MDC 16 August demonstration hangs in the balance, as police keeps opposition guessing

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By Costa Nkomo

POLICE will have the final say on whether the much anticipated protests planned by the opposition for August 16th MDC will go ahead, it has emerged.

While the law does not force express permission from police for citizens to stage demonstrations, processions, protests and marches, there is a requirement to notify authorities who may deny on the basis of incapacity to provide adequate security of such other reason including threats to national security or the public such an event may cause.

The MDC gave notice of its intentions to take to the streets in protest over several issues that include the deteriorating living conditions, the sorry state of the economy as well as the volatile political situation.

Writing on its official Twitter account, the Zimbabwe Republic Police acknowledged the MDC notice but indicated authorities are still considering the request.

“The ZRP acknowledges receipt of MDC A notification on the intended demonstration on 16/8/19. However, the police reiterates that considerations are still being made on the notification and the official response is yet to be given to the concerned convener,” the police wrote.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election campaign was on a promise to widen the democratic space and allow citizens to make their feelings known to government freely.

The Zanu PF leader, who took over from his predecessor Robert Mugabe in November 2017 after a military coup, allowed the opposition to stage two major demonstrations ahead of last year’s elections.

However, another wild-cat protest that broke out in Harare forced Mnangagwa to bring out the military, leaving six people dead.

In January, another stay-away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions turned into an orgy of violence, forcing government to once again deploy the army, leading to the death of 17 people while scores were left with gunshot wounds.

The opposition has also indicated that the demonstration is to force Mnangagwa to agree to talks with Chamisa.

The MDC has refused to recognise Mnangagwa as legitimate leader following the election which Chamisa argues he won despite having a Constitutional Court petition to overturn the result rejected on the basis of lack of evidence.

Recently, Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema and his counterpart Deputy Defence Minister Victor Matemadanda indicated government will be ready to use the military again to deal with protests if they turn violent.