Police claim they have been fair in implementing provisions of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (Mopa), and have instead blamed opposition parties and civic society organisations (CSOs) of failing to adhere to the Act’s provisions when applying to hold rallies or protests.
On several occasions, police have blocked opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) rallies and planned protests by CSOs.
Ruling Zanu-PF party events have, however, never been barred or disrupted.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told NewsDay that some of the reasons opposition rallies and protests by CSOs are barred included their failure to employ marshals, and to stick to scheduled times, which police believe pose security threats.
Nyathi also said the opposition and CSOs were failing to advise local residents of their planned events.
“There is a difference between notifying and working on the security modalities with the police, if you are to go by Mopa,” he said.
“There are certain parameters which conveners of meetings, public gatherings and demonstrations have to comply with on their part. Merely notifying does not mean that a person has fulfilled all the conditions that are outlined under Mopa. The public must be adequately advised on the security measures they have put in place when they want to do some of these gatherings in consideration of the rights of others. It is not just a matter of notifying and ending there. There are security considerations that have to be made by the conveners. When they go to the police and are told that they have not met these security considerations, they start complaining.”
Last week, police used Mopa to ban a CCC event in Glen Norah, where the party’s local legislator Wellington Chikombo wanted to celebrate his March 26 by-election victory.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) had also planned a protest on July 22, but it was stopped under Mopa.
CiZC president Peter Mutasa said: “We submitted our notification after engaging a group of law experts to craft the notification to ensure that we did not err. But we failed, despite that which shows that the law enforcement officer wants to effect a blanket ban on protests. Section 8 of Mopa allows for negotiation and consultation of the concerned party with the police. The law appreciates that not every ordinary person could be fully cognisant of it.”
The opposition CCC feels that Mopa was now a new tool of oppression.
Party spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said: “It’s not correct that we do not adhere to the requirements of Mopa. Rather, when we do invoke the provisions of this statute, we are met with flimsy reasons for the banning of our rallies such as the fact that there isn’t enough manpower or misrepresentations, and that someone else is using our chosen venue when this is not true.
“What is beyond doubt is that the playing field is not free and fair, but that will not stop us from escalating our nationwide mass mobilisation programmes.”