High Court lifts ban on Harare demonstrations
“At the expiry of the seven working day grace period given to the respondents to correct the defects in the order issued in terms of Section 27 of the Public Order Security Act, The second and third respondent (Dr Chombo) shall be and are hereby interdicted from unlawfully interfering with the rights of citizens to exercise their right defined by Section 59 of the Constitution read together with Section 12 of the Public Order Security Act (Chapter 11:17).”
The police represented by Mr Happy Magadure of the AG’s office had opposed the constitutional challenge.
He relied on Section 86 of the Constitution that provides for limitation of fundamental rights. But Justice Chigumba did not agree. She accepted submissions by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights led by Mr Tendai Biti and Mr Dzimbabwe Chimbgwa.
The lawyers argued that Statutory Instrument issued by the police was not in accordance with Section 68 of the Constitution.
The Section provides that administrative conduct must be fair, impartial and transparent and also the notice for demonstrations.
The lawyers also correctly argued that the notice to ban demonstrations should be done in accordance with Section 27 of the POSA. The section provides that there must be consultations with the affected parties before taking such a drastic action.
In an interview last night, Mr Chimbgwa said in effect the ruling had suspended the operation of the legal instrument, to give the State an opportunity to act in accordance with the law.
“As things stand there is no law that bans the right to demonstrations and petitions as a result of the High Court order,” said Mr Chimbgwa. “We did not do this for us as lawyers. Our role as lawyers is to ensure that all State actors act in accordance with the Constitution and do not unlawfully limit rights of citizens.”
The opposition parties and Harare residents challenged the validity of the police ban on all demonstrations in the capital saying it was in contravention with the supreme law of the country. The ban was for two weeks and was supposed to expire on September 16.