BY SILAS NKALA/NIZBERT MOYO
BULAWAYO magistrate Tinashe Tashaya yesterday dismissed MDC’s urgent application seeking the quashing of a police ban to the party’s demonstration in the second largest city.
Anti-riot police, armed with batons and rifles, maintained a heavy presence in the central business district and some high-density suburbs where protests usually start from as they anticipated MDC supporters to defy the ban and court ruling.
The MDC, through its lawyers Tanaka Muganyi and Perpetua Dube, in the application that was dismissed, argued that the party had a constitutional right to demonstrate and pledged that the demonstration would be peaceful.
The party also said the police ban was illegal and unconstitutional, and prayed that it be set aside.
The opposition, in its application, had cited Police Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Phiri (Officer Commanding Police Bulawayo Central District) and Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga as first and second respondents, respectively.
In his ruling, Tashaya said the matter was not urgent and dismissed it on a technicality.
Initially, after hearing the matter from both the State and applicant in the morning, Tashaya wanted to adjourn it to today, but through the insistence of the lawyers he set judgment on the matter at 4pm.
Passing judgment Tashaya said: “The matter is not urgent and there is possibility of violence if the demonstration is held. The police prohibition is upheld. Police as regulator are justified in issuing the prohibition and the right to demonstrate is not absolute.”
Muganyi and Dube argued the reasons for the prohibition by the police were speculative and unsubstantiated to a degree where the prohibition could not legally or constitutionally be sustained.
Police late on Sunday issued a ban of the MDC demonstration, following another issued in Harare on Friday last week.
The Harare High Court also dismissed the MDC’s urgent chamber application seeking to overturn the ban.
In Bulawayo on Sunday, High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa dismissed the application by the business community which prayed for an order blocking the MDC demonstration.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers’ Association, Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo United Residents’ Association and the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe on Saturday filed a joint urgent chamber application seeking an order directing authorities to cause the MDC protests to be called off.
The applicants feared destruction and looting of property.
Meanwhile, a survey done by NewsDay in Bulawayo established that most informal traders stayed at home as their stalls were deserted.
Some retail outlets were closed in the morning, but started operating in the afternoon.
However, Pick n Pay TM Hyper, Spar, Tillas and OK stores, among many other shops, were open despite the police lock-down.
Police also cordoned off the magistrates’ courts and High Court as they anticipated that civic groups would storm the courts in protest against the incarceration of Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni.