A ZIMBABWEAN court on Tuesday 18 October 2016 overturned a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) ban of a meeting organised by the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT) to commemorate events that took place in their community during a government backed crackdown carried out some years ago ostensibly to flush out illegal diamond miners from the Marange diamond fields.
CCDT had on 13 October 2016 gave notification to ZRP officers, notifying them of their intention to hold a non-political meeting to commemorate the annual Marange historical memories during which the government conducted an operation code-named Operation Hakudzokwi, where many lives were lost and to also celebrate the lives of those who survived the brutal crackdown, on 01 November 2016 at Bambazonke Business Centre in Marange in Manicaland province.
But on Friday 14 October 2016, CCDT was informed that the ZRP did not approve of the holding of the meeting and had issued an oral prohibition order to that effect and the reasons advanced were that CCDT was supposed to furnish the Member in Charge of Bambazonke Police Station with a Memorandum of Understanding entered into with Mutare Rural District Council to facilitate the holding of the meeting.
This prompted CCDT to engage Peggy Tavagadza of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who filed an ex-parte application challenging the police ban and seeking to set aside the ZRP’s oral prohibition order.
In the ex-parte application filed at Mutare Magistrates Court where the Member In Charge of Bambazonke Police Station, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo were cited as respondents, Tavagadza argued that the conduct of the Member In Charge of Bambazonke Police Station as the responsible authority was unlawful for failure to comply with the law he purports to be administering.
The human rights lawyer charged that CCDT is exempt from notifying provisions of POSA as it is not a political grouping, thus the notice itself to ZRP was just on courteous grounds rather than seeking authorisation and the Member In Charge of Bambazonke Police Station appeared to be awarding himself/herself unjustified powers.
Tavagadza argued that the ZRP’s action in barring the CCDT meeting was an attempt to infringe on Section 58 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which enshrines the right to freedom of assembly and association as well as freedom of expression enshrined in Section 61, which are constitutional freedoms that are so important that they cannot be arbitrarily or unreasonably taken away by any person.
A Mutare Magistrate granted Tavagadza’s application on 18 October 2016 and declared unlawful the actions of the ZRP.
The Magistrate set aside the oral prohibition order given by the Member In Charge of Bambazonke Police Station prohibiting CCDT’s meeting and interdicted ZRP officers from disturbing or interfering in any way with the meeting to be held at Bambazonke Business Center on 01 November 2016.
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