On several occasions, police officers walked by the protest looking the other way. Workers at the three government complexes along the route met the peaceful procession with big smiles. They demanded copies of the Woza Moya newsletter covering our position as regards the power-sharing agreement. At Mhlahlandlela, the security guard received the newsletter and some placards with a broad smile and handed them in to the receptionist.
The protest began at the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) where participants delivered a protest note, complaining about poor electricity supply and high tariffs. Bystanders shouted out – ‘Well done, good job – good job!’ The procession then proceeded several blocks to the government complex where it ended.
The theme of the protest was ‘actions speak louder than words’. Despite it being 15 days since the deal was signed, no progress has been made in forming a new government although it was to have been implemented immediately. Food prices are soaring, electricity and water cuts are increasing but no one seems interested or able to deal decisively with these issues and the ordinary citizens continues to carry the ever-increasing burden. WOZA members, along with the rest of the nation, are starving but unable to access food aid despite recognition in the deal that the situation is urgent.
WOZA is therefore demanding immediate action regarding the formation of a new government that will begin to work on solving urgent social issues, like food, electricity and water. We also requested that the mothers of the nation arise and demand a liveable peace.
During the protest, WOZA members chanted in Ndebele – ‘ayihlale phansi ihambe umthetho’ (sit down and maintain discipline). This was sang both as a way to ensure that the activists maintained non-violent discipline and also as a message to politicians to sit down and respect the deal. Other songs sang include a WOZA favourite – ‘this is an issue that men are failing to solve’.
Some of the placards written by members read – ‘we can’t eat empty promises’; ‘once bitten twice shy’; ‘we are hungry’ and ‘three principals, the talk show is over’.
The protest was also a test to see if freedoms of expression and assembly have opened up and WOZA commend the police for looking the other way. In our view police did not act to arrest anyone because they are fed up and personally support the protest issue.
29 September 2008
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The newsletter being handed out by the protestors reads as follows:
“This year, the International Day of Peace takes on special meaning.Â This is the year we also mark the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We know that human rights are essential to peace. There is so much to unite around on this International Day of Peace. I call on world leaders and peoples around the world to join forces against conflict, poverty and hunger, and for all human rights for all.” United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon
21 September is the International Day of Peace OUR THEME: ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS We want ACTION; we want a new GOVERNMENT that will deliver food, electricity and water NOW. Mothers of the Nation, ARISE and demand a liveable peace for yourselves and your children.
WOZA WOZA has consulted members on their views about the ‘Deal’, which we shall hereafter refer to as the ‘document’, because at the moment it is just a document – full of promise but for the moment words without meaning. As we commemorate International Day of Peace, we await news of the implementation of the power-sharing agreement signed by ZANU PF and the two MDC formations.Â According to article 25 of the document, it was supposed to enter into force immediately after it was signed. We expected parliament to have been called and a new government to already be working to address our urgent needs – but nothing has happened to date despite the fact that it was signed on 15 September, the first United Nations International Day of Democracy.
There have been conflicting opinions and media reports on how and when a new government will be formed.Â There is still an air of uncertainty about how it will work.Â There are delays in resolving these issues, and the provisions of the agreement will not be legally binding until they have been translated into constitutional amendments or changes in existing legislation. Â
As to the content of the document, we are waiting to see if they were serious when they wrote this sentence: “to build a democratic and just, inclusive society free of fear, violence, patronage, corruption and to ensure a better life for all Zimbabweans.
We note with interest the issues highlighted in the document – calls for an end to violence, respect for human rights and freedoms of expression and assembly, economic and social justice, security sector reform, constitutional reforms and national healing. Issues that WOZA members have been beaten and arrested for demanding.
We also await the day when there are fair and just courts to prosecute perpetrators when they are charged. See Article 18.5 (c) that the Government shall apply the laws of the country fully and impartially in bringing all perpetrators of politically motivated violence to book.
Whilst we welcome the constant references to gender equality, we recognise that these references are an attempt to silence our criticism that we were left out as women and their views were not represented at the negotiating table. We wait to see if they actually implement all the gender equality they talk about.
