Sowetan: Police condemned for firing rubber bullets

Police condemned for firing rubber bullets

Louise McAuliffe
27 January 2009

Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Mission, voiced his deep disappointment at police action of firing rubber bullets into a peaceful protest which resulted in the hospitalisation of seven people.

Members of ’Save Zimbabwe Now’ initiative had gathered in Pretoria to hand over three documents to the SADC leaders.

Talking about the police action Verryn said: “I realize that formal permission was not achieved and that was certainly not for want of trying.”

“If we are truly going to take into account the full spectrum of what faces Zimbabwe at this time – (then) it is critical that we are serious about hearing all the voices.”

Verryn spoke of the huge amount of manipulation and betrayal over the last twenty years. He stressed that if we are to be serious about a sustainable future for Zimbabwe and South Africa, then it is critical that allowances be made to hear the voices that are normally considered irrelevant.

“I don’t believe that the protest yesterday was about a small voice. It was really the voice of the heart of the matter and so for police to open up fire, with rubber bullets, ultimately that an elderly gentleman ended up in hospital, and that people were harassed in the way that they were yesterday, speaks a serious warning to our democracy.”

“It is a loud voice of intolerance because the people who were protesting are not irresponsible. The people who were protesting were not illegitimate. If one looks at the process of SADC in the light of what happened to innocent people yesterday then I am deeply deeply alarmed.”

Verryn expressed his deep disappointment at the activities and actions of the police against vulnerable people. He said: “Was there absolutely no way in which they could have been approached, in which there could have been reason, in which a door could have been opened, in which the memorandum could have been read, in which the opinion could have been heard, in which peoples voice could have been respected – was it absolutely impossible to do this in any other way except to open fire with rubber bullets.”

Talking about the Save Zimbabwe Now initiative Verryn said: “The fast is a non violent protest against the abuse of humanity right across the board.” He added: “We must begin to start solving our problems in ways other than using the barrel of a gun or a knife or violence. Surely the 21st century cannot be introduced with this paradigm of resolving problems.”

“Until we have consensual agreement – not instruction from SADC – can we imagine that we have begun the process (of saving Zimbabwe).”