Another blow for MDC as court upholds Bulawayo protest ban

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

A BULAWAYO magistrate Monday upheld a police ban imposed Sunday against an MDC demonstration which had been planned for the country’s second largest city on Monday.

Police Officer Commanding Bulawayo District, Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Phiri on Sunday issued a prohibition order barring the main opposition from holding an anti-government protest in the city.

Police cited, among other reasons, violence which erupted during the January demonstrations organised by the ZCTU.

Following the ban, the MDC appealed the police’s decision with the matter heard at the magistrate’s court on Monday.

“The prohibition of the public gathering on grounds such as those cited by the first respondent is unlawfully and unconstitutional limitation on the right to freedom of assembly and a violation of the rights of members of the appellant enshrined inter-alia in Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” argued the MDC’s lawyer Tanaka Muganyi of Tanaka Law Chambers.

Muganyi also said the police prohibition order was not reasonable and legitimate.

“The issue of the prohibition notice therefore was not a reasonable or legitimate exercise of the power of the first respondent,” said Muganyi.

The lawyer said by assuming that there was going to be violence during the demonstrations, it was was like one banning all buses plying the Harare-Bulawayo route because there have been road accidents before.

Magistrate Tinashe Tishaya however dismissed the MDC appeal citing previous demonstrations which have turned into violence.

The State was represented by Rejoice Hove from the Attorney General’s office.

Phiri and the Police Commissioner General were cited as respondents.

Speaking to journalists soon after the court’s ruling, Innocent Gonese, MDC Secretary for Legal Affairs said the party will go ahead with planned demonstrations in other centres.

“We will go ahead with our planned demonstrations in Gweru tomorrow (Tuesday). We have notified the police as per the provisions of POSA,” said Gonese.

Asked what the party’s next move would be if police proceeded to issue another prohibition order in Gweru, Gonese said, “We will cross the Rubicon when we get there.”

The MDC had planned similar protests in Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo.

Police last Thursday banned the MDC’s Harare protest citing intelligence gathered that the anti-poverty demonstration was going to turn violent.

Violence erupted in Harare Friday when hordes of determined activists defied the ban, igniting angry clashes between them and law enforcement agents.