A bruising legal battle looms in Bulawayo after police blocked a march by members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) scheduled for today.
The lawyers’ group yesterday filed an urgent High Court chamber application challenging the prohibition. They were due to march in the city centre in commemoration of International Human Rights Day.
However, police declined to sanction the march on the grounds it coincided with the official opening of the Zanu PF conference at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair grounds in the city.
In the application, the ZHLR cited Bulawayo district police commander Chief Superintendent Rita Masina, Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs co-ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone as respondents.
In barring the ZHLR march, Masina on Monday said police would not sanction the procession because of a major event happening on the same day.
Part of Masina’s letter to ZHLR lawyer Lizwe Jamela reads: “In terms of Section 26 (10) of the Public Order and Security Act Amendment (Posa) Number 18, I regret to advise that this office cannot sanction the procession and gathering due to the following reasons:
“ZRP will not be able to cover your procession due to manpower constraints as a result of a major event taking place on this date 08/12/11.
“This office has no objection if you postpone the commemorations to any other date.”
The letter is dated December 5. Jamela said International Human Rights Day fell on December 10 and traditionally ZHLR members gather and conduct a peaceful procession and hand over human rights-related petitions to relevant offices.
“On 5 December 2011 I received a call from 1st respondent (Masina)’s office and I was advised that the respondent was not approving or ‘sanctioning’ applicant’s planned procession. That the reasons advanced were that there was a Zanu PF Congress (sic) going on as a result the respondents were not allowing any processions to take place. I then insisted that the response be reduced in writing,” submitted Jamela.
He said notifying provisions did not apply to ZHLR, an organization of members of a professional body holding a procession for purposes which are apolitical.
Jamela said police actions were not within the provisions of Posa which Masina purported to be enforcing.