Court hear­ing on demo ban de­ferred

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Fidelis Mun­y­oro Harare Bu­reau

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

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