BY PROBLEM MASAU/KENNETH NYANGANI THE opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) says it will approach Parliament when it resumes sitting on August 16 over “systematic banning” of its rallies through unfair use of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (Mopa).
The law was used yesterday to bar its rally in Glen Norah, Harare, to celebrate the constituency MP Wellington Chikombo’s March 26 by-election win.
Mopa, which replaced the oppressive Public Order and Security Act, is also deemed tyrannical because its provisions require political parties and other organisations to notify the police in advance of any planned gatherings.
Civic society organisations and opposition political parties view the piece of legislation as aimed at stifling protests against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, and bar meetings of opposition parties despite the Constitution allowing peaceful demonstrations.
While ruling Zanu PF gatherings have always been given the nod, opposition party and civic society gatherings have often been blocked.
Yesterday, heavily armed police were dispatched to Chembira Hall in Glen Norah to block Chikombo’s CCC victory celebrations. No CCC party member dared to come near the hall.
In a letter dated July 29, 2022 addressed to Chikombo, Officer Commanding Police Harare South District, one Chief Superintendent M Manjonjo said: “May you be advised that the notice to hold the by-election celebration party served on us does not comply with section 7(2) of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act [Chapter 11:23] and as such, the intended celebrations have not been sanctioned.”
CCC deputy spokesperson Gift Ostallos Siziba said the party would take the matter to the next parliamentary session, which resumes sitting on August 16.
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“We are going to raise the matter in the next parliamentary session to find out whether there is a law for Zanu PF and another for CCC on banning gatherings. We are not going to sleep while we are seeing our rights to freedom of assembly being infringed,” Siziba said.
“As you are aware, we were supposed to have our rally, but police tried every means possible to bar us from holding our rally. We are exhausting every legal route to find a solution while at the same time we are approaching Parliament.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said political parties had not been meeting the provisions of Mopa when applying to hold rallies.
“It is the responsibility of a convener to notify the local regulating authority, who is the officer commanding a police district, of the intention to hold a rally in line with provisions of Mopa (Chapter 11:23),” Nyathi claimed.
“It is not just a case of notification; the convener has a responsibility to discuss and agree on the security and safety measures to be availed at the rally for the benefit of the public and the community in general.”
Ahead of the March by-elections, the CCC faced similar challenges when its rallies and other campaign activities in Binga, Kwekwe and Marondera were disrupted by the police and suspected Zanu PF activists.
Observers say the violence witnessed at some of the disrupted CCC rallies was a precursor to what will happen in the run-up to the 2023 polls where Mnangagwa is likely to face off with Chamisa again.
An Afrobarometer survey last month showed that 33% of respondents indicated that they would vote for Chamisa against Mnangagwa’s 30%.
In 2018, the 79-year-old ruler narrowly beat the CCC youthful leader, who was then the MDC Alliance candidate, in a disputed election.
Civic society group, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) will also seek permission from the police to stage a demonstration over the worsening human rights abuses in the country on August 5.
CiCZ president Peter Mutasa told NewsDay that they have been summoned by police to discuss the demonstration.
“I can’t say police have banned our (demo) on August 5 over worsening human rights abuses because we are going to meet them tomorrow (today) and discuss the matter,” Mutasa said.
“We hope the meeting is going to be fruitful.”
CiZC brings together various civic groups, including women, farmers, war veterans, youths, students, residents, the academia and labour.