WOZA UK rallies in support of sisters



LONDON – Singing and dancing, swapping stories from the old days in Zim and the difficulties of life in the UK, WOZA women rallied in front of the Zimbabwean Embassy on Saturday in solidarity with their sisters in Zimbabwe.

The significance of WOZA’s ‘Bread and Roses’ protest was highlighted by the food riots which broke out in Bulawayo on Friday when people who had been queuing for three days mobbed a National Foods truck delivering mealie-meal at a local shop.

Ten people were injured and windows were shattered as riot police with batons and tear gas broke up the fracas. Having disbursed the desperately hungry people, police jumped the queue to buy the grain, which is often resold at highly inflated prices. There has been no mealie meal in the shops for months in Bulawayo. WOZA women complain that government officials take the food for themselves while ordinary citizens starve.

Archbishop Pius Ncube was not surprised. “This is a government of murderers,” said the outspoken cleric on Friday. “2005 was the worst year for hunger in Zimbabwe.”

“The government passed new laws to block the distribution of food. Hundreds of thousands of cattle died in Matabeleland. I know that some people have died, especially little children. We know it from our church hospitals.”

“Sometimes when they are brought to hospital, it’s too late. They’ve developed oedema and pellagra. The doctor cannot save them any more. It’s too late! A lot of children died of malnutrition. A conservative estimate would be something like 8000.”

The Catholic Archbishop was not surprised by the Bulawayo food riots. “Sometimes a little bit of mealie meal trickles in, and then it’s sold at 5 or 6 times the normal prices. People are absolutely desperate. They just don’t know what to do.”

“Is the world going to wait until we’re all dead before they act?” asked Sennie, a grandmother at the WOZA demonstration in London. “Our children and grandchildren are starving! What is it going to take? Seeing bloated bellies on the nightly news?”

“Never underestimate the power of the ‘gogos,’ confided another grandmother proudly. “Sometimes they make fun of us, calling us the ‘broad bottom brigade’.” But we have nothing to lose. They’ve taken our homes and everything we own. We will not let them take our children.”

This feisty spirit of solidarity and resistance is the hallmark of WOZA women and their extraordinary leaders whose mandate is to speak out and end the silent suffering of the poor in Zimbabwe.

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