Police at war with State over demos

HARARE - Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri is cranking up the heat on the office of the Attorney-General(AG) to put a better show in the courts when stretched law enforcement agents nab protesters — as President Robert Mugabe’s panicking government fights to contain growing civil unrest in the country.

So unhappy are the police over the supposed shoddy work by prosecutors over the past few weeks that Chihuri met with Attorney-General Prince Machaya and his team in Harare on Friday for a one-day workshop on their working relationship, and to discuss the draconian Public Order and Security Act (Posa) which security agents rely on to foil opposition meetings.

The clear-the-air meeting happened as the High Court will on Wednesday be hearing an application by opposition parties and pro-democracy groups in which they want section 27 of Posa declared unconstitutional — following the recent ban by police on demonstrations in central Harare for a month.

“Since the Civil Division are our attorneys, they owe us the duty of performing the professional services for which they are employed with a reasonable degree of skill and diligence.

“We surely expect the law officers to fearlessly uphold our interests as their clients and the interests of the State in the numerous court challenges and applications that seek to legalise violent protests at the expense of law and order,” Chihuri told the Friday gathering.

“There is no doubt that some cases brought before the courts are spurious, frivolous and deliberately designed to render the regulating authorities’ powers under Posa redundant.

“At times there are occasions when we feel facts are not properly represented or that the AG’s office has acted unilaterally or on their own volition without representing our interests and those of innocent citizens going about their daily chores and the nation at large,” he added.

The High Court savaged the police on September 7, ruling that their ban on protests in central Harare then, for two weeks, was defective and unconstitutional — after police had invoked Statutory Instrument (SI) 101A to ban the demonstrations in the capital city.

Police had issued the decree on the eve of a mega demonstration that had been planned by 18 opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), to press for much-needed electoral reforms ahead of Zimbabwe’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.

And speaking, a few hours after he arrived back in the country from Dubai last month, Mugabe complained to Zanu PF youths that courts were being negligent by allowing demonstrations to go ahead.

“Of course, we can’t allow them (the opposition) to continue with these violent demonstrations unimpeded. Enough is enough,” the increasingly frail nonagenarian thundered.

This week’s hearing in the High Court will see Posa come under scrutiny, following the fresh police ban on protests in central Harare, in which they have now used section 27 of Posa, which lawyers representing Nera and other activists say should also be declared unconstitutional.

Chihuri’s meeting with the AG was seen by insiders who spoke to the Daily News at the weekend as an attempt to not just caucus on a number of key issues, but also as an endeavour to avoid a repeat of the September 7 ban where police were left embarrassed by judge Priscilla Chigumba’s ruling.

“It is not my intention to belabour you on these issues, but suffice to say that we expect the law officers to assert and defend our interests and those of the nation strenuously, but with meticulous fairness,” Chihuri told the Friday meeting further, adding that protesters were allegedly targeting important events to hold demonstrations to attract the attention of the international community.

“As has always been the case with opposition politics in Zimbabwe, deliberate violations of the law and accusations against the police and other State security services grow louder whenever there is an upcoming international event or summit where they wish to have Zimbabwe become part of the agenda.

“Some of these unruly elements now have a penchant desire of barricading roads, burning tyres, fomenting public violence and flagrantly disobeying the country’s laws in their quest to attract the attention of their western funders. For the record, these are all blatant criminal acts which are wrapped under the veil of public demonstrations,” he said.

The MDC told the Daily News yesterday that it was “regrettable” that Chihuri was appearing to question the competence of the government’s lawyers.

“When they (law officers) lose cases at the courts, it’s not necessarily because they are bad and incompetent lawyers. Even a lawyer from planet Jupiter cannot win a court case whose facts are heavily stacked against him,” party spokesperson Obert Gutu said.

“The duty of the courts is to apply the law to the facts of the case, that is, to interpret the law — pure and simple. Most of the cases that the AG’s office is losing at the courts are clearly unanswerable. Both the facts and the applicable law will be so heavily stacked against the State.

“In those circumstances, what would you expect the lawyers from the AG’s office to do? Lawyers don’t manufacture and invent the law. They simply argue the case based on the available facts and the applicable law,” Gutu, who is a lawyer himself, said.

Mugabe, 92 — the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country gained its independence from Britain in April 1980 — is facing the biggest challenge to his long rule.

The nonagenarian has been battling to fend off rising protests blamed on his policies which critics say are a result of his inept handling of the once vibrant local economy.

Two weeks ago, police launched a brutal crackdown against Nera officials and protesters, and made several arrests across the country as they stopped demonstrations which were not part of the ban that the government had imposed in Harare.

Comments (4)

".......innocent citizens going about their daily chores blah blah blah" But Chihuri should know that such citizens are beaten up and tergassed whilst they queing at ATM or at bus stations, and would not have participated in any demonstration to warrant their harassment. These are the citizens who may take part in the next demonstration, reasoning that they will be beaten up anyway, even if they "go about their daily chores." Chihuri should instruct his officers to identify and arrest violent elements. Violence should not be condoned whether by demonstrators or the police. But the top cop seems to condemn violence by demonstrators and never sees evil in the police actions when they beat up people who would have had nothing to do with violence and demonstrations. If police are to gain any respect from Zimbabwean citizens, they should stop this madness of beating up anybody and everybody who is within reach of their batons.

machakachaka - 26 September 2016

That magistrate had a point and her fears have just been proved. Police wants to be Police , prosecutor and judge at the same time. Police cannot give instruction to the courts.they must listen and work on advice from the courts. This is bullying tactics, from the police.

X-MAN IV - 26 September 2016

Gavhumendi inoshanda pachiiZanu kana kuti pachigavhumendI.

JOJO - 26 September 2016

Chihuri does not know the law. it does not mean that if you arrest someone, they are guilty.

ignorant chihuri - 27 September 2016

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