The government has banned all demonstrations in the Harare central business district until September 16, as it moves in to quell unrest that has been simmering in the capital for months, forcing the cancellation of today’s mega demo planned by the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera).
by Everson Mushava/Obey Manayiti
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora yesterday said the government had issued Statutory Instrument 101a of 2016 banning all demonstrations for two weeks.
“We do not have enough time to appeal against the instrument before tomorrow, hence, we have been forced to postpone our intended demo to a later agreed date,” he said.
Mwonzora said the demonstration would now be held on September 16, after the expiry of the police order.
By late yesterday, a document, said to be the statutory instrument, was circulating on social media, although its authenticity could not be immediately verified.
A lawyer, who spoke in confidence, said the police were empowered under section 26 of the Public Order and Security Act to stop demonstrations in such a manner, as long as they had published the notice “even on a notice board”.
At least 18 opposition parties under the Nera banner had intended to take to the streets today in protest over government’s reluctance to implement electoral reforms.
Earlier, Mwonzora said the police had blocked their demonstration saying they had not been informed in time about the protest.
“Police didn’t approve our demonstration citing inadequate notice. We have rescheduled the demonstration, throughout the country to September 16. We have allowed it so that they will not have an excuse to deny us,” he said.
Nera convener and ZimPF official Didymus Mutasa had earlier vowed to continue with the demonstration on the strength of last Friday’s High Court order.
Mutasa said they would only agree to a postponement if speculative reports about President Robert Mugabe’s health turned out to be true.
In an earlier letter banning the protest march, the police officer commanding Harare Central district, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, accused Nera officials of being unco-operative and refusing to attend a security sector briefing to discuss modalities on the event.
“This office had invited you for a consultative meeting on August 30, 2016 and you did not come for reasons known to you,” he wrote.
“This office is discouraging the issue of demonstrations in the central business district considering that you did not come for the meeting, where we endeavoured to discuss modalities on how you should conduct your event.
“We, however, encourage you to send representatives to submit your petition to Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) headquarters rather than engaging in a street demonstration.”
Police efforts to block the march came after they violently crushed a protest march last month despite it being okayed by the High Court.
Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume yesterday said they were making frantic efforts to file another urgent court application to get the nod to proceed with the demonstration.
“We are co-ordinating to submit a court application. If we fail to get it to the chambers as an urgent matter, then we postpone,” he said.
People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti last night indicated he was readying a court challenge over the supposed ban of demonstrations.