Parties contest police ban on demos

HARARE - Po-democracy groups have filed an urgent application at the High Court challenging a recent police ban on demonstrations in central Harare.

High Court judge Priscillah Chigumba will hear the case tomorrow in which the groups are represented by prominent lawyer and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Tendai Biti.

The court application comes as President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF government are facing growing public anger over their handling of the economy which has triggered protests and riots in the last eight weeks.

On Thursday, government invoked Statutory Instrument 101A banning demonstrations in central Harare for two weeks in a move which Mugabe critics say is calculated to prepare the country for a state of emergency.

In the urgent chamber application, National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) leader Stendrick Zvorwadza, said the ban is unconstitutional, as it infringes on the people’s right to freely express themselves.

“The instant application, is one that seeks to set aside every nullity of S.I (Statutory Instrument) 101A of 2016 on the basis that its enactment procedurally was in breach of the Constitution as well as the Posa (Public Order and Security Act) itself and that in substance, its enactment infringes on certain constitutional rights . . . ” Zvorwadza said.

In the application, Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (Dare), Zvorwadza, Combined Harare Residence Association and the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) are cited as the applicants while the respondents are officer commanding police Harare Central District Newbert Saunyama, commissioner-general of police Augustine Chihuri, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and Attorney-General Prince Machaya.

Zvorwadza said the government decision is not justifiable in a democratic society, which is based on openness, justice, human dignity and equality and freedom.

“The regulations, amount to a backdoor amendment of the Constitution or an imposition of the state of emergency,” he said.

The police ban on demonstrations in Harare follows bloody clashes in the capital on August 26 when the cops ignored a court order and bludgeoned thousands of protestors who had gathered under the auspices of Nera, to protest outstanding electoral reforms, ahead of the country’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.

The heavily-armed riot police — backed by armoured trucks and water cannons — indiscriminately fired volleys of teargas at all and sundry, battering and chasing around groups of determined opposition supporters to the shock of Zimbabweans.

Previously, police had used force on protestors demonstrating against government’s plan to introduce bond notes and Zanu PF’s promise of 2,2 million jobs which thousands of angry unemployed youths say was an election gimmick.

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