NATIONAL Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers yesterday filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order reversing a police decision to stop their planned salary demonstrations set for today.
The workers, represented by Kennedy Masiya of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, argued that the police ban had no legal basis as it infringed on their right to demonstrate as set out in Sections 58 and 59 of the Constitution.
The workers, from the three trade unions in the railways sector, had written to the police on July 2 2014 advising of their intentions to hold peaceful demonstrations tomorrow.
However, Officer Commanding Police Harare Central, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, on July 22, wrote to president of the Railways Artisans’ Union (RAU) Shadreck Mutakura, blocking the demonstrations.
Part of the letter reads: “My office regrets to advise you that your intended peaceful procession to take place on the 2nd of August 2014 from Main Railway Station to Africa Unit (sic) Square from 10:00hrs to 1200hrs has not been sanctioned.”
Police in Bulawayo also wrote; “Information at hand shows that there is strong apprehension towards groups opposed to the government. Hooligans may join the procession with intent of disrupting the whole process.
“Marching along the streets may also lead to provocation with other labour bodies leading to clashes thereby endangering the public and property in the central business district,”
However, in her founding affidavit, Tracy Watyoka, one of the workers’ leaders, said the Railways Association of Enginemen, Railway Association of Yard Operating Staff and the Railways Artisans Union were genuine trade unions who, in terms of the law, where not required to notify the police of their public activities.
“1st and 2nd respondents sought to bar the demonstrations through their correspondence received on 28 and 29 July 2014 respectively. The applicants are genuine trade unions and are not required in terms of the law to notify the police of their public activities, including a public demonstration. As such, the conduct of the respondents falls foul of the law,” Watyoka said.
She said the applicants would suffer irreparable harm if the demonstrations failed to take place as planned.
In the court application, NRZ cited police officers commanding Harare Central, Bulawayo,Gweru, Mutare, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi as respondents.