THEMATIC OVERVIEW

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 am1. 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.

1

Adapted from an account of the events by Brian Raftopoulos, Chair, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in a
presentation entitled, “Lest We Forget: From LOMA to POSA” Public meeting commemorating the 1960
protests Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Harare, July 24, 2003

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