Lawyer’s protest march in Bulawayo 27 June 2007

In solidarity with a resolution, passed by the Law Society of Zimbabwe
the 13th June 2007, to close all law offices throughout Zimbabwe and
to not
attend court on the 27th June 2007, in protest against the recent
attacks on
and arrest of members of the

legal profession, lawyers in Bulawayo were
requested by the Law Society to gather at the High Court in Bulawayo at
lunch time on Wednesday the 27th June 2007 and to march to the offices
the Governor of Bulawayo to present a petition. I participated in the
and this is my first hand account.

When I arrived at the steps of the High Court I observed that there was
detachment of riot police standing on the steps. When I walked across
them I was advised that the march had been declared illegal and that I
not remain on the steps of the High Court. There were two other lawyers
present and they advised me that other colleagues who had already been
dispersed by the riot police had moved off down Herbert Chitepo Street
towards the Governor’s office and were trying to regroup a block away.
then walked down Herbert Chitepo Street with these 2 lawyers and we
the rest of our colleagues regrouped a block away from the High Court.
Approximately 15 of us then commenced our march to the Governor’s
office but
soon after starting to march we came under the close attention of
vehicles including at least one Landrover from the “Law and Order”
department of CID. These vehicles trailed us as we walked the 3 blocks
the Governor’s office. On approaching the G
overnor’s office we noticed a substantial contingent of riot police
stationed outside the gate.

As we arrived at the entrance the commanding officer of the detachment
ordered them to spread out and stand at the ready with the shields
and batons drawn. We were ordered to stop, told that our march was
and that we should disperse immediately and that failing that force
would be
used to break up our march. We then explained to the officer that we
to deliver a petition to the Governor protesting the attacks on and
of our colleagues in Harare. The officer was not interested and then
for reinforcements and again threatened us and ordered us to disperse.
noticed that further detachments of riot police and other policemen had
arrived. After protesting again we asked the officer to take our
petition to
the Governor which he refused.

We then decided to leave the petition at the feet of the officer as it
clear that we were not going to be let through the police barricade.
done so we then turned to march back to the High Court. As we did so we
again ordered to disperse which we ignored. Shortly after that a
truck load of policemen of policemen arrived armed to the hilt with
and high velocity FN rifles. After walking a block being trailed by
truck and other riot police we were stopped again, this time by the
commander of the police truck. He told us that we had not dispersed and
if we did not do so immediately force would be used against us and that
would be assaulted.

We once again ignored the order and walked a further block, almost as
far as
the High Court building. At this juncture we noticed further
arriving and having decided that we had made our point we then
dispersed and
went to our respective offices.

I was very proud to be part of such a courageous group of lawyers. For
of you reading this not from Zimbabwe let me remind you that our march
not filmed by any TV station as there are no independent TV stations in
Zimbabwe. Nor was it covered by any independent journalists as there
are no
independent daily newspapers left in the country. The march was also
conducted in the full knowledge that not a single police officer has
prosecuted for all the offences they have committed over the last 7
During the last 7 years numerous unlawful assaults have been
perpetrated by
policemen against law abiding Zimbabweans who have been exercising
constitutional right to peaceably demonstrate. The march was also
in the knowledge that those policemen and women responsible for the
attack on Law Society President Beatrice Mtetwa a few weeks ago have
been arrested or prosecuted, nor will they be. In others words we all
that the police act wit
h complete impunity these days and the police themselves know that they
absolute licence to “bash” whomsoever they like as and as hard as they

Accordingly the march was conducted in the knowledge that the police
well have used extreme force to break up the march and that what is
that there would be no-one present to record what had happened.

Of course nearly all the lawyers who participated in the march
have represented many exceptionally brave political and civic activists
have been demonstrating for years and who have been brutally assaulted
tortured by the police. To that extent the actions of this band of
is not remarkable. However in the fluid state that Zimbabwe is in today
still required great courage for these lawyers to go beyond the
security of their offices to stand in solidarity with others who have
for their rights, and indeed the rights of all Zimbabweans, before

It is of course pathetic that lawyers, who are after all officers of
High Court of Zimbabwe, were denied the right to gather on the steps of
High Court. But that is part and parcel of a police state where
courts and the law itself are just cumbersome appendages which can be
disregarded or abused by the regime in power.

I have one abiding memory of yesterday’s events and that concerns the
expressions on the faces of the riot police who formed the barricade
the Governor’s office. Although they were brandishing batons and
could have inflicted great harm on us, when I looked into their eyes I
no enthusiasm for what they had been ordered to do. In fact if I came
with any emotion it was one of pity. The officer in charge was hesitant
giving his orders and almost apologetic. Most of the men under his
were in tattered uniforms and many looked malnourished. When we avoided
violent confrontation they looked relieved and although they trailed us
were not menacing in anyway. The policemen in the reinforcement truck
menacing but it struck me that they were the core group of loyalists.
struck me that we are perhaps now up against a paper tiger; it seems to
that the regime is now protected by a thin veneer of diehard loyalists
the vast majority
of those in the police understand what is needed if their hopes for
future are to be realised – the current band of kleptomaniacs must be
out of office.

I was reminded yesterday of one of my favourite poems by Arthur Hugh

SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!

For all the depression that abounds in Zimbabwe today, for all the
that this dreadful regime will continue in power for ever, I have the
that the tide of popular opinion is silently flooding in and that this
regime will soon find itself overwhelmed.

David Coltart MP
28th June 2007

Photographs of the march can be viewed on my web site.

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