Sue police over demos – Mutsekwa

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Co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa said yesterday that police officers who stopped public gatherings were breaking the law and should be sued in their individual capacities.
Police have banned all public gatherings including rallies and demonstrations for the duration of the World Cup.
Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said that the decision to suspend all public meetings had been made to avoid shifting media attention from the World Cup to demonstrations in Zimbabwe should any occur.
But Mutsekwa said barring public gatherings was a breach of the Constitution.
“World Cup or not,” he said, “the people of Zimbabwe should be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to hold public meetings or to demonstrate.”
However Bvudzijena countered: “We need to be sensitive to such situations where we might have international media next door shifting their focus from the World Cup to demonstrations or rallies in Zimbabwe. Other than that, as a force, we do allow demonstrations and rallies.
“But at the moment our officers are concentrating on protecting visitors coming into our country and ensuring that our roads are safe for their travel. We don’t have enough manpower to attend to demonstrations or rallies. That’s why the decision to suspend the gatherings was made.”
Mutsekwa was however adamant no such decision had been made and insisted that public gatherings were authorised by the Constitution. People who were barred from holding meetings should sue the individual officers that interfered with their constitutional rights.
“I am disappointed that people just complain that they have been banned from holding public meetings and then try to sue the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“Why should they waste time doing that? They should sue those individual police officers who are breaking the law. I am Minister of Home Affairs and I am saying that there is no law in Zimbabwe that bars people from holding public meetings,” Mutsekwa said.
He said public gatherings were forums that people use to communicate and banning them is a breach of the Constitution.
The minister said he was surprised that people continued to use the word “authorised” when referring to public gatherings.
“The Constitution authorises public meetings and no one else. So there is no situation where certain individuals may authorise them.
“What the Constitution says is that people have to simply notify their nearest police station and then hold their meetings.”
It was mischievous, he said, for any police officer to stop a public meeting or to demand that authority be sought before meetings were held.
“I am shocked that this thing of stopping meetings is still going on. Some police officers are ignorant of the laws of this country and they should always be properly advised.
I however condemn any such attempts to stop public gatherings and want to urge victims of such ignorance to sue the culprits in their personal capacities,” he emphasised.
Last Thursday former MP for Nkayi North Abednico Bhebhe was barred from holding a public meeting at Dakamela.
He accused police in Nkayi of threatening him with arrest if he went ahead with the meeting, despite the fact that he had gone to the extent of obtaining a High Court order giving him the green light to hold the meeting.
Leader of the newly formed MDC-99 Job Sikhala was acquitted after he was arrested for holding a meeting not authorised by the police. The court found that he had not committed an offence.
Sikhala argued that placing him on remand for such a case was tantamount to “allowing the devil to run away with the Bible from the pulpit”.