The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has expressed concern over President Robert Mugabe’s weekend attack on the judiciary for clearing anti-government protests.
Zimrights, in a statement on Monday, said it was worried that the attack poses “a clear threat to the independence of the judiciary in particular and the constitutional order at large”.
Addressing the ruling Zanu PF youth wing last Saturday, Mugabe said the judiciary acted recklessly by ordering popular demonstrations to go ahead despite police resistance.
“The statements are unfortunate coming from the head of State and government, whose primary duty and oath of office commits him to defending the constitution of Zimbabwe.
“The constitution…commits the president to protecting the inalienable rights that the Bill of Rights in Chapter 4 allots to Zimbabwean citizens regardless of their political affiliations, including the freedom to peacefully demonstrate and petition,” said ZimRights.
The watchdog said Mugabe must not put his personal interests ahead of the constitution.
“Neither should considerations of the interests of his political party override the duties of his public office through utterances that constitute an ill-advised executive interference with the democratic independence of the judiciary,” it added.
The freedom to peacefully demonstrate and petition is granted under Section 59 of the constitution.
“The judiciary justifiably performed its functions when it upheld this inalienable constitutional right by reasonably and legitimately granting court orders for protests to go ahead,” added ZimRights.
Recent protests turned violent when the police sought to stop them, but ZimRights said where violence occurs, police must investigate instead of shifting the blame to the judiciary.
“It is unfortunate that for reasons known to the head of state, he has also turned a blind eye to the reported cases of police provocation of protestors, and excessive and indiscriminate use of physical violence, teargas and water cannons against innocent civilians in the recent protests.
“The utterances by the President are clearly aimed at subduing the judiciary to the control and political puppetry of partisan interests of the ruling party, which is an abrogation of the principle of non-interference with the independence of the judiciary,” said the watchdog.