The only mention that Zimbabwe faces economic problems is contained in Paragraph 5, in which the parties commit themselves to “arresting the fall in living standards and reversing the decline of our economy”. During this crisis we have seen wealth owned by the Zimbabwean people looted and resources sold cheaply to others. We are concerned that the spirit of the document is phrased to allow the political leadership of ZANU to get off the hook. The wording gives too much importance to the ZANU PF propaganda and lies about the cause of economic decay being ‘western imperialists’ and their ‘sanctions’. The document is therefore based on a false picture. Much of the blame belongs to the ZANU PF ruling elite, they have looted our wealth and even today, they are stealing the food out of our mouths.
We are a traumatised nation urgently in need of national healing. The first step will be to see the perpetrators of violence being arrested and charged.
We, mothers of the nation, lived through the Lancaster House ceasefire, which did not deliver the promises of the liberation war. There was no national healing programme. We lived through the massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands leading to the 1987 Unity Deal, which swallowed the opposition ZAPU and disgraced the ideal of one-man-one-vote. There was still no justice and national healing.
This time, we cannot allow Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara to get away without a full consultative programme of national healing and justice and delivering on the promises in the document. There is a saying – once bitten, twice shy – will this happen again?
We would like to renew our call to the uniformed forces to realise that there is no peace in the absence of justice. Respect the agreement and refrain from being used to perpetrate violence and to carry out injustices.
We, your neighbours in our communities, know you for the things that you do, both good and bad. We will remember. Hear us loud and clear – your leaders may get ‘generous retirement packages’ but you will be left to face the justice of the law and the anger of the people. When you see us in the streets, we come in peace with love in our hearts and you have the choice to respond likewise and allow us to do our work as mothers of the nation. Good actions will also be remembered and rewarded. We will also be watching to see what actions the police will take when we conduct our demonstrations.
Mahatma Ghandi advises us: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
WOZA is therefore confident that Zimbabweans, through a coordinated campaign by civic groups, churches and unions, will fully participate in a national healing programme. We will also fully participate in mobilising for a people-driven constitutional process and implementation. The agreement provides an opportunity for our demands in our People’s Charter to be addressed, so that the nation can enjoy social justice. WOZA members are fully committed to making the dream of a new Zimbabwe into a living reality.
The Agreement also promises:
Â Â “a shared determination to uphold, defend and sustain . national unity. a nation where all citizens respect and, therefore, enjoy equal protection of the law and have equal opportunity to compete and prosper in all spheres of life.”
Â Â “our shared commitment to re-orient our attitudes towards respect for the Constitution and all national laws, the rule of law, observance of Zimbabwe’s national institutions, symbols and national events.”
Â Â “the rights of all Zimbabweans regardless of political affiliation to benefit from and participate in all national programmes and events freely without let or hindrance.”
Â Â “accepting and acknowledging that the values of justice, fairness, openness, tolerance, equality, non-discrimination and respect of all persons without regard to race, class, gender, ethnicity, language, religion, political opinion, place of origin or birth are the bedrock of our democracy and good governance.”
Â Â “a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption and founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency, dignity and equality.”
Â Â “the historical obligation and need to reach a solution that will allow us to put Zimbabwe first and give the people a genuine chance of rebuilding and reconstructing their livelihoods.”
Â Â “7.1:c) shall give consideration to the setting up of a mechanism to properly advise on what measures might be necessary and practicable to achieve national healing, cohesion and unity in respect of victims of pre and post independence political conflicts.”
Â Â “12: undertake training programmes, workshops and meetings for the police and other enforcement agencies directed at the appreciation of the right of freedom of assembly and association and the proper interpretation, understanding and application of the provisions of security legislation.”
Â Â “14: call upon traditional leaders not to engage in partisan political activities at national level as well as in their communities.”
Â Â “16: In times of need, every Zimbabwean regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation and religion is entitled to request and receive humanitarian and food assistance from the State.”
Â Â “18: Gravely concerned by the displacement of scores of people after the election of March 29, 2008 as a result of politically motivated violence.”