OPPOSITION parties and civil society groups have vowed to defy the latest police ban on peaceful demonstrations in Harare, saying the order violated the Constitution and, therefore, was of no legal force.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA/SILAS NKALA
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora told NewsDay yesterday that his party would disregard the prohibition order announced by the police on Monday and continue with its planned demonstrations.
The latest ban, issued by Officer Commanding Harare Central District Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, came shortly after the High Court suspended his earlier prohibition order following a court challenge by opposition parties.
“The police ban on lawful demonstrations is a gross violation of the citizens’ constitutional rights. Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe accords Zimbabweans the right to embark on peaceful demonstrations as well as to present petitions,” Mwonzora said.
“The Zanu PF regime, fronted by the panicky and paranoid dictator (President) Robert Mugabe, cannot and, indeed, will not succeed in curtailing the people’s constitutional right to demonstrate. The demonstrations will go ahead as planned.”
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the ban could push the nation to the brink of civil war.
“It is ill-advised because this can only lead to protesters going underground and then from there it becomes not only dangerous, but could push the nation to the brink,” he said.
Mwonzora also warned that it was now a gloves-off affair, adding opposition activists were now geared for direct confrontation with the Mugabe regime.
“There is rank madness in Zimbabwe over demonstrations. The gloves are off and the State is peeling away at the facade of democracy that it used to have. The Constitution is under attack and we won’t watch it lying down,” he said.
Human rights lawyer Dzimbabwe Chimbga said they were planning to file a High Court application challenging the constitutionality of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), which gave effect to the ban.
“The ban is quite problematic in that it was made under Posa, which is in itself a violation of the Constitution. We are working on a court application which is likely to challenge the Act from which the police are deriving their powers,” Chimbga said.
Constitutional law expert Alex Magaisa said the latest ban had exposed Zanu PF’s “arrogance”.
This came as the police in Matabeleland North yesterday lifted their ban on a Zimrights public meeting scheduled for Chodobe in Victoria Falls.
The suspension of the ban followed Bulawayo magistrate Sheunesu Matova’s ruling ordering police not to interfere with the meeting.
ZimRights lawyer Lizwe Jamela filed an urgent chamber application.