Police ban anti-government protests in Gweru

Police banned planned anti-government demonstration in the Midlands city of Gweru on Tuesday, enforcing similar actions taken in Harare on August 16 and Bulawayo on August 19.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials said police informed them that they had issued a prohibition order banning the protest over fears violence would erupt.

Armed police maintained heavy presence on the streets of Gweru to enforce the restriction which was used to prevent protests in Harare and Bulawayo.

MDC deputy president Tendai Biti said the prohibition notice had been issued at 9PM on Monday night so as to give his party little time to appeal the decision in court.

“We will go through another appeal process. Legalism and the rule of law is not stupidity or weakness. This regime must be exposed for what it is. An illegitimate, paranoid, soulless vampire regime,” Biti fumed.

David Coltart, the MDC treasurer, noted that the MDC had been rebuffed by courts in Harare and Bulawayo who upheld the police orders which the party maintains are unconstitutional. He held little hope of a court in Gweru ruling in their favour.

“Our judiciary is almost totally compromised,” Coltart said.

The opposition MDC had called the protest as part of a planned series of demonstrations to push President Emmerson Mnangagwa to agree to a transitional government amid a rapidly deteriorating economy and rising political tensions.

Similar demonstrations are still planned for Mutare and Masvingo, but the MDC is now resigned to having those banned too by the police who said in one of their notices that “ordinary citizens in the country are experiencing hardships so any call for the demonstrations might be taken advantage of by the already agitated citizens and violence may erupt.” The MDC says it would have no reasons to march if people were not experiencing hardship.

In Harare last Friday, several hundred demonstrators marched in defiance of a police ban that was upheld by the High Court. Police used tear gas and beatings with batons to disperse crowds.

The MDC said over half a dozen officials had been seized in their sleep and tortured in Harare. The party’s national chairperson Thabitha Khumalo and eight others were arrested in Bulawayo accused of publishing falsehoods over a pamphlet they were distributing which said Mnangagwa had “stolen” elections last year.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, heads of missions of the Delegation of the European Union and the heads of missions of Australia, Canada and the United States of America called on the Zimbabwe government to uphold the constitution.

“The Zimbabwean constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights, and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible. The Heads of Mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest…,” they said in a statement.

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