High Court Criticizes Magistrate’s Handling of Opposition Party’s Appeal Against Rally Ban
10 July 2023
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By A Correspondent| In a recent development, the High Court of Zimbabwe has faulted Bindura Magistrate Mary Msika for her handling of an appeal filed by the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) political party. The appeal challenged the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s (ZRP) ban on the party’s scheduled campaign rally.

The ZRP had prohibited the CCC from conducting its rally, which was slated to take place on July 9, 2023, at the Brockdale Pfugari Open Space in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province. Citing concerns about the venue’s lack of infrastructure and potential security threats, the ZRP deemed it unsuitable for the event.

Faced with this ban, several provincial leaders of the CCC, namely Samuel Gondongwe, Agreement Kagura, Susan Mawire, and the party itself, lodged an appeal against the ZRP’s prohibition notice. They contended that the ban contravened the provisions of the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPO) Act.

However, Magistrate Mary Msika, on July 7, 2023, directed the appellants to provide the ZRP with a three-day notice period to respond to the appeal. She scheduled the urgent appeal hearing for July 11, 2023, invoking Order 22 Rule 10 of the Magistrates Court Rules, 2019.

In response, Gondongwe, Kagura, Mawire, and the CCC swiftly filed an urgent chamber application on July 8, 2023. They challenged Magistrate Msika’s decision, arguing that it contradicted Section 11(2) of the MOPO Act, which required appeals to be heard no later than one day before the scheduled public gathering.

The appellants highlighted the absurdity of the appeal not being heard and determined by July 8, 2023. They emphasized that any delay would irreparably prejudice their rights and render the ultimate decision ineffective. They further contended that the court’s scheduled hearing on July 11, 2023, could not effectively determine whether the rally should be held on July 9, 2023.

Subsequently, on July 9, 2023, High Court Judge Tawanda Chitapi criticized Magistrate Msika’s handling of the appeal, stating that she had not promptly addressed the concerns raised by Gondongwe, Kagura, Mawire, and the CCC. Justice Chitapi set aside Magistrate Msika’s decision to defer the hearing and ordered her to immediately hear and make a determination on the appeal, stipulating a deadline of 12 PM on the same day.

This ruling by the High Court highlights the significance of safeguarding constitutional rights, including political rights, administrative justice, and freedom of assembly and association. The CCC’s appeal against the ban on their campaign rally will now be given due consideration and a timely decision to ensure the protection of these fundamental rights.