Yesterday, the activists of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets in Bulawayo for the 10th consecutive commemoration of Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know it’s a week early; but in Zimbabwe, when you’re trying to keep the riot police from guessing when your peaceful protests will occur, that’s what you have to do. Unfortunately, their plan didn’t work and co-founder Jenni Williams, along with twelve other people including a pregnant woman and minor, were arrested.
WOZA and MOZA (Men of Zimbabwe Arise) use the occasion of Valentine’s Day to confront governmental policies that violate civil and human rights in Zimbabwe and educate their fellow citizens about issues and what can be done. Frequently, WOZA is met with brutal violence at the hands of the riot police. Jenni has been arrested nearly 50 times.
Jenni and those arrested with her spent last night outside in the rain, detained in the police yard rather than a holding cell. It’s arguable, however, based on prison conditions in Zimbabwe, which option might have been preferred. But they are cold, coughing and likely to be kept in the same conditions tonight.
The use of force and intimidation against human and civil rights activists in Zimbabwe must stop. Urge Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa, to cease using the legal system in Zimbabwe as a weapon. Remind him this Valentine’s Day the power of love is greater than the love of power.