Zimbabwean police have put breaks to a planned public protest by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Nelson Chamisa on the current economic hardships in the country scheduled for Thursday in Harare, a day before Zanu PF’s anti-sanctions march.
In a letter addressed to the MDC and signed by the Officer Commanding Harare, Chief Superintendent Oscar Mugomeri, police said, without elaborating, that the MDC’s planned protest did not meet some requirements of the Public Order and Security Act.
“The office acknowledges receipt of your notification letter on the 16th of October 2019 dated 15 October 2019 in which you intend to hold a demonstration in the C.B.D on the 42th of October 2019 from 1000 hours to 1600 hours.
“Your notification does not fulfil all the requirements of Section 25 of the Public Order and Security Act Chapter 11:17 that governs notice of procession, public demonstration and public meetings.”
Mugomeri was unavailable to comment on the police move to stop the protest. It’s not clear which provisions of the law the MDC failed to follow resulting in the blanket ban.
Section 25 of the POSA reads in part, “Notice of processions, public demonstrations and public meetings … The convener shall not later than seven days before the date on which a procession or public demonstration is to be held, give notice of the procession or public demonstration in writing signed by him or her to the regulating authority for the district in which the procession or public demonstration is to be held; five days before the date on which a public meeting is to be held, give notice of the public meeting in writing signed by him or her to the regulating authority for the district in which the public meeting is to be held …”
The convener of the protest, Happymore Chidzive, who is the leader of the MDC Youth Assembly, was no reachable on his mobile phone.
MDC secretary general and Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana East, Chalton Hwende, posted a message on Twitter claiming that the police have banned the planned party protest.
“Just received this letter from police which effectively bans @mdczimbabwe members from exercising their democratic right to demonstrate @ZANUPF_Official does not even notify the police. Selective application of the law is what brought targeted sanctions.”
City-to-city rallies in Zimbabwe's major cities by the MDC Alliance have been stopped with 11th hour high court bans and prohibition orders, amid police fears that citizens from all walks of life and political affiliations would turn out in great numbers to join the marches.
After running battles between police and civilians in Harare on Friday, the protest was expected to gain momentum in Bulawayo on Monday, but the police and other security arms froze the impending demonstrations.
In a memo seen by TimesLIVE, the chief superintendent of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in Bulawayo, Elizabeth Phiri, said the demonstrations would have breached the peace.
“The ordinary citizens in the country are experiencing hardships, so any call for demonstration might be taken advantage of by the already agitated citizens and violence might erupt.”
She was also concerned about the safety of her officers, citing the example of one Constable Maune who was stoned by rioters on January 14.
In Gweru, the country's third-largest city where the demonstrations had been slated for Tuesday, the police said they were under-capacitated to deal with an estimated 100,000 demonstrators.
“The police will not be able to provide adequate security in view of the fact that the anticipated number of demonstrators is pegged at 100,000 considering that the police human resource base has remained unchanged from the previous demonstrations held on 14-16 January 2019,” wrote chief superintendent Tsitsi Chikomo, the officer commanding Gweru urban.
Chikomo said the fact that they failed to contain rioters in January when figures were lower than those anticipated this week, was reason enough to stop them.
On Tuesday, police issued a prohibition order for the demonstration.
The MDC Alliance said in future its demonstrations will be foregrounded on “diversion, surprise and spontaneity".