Non-violence can hange regime -Jenni Williams in London (09-01-07)

It is all too easy to slide into despondency, doubt and disenchantment at the prospects for change in

B>Zimbabwe. But to listen to Jenni Williams, coordinator of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, (WOZA) is to be put to shame for ever entertaining such thoughts.

Williams was speaking to a London MDC branch meeting in central London. WOZA defies easy, neat description. It is not a political party. It seeks change not by force of arms but by the force of non-violent example. It seeks to empower rather than seize power – by forcing a change of heart on the part of individuals. This is no soft option. Such a course entails serious risks. At its outset, sceptics gave the movement three months. That was four years ago. WOZA remains unbowed despite the government’s efforts to (literally) stamp it out.

Towards the end of 2006 it was time to take stock – notably the problem of numbers. Why weren’t hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans taking to the streets? The non-violent expression of people power will one day remove the regime. But what will motivate the people to do so? By widespread consultation countrywide with over 10,000 Zimbabweans, WOZA set out to find out. The result was the People’s Charter – a distillation of the aspirations and demands of rank and file Zimbabweans.

The Charter’s launch in Bulawayo on 29 November 2006 was met with a particularly brutal instance of police violence, with over sixty to seventy injuries sustained. Nonetheless external scrutiny ensures her own and her comrades’ survival. Letters and phone calls from sympathisers to police stations where the women are held provide a salutary reminder to police officers that the outside world knows and cares about what happens inside their holding cells. And one day there will be a calling to account.

The objective in 2007 will be to find political leaders ready to stand up and deliver the Charter. These may not necessarily be prominent personalities in the public eye – they may emerge from the ranks of the political ‘nobodies’. As Williams reminded her audience: ‘No one owns freedom, but everyone enjoys it.’

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