Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum last week got a provisional order barring the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and the police from removing billboards erected by the organisation in the city.
The billboards denounce torture of citizens. The NGO Forum is an organisation fighting for human rights in Zimbabwe. Granting the provisional order last week, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi ordered city fathers and the police to immediately stop interfering with the forum’s right title and interest over the street pole signs along Robert Mugabe Avenue.
Officer commanding police in Bulawayo province Steven Mutamba and the officer commanding Criminal Investigations Department (Law and Order) Patrick Moyo, who were cited as 2nd and 3rd respondents were ordered to protect pole signs and billboards from further destruction.
“The second and third respondents be and are hereby interdicted from interfering with the applicant’s right title and interest over the street pole signs along Robert Mugabe Avenue. The second and third respondents be and are hereby ordered to protect the said street pole signs and billboards from further destruction,” ordered Mathonsi.
Bulawayo City Council is cited as the 1st respondent in the matter.
The forum, through its lawyer Jonathan Tsvangirai of Danziger and Partner Legal Practitioners, approached the High Court on November 12 on an urgent basis seeking an interdict barring the police and council from pulling down their campaign material.
A certificate of urgency signed by Thamsanqa Khumalo of Khumalo and Company Attorneys Legal Practitioners revealed that the forum’s billboards which were erected on October 28 had already been pulled down.
“The Applicant has got no other remedy save for an urgent chamber application for the remedy it seeks and the matter cannot wait to be heard through normal channel. I hereby certify the matter to be urgent,” wrote Khumalo.
The organisation represented by its executive director Abel Chikomo sought to have the police ordered to pay damages equivalent to the production and erection costs of the destroyed billboards and also to pay the costs of the application.
Chikomo said the messages on the billboards were purely informative covering anti-torture material, which called for the ratification of the International Convention Against Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
He said Moyo advised him he had received complaints from the public that the billboards were offensive and they viewed them as causing disharmony and unnecessary harm and advised that they should be pulled down.
Chikomo said BCC refused to comply with the directive citing their contractual obligations between them and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s agent, Ad Media (Pvt) (Ltd).
He said they booked an appointment with Moyo, but on their arrival in Bulawayo they noticed the billboards along Harare Road had been torn down and street poles along Main Street pulled down.
Chikomo submitted that Moyo should be interdicted from pulling down the billboards as it undermined their campaign on torture and the need to eradicate it.