Police ban May Day marches

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Police have banned planned marches by the country’s largest labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which are part of May Day commemorations, citing security reasons.

The ban affects marches which were scheduled for Mutare and Kwekwe on May 1.

However, police in Harare and Bulawayo, among other areas, have not yet responded to ZCTU requests for permission to hold the marches.

Police have written to the ZCTU informing them their application to seek clearance for a planned march in Mutare had been turned down.

On Sunday, Wellington Chibebe, the ZCTU secretary-general, told NewsDay they would seek legal recourse to have the ban lifted.

“So far we have received reports of the ban from only two places and that is from Mutare and Kwekwe,” Chibebe said. “We are going to approach the High Court. We are a trade union and we are allowed to march when we want to and we don’t have to seek permission to do so, instead we just notify them.”

Mutare police wrote to the ZCTU on April 13, denying them permission to organise a march from the city centre to Sakubva Stadium where main Workers’ Day celebrations will be held.

Officer commanding police in Mutare, Chief Superintendent Joseph Chani, wrote to the ZCTU: “Please be advised that permission to hold a May Day procession has not been granted.”

He said processions had been temporarily banned for security reasons until further notice.

“You can only hold your May Day celebrations at Sakubva Stadium on 01/05/11,” Chani said.

“People and vehicles will get to the main venue as individuals and not a procession. Abide by the laws of the country.”

This year’s May Day celebrations in Harare will be held at Gwanzura Stadium where Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Mpariwa will officiate.

Chibebe said the May Day celebrations had this year been spread to areas such as Binga and Triangle.

He said celebration centres had been increased this year to 38 from 34 last year.

This year’s theme is Respect our Rights; Save our Economy Protect our Jobs.

Civic society groups and political parties opposed to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF have in the past accused the police of stifling the freedoms of Zimbabweans by banning gathering and marches.

They say while other political parties and civic organisations have been denied the opportunity to gather or demonstrate, Zanu PF supporters enjoy unfettered freedom of doing the same.

ZCTU members were arrested last month while marching in commemoration of International Women’s Day in Bulawayo.