Demo ban challenge goes to Supreme Court

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A consortium of political parties, churches, human rights lawyers and civil rights activists last Friday approached the Supreme Court to have a High Court ruling upholding a police ban on demonstrations quashed.

The consortium’s legal team is being led by constitutional lawyer, Tendai Biti, and comprises the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Divine Destiny, Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment, National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA), Combined Harare Residents Association and Stendrick Zvorwadza, a civil activist.

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The police recently banned demonstrations in central Harare till 15 October and the decree was upheld by the Judge President (JP) George Chiweshe.

He overturned an earlier ruling by a fellow judge, Priscilla Chigumbura, who had nullified an earlier police ban, arguing that it was improperly made and upheld another application seeking to nullify a government notice, No. 239 (A) of 2016, made by police to ban demonstrations.

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Biti confirmed they had taken the matter to the Supreme Court.

The applicants insist that bans on demonstrations violate several sections of the constitution, among them Section 59 that provides for peaceful demonstrations and petitions.

Chiweshe maintained in his ruling that the police acted lawfully and that Section 27 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which brings limitations to the people’s right to demonstrate and petition was fair and justified.

“Taking all these factors and considerations into account, I am satisfied that based on a value judgment, the provisions of Section 27(1) of the Public Order and Security Act satisfy the requirements set out under Section 86(1) of the Constitution, namely that the limitation it imposes on the right to demonstrate as enshrined under Section 59 of the Constitution is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom,” he said in the ruling that the consortium is challenging.

From early July, Zimbabweans engaged in a series of demonstrations against corruption, bad governance, police brutality, lack of electoral reforms and a festering economy, but security forces reacted heavy-handedly.

President Robert Mugabe, the main target of the demonstrations, publicly condemned judges who ruled in favour of demonstrations before Chiweshe finally stepped in and upheld police bans

 

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