Court quashes police ban on a national healing play

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Bulawayo magistrate Tancy Dube,on Wednesday quashed a police ban on a national healing theatre play aimed at exhorting peace and reconciliation after years of political conflict in Zimbabwe.

The interdict came after Lizwe Jamela instituted urgent proceedings in the form of an ex-parte application challenging the police ban of the play entitled 1983, The Years Before and After, a play on past disturbances which seeks to bring about true National Healing, peace and reconciliation.

The play was scheduled for today at Bulawayo Theatre.

Police had on Monday this week, four days before the scheduled drama performance, banned the public performance of the national healing play by the Gwanda-based Jahunda Community Theatre group without giving any reasons for their actions.

But, two days later, Jamela filed an ex-parte application seeking to declare as unlawful the prohibition of the performance, and to set aside the police order prohibiting the staging of the play.

The magistrate sanctioned Jahunda Community Theatre to proceed with the performance as scheduled so as to promote the organisation’s right to freedom of association and assembly as set out in section 21 of the Constitution and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in section 20 of the Constitution.

In his application, Jamela argued the Bhekumusa Moyo-led Jahunda Community Theatre had a democratic right to freely perform theatrical arts without being hindered by anyone, including the police since they were not committing any offence.

The police, Jamela said had not proved the proposed drama performance would result in the disruption of vehicular, pedestrian traffic or cause injury to the participants, the public, damage to property or any other public disorder or security threat.

This is the second time this year the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have intervened in defence of artists’ expression in Matabeleland Provinces.

In February, Jamela and Nosimilo Chanayiwa, also of ZLHR, fought on behalf of Rooftop Promotions and obtained an interdict from Rose Dube barring the police from prohibiting the country’s leading theatre production group from staging a theatre performance entitled Rituals.

The police, through Chief Superintendent R N Masina of Bulawayo Central Police Station, had banned the public performance of Rituals on the basis they could not sanction the performance of the play because the government was already attending to issues of national healing through the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration.