls and sending those watching from the parliament balcony scurrying back into the building. The group, which included many leaders, sat down to await arrest but found police only interested in firing tear gas. The song then changed to ‘police do not harass us’. Eventually leaders decided to declare a victory and disperse.

As they dispersed, the activists continued to toyi toyi (fast march/dance) into Sam Nujoma St, past the Herald offices into First Street. The protest was then officially dispersed outside the police post in First Street. In spite of this, a group of several hundred continued to toyi toyi towards the Zanu PF offices but were blocked at Chinhoi Street by riot police with dogs. Several members were arrested at the scene but it is unclear if there any members were attacked by the police dogs. Eight members were arrested in Kwame Nkrumah Street near the UN offices.

WOZA would like to dedicate this day to the contribution of Zimbabwean activists to a non-violent struggle for social justice – we salute your non-violent discipline and spirit of love. We call on the state-owned Chronicle and Herald to honestly cover the events that occurred right on their doorsteps in honour of journalist ethics. To the Zimbabwe Republic Police we say – your children will also one day enjoy the social justice we fight for. Aluta Continua – Woza Moya!

Open letter to UNDP regarding the People’s Charter

Dr. Agostinho Zacarias
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Ms Agnes Asekongye Oonyu
United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Dear Dr Zacarias and Madam Asekongye Oonyu,

Re: The People’s Charter – a blueprint for a better Zimbabwe

The women and men of WOZA have initiated a non-violent campaign with the aim of mobilising Zimbabweans to demand social justice from their leaders. The time has come to put the past behind us and start building a better tomorrow. We plan to hold existing leaders accountable and mobilise people to demand leaders who will deliver all aspects of social justice and a genuinely people-driven constitution. We need help from international friends however and this is why we are approaching you.

Our resolution was made after an eleven-month, nationwide consultation process. During 2006, over 284 meetings, consulting almost 10,000 rural and urban people on social justice were conducted. The people spoke clearly about what they want in a new Zimbabwe and their contributions formed the People’s Charter, which is attached below.

As Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) take to the streets of Bulawayo and Harare today to mark WOZA’s fifth Valentine’s Campaign, they will be marching with the theme ‘The People’s Charter – giving you a better life, a better Zimbabwe’.

In Harare, the protest is starting outside the offices of the UNDP. In WOZA’s first Valentine’s campaign in 2003, then Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, was chosen as WOZA’s ‘valentine’ and a petition delivered to the UNDP at the start of the demonstration. It was decided that it was therefore fitting to go back to where it all began in this, WOZA’s fifth year.

Five years later as we march in our Valentines Day procession, Zimbabwe is in even worse a position than what originally drove the women of this country to take a stand against the deteriorating situation in their homeland. We therefore ask that you consider this Charter to be a plea to the United Nations from the people of Zimbabwe. It is what the people want for their future – it is what we believe can bring a better Zimbabwe. We ask that you consider the Charter as the voices of ordinary Zimbabweans asking your organization to use whatever influence it can to bring about the socially just future we all desire.

Please open up your heart and read it sincerely knowing that it contains the dreams and desires of a heartbroken nation.

Yours faithfully,

Members and supporters of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise