MDC protests closure of democratic space

BY BLESSED MHLANGA/MOSES MATENGA

MDC youths yesterday took to the Harare Magistrates Court to protest what they called State-assisted closure of democratic space, with the police denying them the right to hold public gatherings or demonstrations while the ruling Zanu PF enjoys unfettered freedom.

Nearly 20 youths led by Gift Ostallos Siziba, the youth assembly spokesperson, walked into the magistrates’ court with tape covering their mouths and accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of using the police and courts to curtail political freedom for ordinary Zimbabweans.

“We are here to express our displeasure with the system. The courts are being used to close democratic space. When, as political actors, we speak out our minds and use banters to aim at our opponents, we are arrested, dragged to the courts and the courts take forever to deliver justice. We want our freedom of conscience, of speech and association restored and not limited by the courts at the behest of Zanu PF,” Siziba told NewsDay.

MDC rallies have been banned over the past three months and their attempt to stage demonstrations have been shut down through the use of brutal force, while Zanu PF has been allegedly given the freedom of the city.

“They staged their anti-sanctions demonstration (on October 25) without even as much notifying the police. They are doing these demonstrations countrywide, including rallies, and in most cases, you actually see police organising these events on behalf of the (Zanu PF) party. We are arrested, beaten and jailed. This is unconstitutional and unacceptable,” Siziba charged.

As the MDC battles closure of democratic space, Mnangagwa, already endorsed as Zanu PF’s candidate ahead of the 2023 elections, will meet the ruling party youths in Kadoma tomorrow amid growing anger over the “ban” on his opponent, Nelson Chamisa’s rallies across the country.

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Chamisa has seen numerous of his party meetings and gatherings thwarted by police, with the latest being a provincial rally that was set for Chitungwiza on Sunday.

The latest ban followed a violent quashing of Chamisa’s Hope of the Nation Address last week by the law enforcement agents.

Mnangagwa will address his party youths in Mashonaland West and is expected to meet with students, youth in mining, churches and youth in business, among others.

The meeting will be held at Rimuka Stadium, party national youth league deputy secretary Lewis Matutu said.

While Mnangagwa is enjoying the freedom to meet his constituency unhindered, the same has not been accorded to Chamisa, who narrowly lost to the Zanu PF leader in last year’s elections.

The MDC had applied for a meeting in Chitungwiza, but officer commanding police Chitungwiza District, Sekayi Mujiwa, turned down their request.

“The notification has been noted, but it doesn’t meet the requirements of the Public Order and Security Act. The provision of section 29 of the Public Order and Security Act will be evoked if you decide to proceed with the rally,” the letter from the police read in part.

MDC Harare provincial chairperson Wellington Chikombo confirmed the ban, but could not outline their next course of action in the wake of a series of bans on their meetings by the police.

“We were supposed to have a meeting in Chitungwiza on Sunday, but the police blocked that,” he said.

Yesterday, Chikombo said they would again put another notice to the police for another rally and see what happens after that.

“We will continue to push. We will never tire. We are notifying the police of a rally we need to do this week and we will only have a position on (the next course of action) when the response comes,” he said.

Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the police were not aware of the MDC demonstration.

“There are laws to be followed, but I will have to check with our officers on the ground because we are unaware of the said demonstration. On allegations of favouritism, I have to check with the officers in Harare district so that I can give a conclusive comment,” he said.

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