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Human Rights Lawyers Challenge Police Ban on ZimRights Meeting

  • Gibbs Dube

FILE: Zimbabweans hold placards during a protest against President Robert Mugabe government's handling of the economy in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2016.

FILE: Zimbabweans hold placards during a protest against President Robert Mugabe government's handling of the economy in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2016.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) through legal counsel from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Monday 12 September 2016 petitioned the Bulawayo Magistrates Court seeking an order to overturn a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) ban of a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday 13 September 2016 in Victoria Falls in Matabeleland North province.

ZimRights, through Celia Mafu, the organisation’s Provincial Coordinator for Matabeleland North and South, had on 05 September 2016 gave notification to the ZRP Officer Commanding Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiwona’s office, notifying the ZRP of the human rights organisation’s intention to hold a non-political meeting on 13 September 2016 at Chidobe place in Victoria Falls.

The meeting Mafu said, intended to discuss the state of enjoyment of socio-economic rights through effective service delivery.
But without elaborating and giving tangible evidence, Chief Superintendent Chiwona served ZimRights with a “prohibition order” banning the meeting and claimed that such meetings were being used as a “prelude” to “centralised” violent demonstrations.

Chiwona justified his actions as lawful under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Chapter 11:17 and also claimed that intelligence reports gathered by ZRP showed that the ZimRights meeting could be used to mobilise for violent demonstrations and warned that ZRP officers will “act accordingly” if any activity or plan is done in contravention of the prohibition order.

In response to Chiwona’s prohibition order, Lizwe Jamela of ZLHR on Monday 12 September 2016, filed an ex-parte application at BulawayoMagistrates Court seeking to overturn the ZRP ban.
In the application, Jamela argued that the issuance of the prohibition order is not compliant with Section 26 of POSA, which Chiwona purported to be executing.

He said under Section 26 of POSA, ZimRights is exempt from notifying provisions of Section 25 of the Act as it is not a political grouping, thus the notice to the ZRP itself was just on courteous grounds rather than seek authorisation hence Chiwona seems to be awarding himself powers that he does not have.

Jamela argued that the reasons proffered by Chiwona suggesting that some citizens should not conduct their day to day business simply because of what could have happened elsewhere in the country is clearly misdirection on the ZRP as the subject matter of the planned meeting is not in any way related the any other events.

The human rights lawyer wants the ZRP and its agents or anyone acting under law enforcement agency’s instructions to be interdicted from disturbing or interfering in any way with the ZimRights meeting to be held at Chidobe in Victoria Falls in Matabeleland North province on 13 September 2016.

Proceeding with the meeting as scheduled, Jamela argued would be promoting ZimRights’ right to freedom of association and assembly as set out in Section 58 of the Constitution and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Section 61 of the Constitution.

In the event that the ex-parte application is granted after 13 September 2016, Jamela asked the Bulawayo Magistrates Court to order that ZimRights be allowed to proceed with the meeting to be re-scheduled on another future date without notification to ZRP