Civic groups and social movements, among them Tajamuka/Sesijikile and #ThisFlag, yesterday vowed to “shut down” major cities such as Harare and Bulawayo tomorrow in protest against corruption, alleged human rights violations and the impending introduction of bond notes.
BY OBEY MANAYITI/NQOBANI NDLOVU
They vowed to go ahead with the mass protests despite a police ban on their demonstration.
Police in Harare and Bulawayo banned tomorrow’s protests, citing the organisers’ failure to file their application within the stipulated time.
One of the co-ordinators and Occupy Africa Unity Square spokesperson, Patson Dzamara, said they wrote to the police in Harare advising them of the demonstration, but were warned against going ahead with the protest.
“We acknowledge receipt of your letter notifying us of your intention to hold a procession in Harare central business district (CBD) protesting against corruption,” read a letter from the new Harare district police boss, a Chief Superintendent Chizemo.
“Your letter of notification does not comply with the provisions of the Public Order and Security Act Chapter 11.17. You are required to fully comply with the provisions of the said Act, which is instructive and binding.”
But Dzamara vowed they would defy the police ban.
“We are heading towards a total precipice and we cannot continue like this. The time for us to draw a solid line in the sand has come,” he said.
“Cognisant of the fact that (President Robert) Mugabe and his minions won’t listen to our outcry, we must speak to them in their own language.
“We must get into the streets and tell them we are tired and unhappy at their misrule, leadership failure, corruption and Zanu PF-made poverty. We can’t just whisper about it in our little corners or rant on social media and end there. We must take a stand, action is critical.”
Dzamara said they had notified the police of their intentions and would defy any ban.
“We informed the police, as required under the Constitution and we are going ahead with the demo come what may because it is our right. It’s our right to demonstrate peacefully,” he said.
#ThisFlower leader, Stan Zvorwadza said there was no going back tomorrow, arguing police had no mandate to tell them how to proceed with their demo.
“We follow the Constitution and as social movements, there is nowhere written that police must regulate us. It’s game on and we will not bow down. We are not afraid of them and come Friday we will be there,” he said.
In Bulawayo, protests are expected to begin today, as a build-up to tomorrow’s main event, which is also being organised under the This Constitution, Our Constitution campaign.
Civic groups are also demanding respect for the Constitution and alignment of the country’s laws to the charter.
Linda Masarira, of Tajamuka/Sesijikile, said: “There is no going back; we are shutting down Bulawayo despite the police ban on our demonstration.”
Masarira declared that the protesters were prepared to face the barrel of the gun, as they were now used to the brutality that comes with the Zanu PF government in reaction to any dissenting voices in the country.
“We obviously are expecting their (police) heavy-handedness because this is what they have taught us that they are an extension of Zanu PF,” she said.
“We are shutting down Bulawayo. We are going ahead with the protest. The notification was done well in time, but as usual they play on technicalities, which are not constitutional.
“We have been in consultations with our lawyers and they gave us advice, but basically all we are saying it is in the Constitution that we only notify the police, not to ask for permission, to demonstrate.
“We have fought for months for laws to be aligned to the Constitution, but it seems the Zanu PF government is wilfully ignoring the alignment of laws to our Constitution. We are saying enough is enough, we are tired of living in a lawless country, we want justice to prevail in our motherland.”
Police spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi professed ignorance of the planned demonstrations.
“I am not aware of that demonstration. I cannot comment on something I am not aware of,” he said.
The civic society organisations that are taking part in the demonstrations also include #ThisFlower, National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo Youths Arise, Youth Advocacy for Reform Democracy, Active Youths Zimbabwe, Progress Co-ordinating Trust, Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, Zimbabwe Activists’ Alliance and Zimbabwe Liberation Peace Forum.
Police recently banned demonstrations in Harare’s CBD following a wave of anti-government protests by social movements and the National Electoral Reform Agenda, which were brutally crushed by the law enforcers despite their sanctioning by the courts.