Zimbabwean Dissidents Unite in Prayer for Peace
By Women of Zimbabwe Arise, April 4, 2007, excerpted from www.wozazimbabwe.org
Five hundred members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) conducted a prayer vigil at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Bulawayo on Saturday March 31, 2007. The activists risked violating the Public Order Security Act and braved Zimbabwe's harsh repressive environment in order to pray for peace. This day was chosen to commemorate the night of the 2005 parliamentary election when over 250 women were arrested and many brutally beaten by police in Harare as they conducted a prayer vigil.
The prayer service had special significance as political violence is on the increase with hundreds of activists arrested and injured in the past few weeks. Prayers focused on the need for citizens to refrain from retaliation and for police to refuse to harm people.
As the service opened, "Nkosi Sikelela iAfrica" ("God Bless Africa," the anti-apartheid liberation hymn and now one half of the South African National Anthem) was sung, followed by a prayer that Zimbabweans will continue to choose nonviolence and love over violence and hate and use peaceful resistance to hold this government and politicians accountable for bad governance.
Women also testified as to how they were assaulted on election night by police in Harare, but called on Zimbabweans to remain committed to peaceful protest.
Today, seeking to be surreptitious, police officers arrived by commuter omnibus. They did not go into the hall but sat on the church wall and observed. More police officers from the Law and Order department came and their numbers swelled to over 15. A Law and Order officer, Sergeant George Levison Ngwenya, manhandled the WOZA member at the door, asking what was going on in the Hall, threatening her whilst holding her by the scruff of her neck.
As the prayer vigil was drawing to an end it became obvious that police officers were in position and waiting for further instructions. The vigil was closed with Second Timothy 2:1-2 "You then my child be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me through my witnesses and entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well."
As the members dispersed, Archbishop Pius Ncube came and shook hands with each member, one by one, giving encouragement and reminding people to leave peacefully. The police officers just continued to observe close by. WOZA commends Archbishop Pius Ncube for his courage and for the encouragement he gave to members who knew they would have to walk past police officers known for their brutality.
After all the members had dispersed, the leaders began to leave, including Jenni Williams, the President of WOZA. After shaking hands with the Archbishop they made to walk out of the church grounds. As Jenni Williams left she greeted the police officers, who are well known to her. Sgt. Ngwenya commented that she had been in a (banned) meeting to which she replied that there had been a prayer service. He quipped, "Who were you praying for?" "For you," she replied. This night, there were no arrests.