As reported in New Zimbabwe
GOVERNMENT has imposed a two week ban on all kinds of political demonstrations within Harare and the rest of the country as the country’s political situation remains tense.
This has led to an eleventh hour decision by the country’s opposition parties to cancel all its marches which they had planned for Friday in Harare and other parts of the country until the lapse of the two weeks.
The Harare administration has likely been forced to act after admitting embarrassment as the visiting vice president of Sierra Leone Victor Bockarie Foh was caught up in tear gas and water cannon fights between protestors and anti-riot police last week.
Raged government spokesman George Charamba after the clashes: “Imagine that the agricultural show is time for people to go for fun seeing various exhibitions.
“Imagine also that we had a VVIP visitor in the form of a Vice President from Sierra Leone and we find some rogue elements setting the capital on fire.
“That is unacceptable and we won’t allow that to happen again. They have crossed the line!”
In an extraordinary Government Gazette issued on Thursday, the government says it will invoke sections of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) on those found either organising or taking part in the demonstration and these include imprisonment.
The Gazette, issued on a Thursday as opposed to the traditional Fridays, effectively bans the 18 party march which was called for Friday by opposition parties under the banner of the National Agenda for Electoral Reform.
“The Regulating Authority, believing on reasonable grounds that the powers conferred by Section 26 of the Public Order and Security Act (Chapter 11:17) will not be sufficient to prevent public disorder being occasioned by the holding of processions or public demonstrations or any class thereof in the Harare Central Police District, hereby issues this Order, prohibiting, for a period of two weeks from Friday, the 2nd September to Friday, the 16th September, 2016, the holding of all public demonstrations in the Harare Central Police District,” reads the Gazette.
Police last Friday violently broke the NERA march even after the courts had issued an order sanctioning it.
The opposition had intended to petition the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to speed up the implementation of the country’s electoral reforms as the country gears for the next elections in 2018.
The ban on last week’s march sparked violent protests by opposition supporters who felt hard done by the decision by the state to block a march that had been cleared by the High Court.
Dozens of activists were arrested during last week’s riots.
Since the time, police have maintained a heavy presence in Harare’s CBD.
Perhaps in attempts to avoid scenes where opposition supporters reacted strongly after they had initially gathered for the march which was later banned, the state, in the Government Gazette, says all those who will attempt to demonstrate will be fined or imprisoned.
“For the avoidance old doubt it is declared that,” reads the Gazette, “in terms of section 27(5) of the Public Order and Security Act (Chapter 11:17), any person who organises or assists in organising or takes part in or attends any procession or public demonstration held in contravention of an order under section 27(1) of the Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level six or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both such fine and such imprisonment.”
The ban adds credence to opposition fears President Robert Mugabe was planning to impose a state of emergency in attempts to thwart what could easily spiral into fully fledged demonstrations capable of deposing his 36-year-old rule.
Meanwhile, MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora said Thursday that the opposition will now hold its march on the 16th of September this month.
Mwonzora told the media this was meant to avoid arbitrary arrests on opposition supporters.