Police in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo town have declined to give political activists and church leaders permission to stage a protest tomorrow against President Robert Mugabe’s alleged failure to properly run the country and the current social and economic problems affecting millions of people.
But the organizers of the protest say they are going ahead with the public march, a move that is set to pit the police with agitated local people.
A letter written to the conveners of the protest, signed by the acting Officer Commanding Police in Masvingo District, Superintendent Philip Ncube, states that the demonstration has not been granted by the police.
In the letter, Superintendent Ncube said, without giving specific reasons, that the peaceful procession was not granted in terms of Section 26 of the Public Order and Security Act.
This section of the constitution relates to consultations, negotiations, amendment of notices, and conditions with respect to processions, public demonstrations and public meetings to avoid public disorder.
Section 26, Sub-section 3 clearly stipulates that a gathering cannot be sanctioned by the police if a regulating authority receives credible information on oath that there is a threat that a proposed procession, public demonstration or public meeting will result in serious disruption of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, injury to participants in the procession, public demonstration or public meeting or other persons, or extensive damage to property or other public disorder.
Superintendent Ncube and Masvingo provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Charity Mazula, declined to comment.
Community Tolerance and Reconciliation Development advocacy officer, Zivanai Muzorodzi, said the police move was a violation of residents’ right to demonstrate.
“This is a serious violation of our right to demonstrate as enshrined in the constitution. The laws of the country demand that we notify the police within 7 days so we will not be deterred by the unconstitutional ban. Our members are ready in their numbers to hit the streets tomorrow and protest against the government for failing the country. We are saying no to bond notes, were are worried about the cash shortage and the general suffering of the citizens.”
Masvingo United Residents and Rate Payers Alliance director, Anoziva Muguti, added that they have handed over the matter to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
“We have engaged our lawyers from ZLHR and they are currently taking up the matter through the right channels at the courts and meanwhile we are busy mobilizing our members to attend the protest tomorrow.”
Attorney Martin Mureri of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights confirmed that they are taking the matter to court.
“Yes they gave us instructions to the effect that we should appeal against the decision by the regulatory authority for prohibiting them from going ahead with their procession. It is clear from the reading of the letter from the police that there are no reasons why they banned the demonstration.”
Other organizations taking part in the public protest include the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Masvingo Residents Trust, Masvingo Human Rights Trust, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Christian Action Trust of Zimbabwe, Christian Alliance and Christian Voices International Zimbabwe.