Council seeks gag order against residents

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Kariba Municipality has filed a court application seeking to bar its residents from holding public meetings to discuss the poor state of service delivery in the tourist resort.

BY staff reporter

In an urgent application for an interdict order dated May 5 2015, Kariba through its lawyer Clara Phiri, seeks to bar Kariba Incorporated Area Residents and Ratepayers’ Association (KIARRA) from holding public meetings and urging residents to stop paying rates in protest over poor service delivery.

The council cited KIARRA and its chairman Sam Mawawo as respondents under case number 119/15 at Kariba Magistrates’ Court.

The local authority claimed that the residents’ association had addressed two meetings on April 22 and 26 where its executive urged residents to boycott council rates.

“This has resulted in council losing hundreds of dollars in revenue,” the council argued.

The courts provisionally granted the request pending a hearing on May 22.

But Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer Kenny Masiye, who is representing residents, said the application the council was seeking was unconstitutional.

“The application is basically unconstitutional and clearly seeks to infringe or bar an association that advocates for better service delivery in holding meetings in which the Constitution provides . . . the right of association, right of assembly and freedom of expression and it tends to gag people from talking of council’s shortcomings,” said Masiye

Mawawo took a swipe Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo for taking long address residents’ grievances.

“It is disheartening to note that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing is taking long to look into Kariba residents’ issues, the residents’ rights are being violated, residents’ money is being stolen and the council now wants to use the courts to block residents, who are the owners of the local authority, to stop asking for accountability and transparency,” said Mawawo.