Court hearing on demo ban deferred
THE hearing of an urgent application by opposition parties and Harare residents challenging the validity of the police ban on all demonstrations in the central business district has been deferred to tomorrow. The ban is for two weeks and expires on September 16. Justice Priscilla Chigumba met both parties’ lawyers in her chambers yesterday and informed them that she would hear the matter tomorrow.
Harare lawyer, Mr Tendai Biti who is acting for the applicants — Democratic Restoration Assembly (Dare) leader, Mr Gilbert Dzikiti representing opposition parties under the National Electoral Reform Agenda and residents represented by vendors’ leader, Mr Standrick Zvorwadza, confirmed the latest development.
“The court directed that the matter be heard in open court on Wednesday in the morning in view of various interested parties following the matter,” said Mr Biti.
The challenge of the validity of the Statutory Instrument 101a of 2016, comes at a time President Mugabe slammed judges for sanctioning political demonstrations when there was clear evidence that the protests would spark violence.
President Mugabe made the remarks at the weekend while addressing the Zanu-PF Youth League National Assembly at the party’s headquarters.
This followed an opposition-led protest that occurred in the capital on August 26. The demonstrations left a trail of destruction in various parts of Harare. The parties are arguing that the ban issued in terms of the Statutory Instrument 101a is unconstitutional.
Police, the parties say, have no authority to issue such a legal instrument. Harare central district police boss, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama and police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, are listed as respondents.
The ban was issued on Thursday last week and effectively stopped last Friday’s planned ‘‘mega demonstration’’, where Nera was demanding urgent implementation of electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 elections.
In their application, the parties are seeking an order suspending the operation of SI 101a of 2016 and setting aside the two weeks’ prohibition as an interim measure.
They argue that SI 101a violates section 134(b) and (f) of the Constitution. “Section 134(b) makes it clear that statutory instruments must not infringe or limit any of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration of Rights,” says Mr Dzikiti who deposed to an affidavit.
“At the second level, it is an order to declare unconstitutional section 27 of (the Public Order and Security Act) Posa.”
Chief Supt Saunyama, argues Mr Dzikiti, had no authority to issue a statutory instrument, saying the only authorised persons were President Robert Mugabe and Cabinet ministers.
“He (Chief Supt Saunyama) has committed certain constitutional breaches that demand that he bears personal responsibility,” he states. The parties also want section 27(1) of Posa struck off the country’s statutes arguing it is “clearly unconstitutional and is not justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.”
The section empowers the regulating authority to prohibit the holding of public demonstrations for a specified period in a given area. The State is expected to file its response before the hearing tomorrow.
National Youth Service graduates during a pass out parade in this file photo