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WOZA and MOZA let love light the way in Valentine's protest in Harare today
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
February 10, 2009

Approximately 600 members of WOZA and MOZA demonstrated for several blocks to Parliament in Harare today. The peaceful group sang as they marched from the Karigamombe Centre up Kwame Nkrumah Ave, past the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Parliament. 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. WOZA is still checking with its community structures that all its activists have returned home safely but we can confirm that eight members and two lawyers have been arrested. More information on these arrests will be sent as it becomes available.

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, having peacefully processed past a group of riot police that was trying to decide whether to arrest them or not, 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.

Take the Step - Qhubeka - Yendera Mberi!

In March last year, Zimbabweans displayed incredible courage and came out in large numbers to vote for change. Their action meant that Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party lost the elections. WOZA asked people to stand up for their child in 2008 and they did - the people of Zimbabwe took the step that was needed. It was not enough to carry us to the new Zimbabwe we dream of and voted for however.

Taking the Step in 2009

In 2009 Zimbabwe remains in the dark. Zimbabweans carry an even heavier burden and daily survival needs superhuman effort.

But WOZA realizes that we cannot keep complaining about how tough life is and DO nothing to change the situation!

If we want a better life, we need to do more than just complain. That is why at the beginning of 2009, WOZA is asking Zimbabweans to continue with the action that they took in March 2008.

This week Zimbabwe is supposed to get a new, inclusive government. After almost a year of no functioning government, we wait to see what they will do and hope that they will bring us the better life that we dream about. We look forward to having a government that will listen to people. But the inauguration of a unity government does not mean that we have achieved our goals or that life will immediately get better.

As Zimbabweans we cannot just sit back and wait quietly to see what this government will do. As citizens of this country, we have a right to say how we should be governed and what the priorities of the new government should be.

WOZA is therefore urging all Zimbabweans to stay focused on the dream of social justice for all - as outlined in WOZA's People's Charter. It is POSSIBLE to get to a new Zimbabwe. But we cannot give up before every child is in school and everyone has enough to eat. There is still a long road ahead and walking alone in the dark is tiring but it gets easier if you walk with others. If we let love light the way and walk together hand in hand, we can light the darkness and help our new government deliver the social justice we deserve.

Layitha ikhandlela libe linye kulokusola ubunyama - qhubeka
Baka kenduro rimwe panekusvora rima - yendera mberi
It is better to light a single candle than to complain about the darkness - take the step.

Ayifuni mina, ifuna thina - qhubeka
Kwete ndega, asi tose - yendera mberi
Together we can light the darkness - take the step - join WOZA today

Uthando luthando nxa kulezenzo - qhubeka
Rudo rudo kana kune zviito - yendera mberi
Love means action - take the step - join WOZA today

Solidarity actions

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.

Giving or lighting candles is therefore something that friends and supporters around the world could do to also be part of the movement.

WOZA is delighted to know that solidarity events are being planned in London, Canada and South Africa for Valentine's Day this year. If you are interested in knowing more details of these actions, please email us at wozazimbabwe@yahoo.com and we will direct you to the appropriate group. Alternatively, you could always organize your own solidarity action with the women of Zimbabwe on Saturday 14th February 2009.

WOZA is also looking for brave witnesses to be with us as we conduct our peaceful protests around Valentine's Day in Zimbabwe.

Visit the WOZA fact sheet

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