ZPP Monthly Monitoring Report: Human Rights Violations (July 2016)



Theme: Protests

There were widespread protests in the month of July in Beitbridge, Harare, Bulawayo Victoria Falls and Bindura. These protests were against the deteriorating economic and political situation in the country. The protests were unprecedented as they were largely led by non partisan groups and were mostly mobilised through social media.

The machinery of the state was mobilized to crush these protests. It can be reasonably argued that the political culture in Zimbabwe does not support or at least tolerate protests and demonstrations. The suppression of protests dates back to the colonial period where the colonial regime used state machinery and the law to close off all avenues of peaceful protest against its minority rule. The suppression of protests often leads to violence and breeds contempt for the law enforcement agents.

A case in point is the “Zhii riot” of 1960. On Sunday 24th July 1960 a protest was organised in Bulawayo against the arrests of nationalist leaders. It is reported that people gathered at Stanley Square from 8.00 am . The marchers grew to 5000 as they marched out of Makokoba Township towards Lobengula street. What followed this protest was a series of violent activities that came to be known as the Zhii Riots. (Zhii was the Zulu word for 'destroy completely', 'reduce to rubble.').

It is unfortunate to note that the violent suppression of protests by the state which was a common phenomenon under the colonial regime has been adopted by the post liberation state of Zimbabwe. The colonial state used brute force and the law to suppress protests, for instance the notorious Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, passed in 1960 but extensively amended thereafter, was designed to suffocate dissent. The protests in Zimbabwe in the month of July were also heavily crushed by state machinery and protestors were arrested. Videos of police severely assaulting protestors went viral in the country further fuelling resentment against the state and thereby heightening tensions.