Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga said Zimbabweans have a constitutional right to demonstrate, but the right is not absolute in the spirit of maintaining peace and stability.
The police chief’s sentiments follow the recent prohibition of planned MDC-Alliance nationwide demonstrations after the State found them unsafe and likely to turn violent.
Police issued prohibition orders after the discovery of a contraband of dangerous weapons, as well as wide circulation of the party’s messages by its leaders and supporters inciting violence.
In a speech read on his behalf at the send off ceremony of 21 officers destined for South Sudan for United Nations peacekeeping duties, Comm-Gen Matanga said the police respected people’s right to demonstrate, but lawlessness could not be tolerated.
“By the same measure, I wish to put the record straight,” he said.
“As a law enforcement agency, the ZRP is not against people holding peaceful demonstrations as may be peddled or portrayed by some in our society.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Zimbabwe Republic Police is fully mindful and desirous of the importance of upholding the rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution. But we are also not blind to the apparent fact that such rights are not absolute.
“The supreme law of the land clearly states that the enjoyment of rights should not be done by infringing the rights of others.”
Comm-Gen Matanga urged citizens to desist from violence.
“Zimbabwe is our country and we share the same destiny and heritage as a nation,” he said.
“Let us, therefore, safeguard the gains of our independence and live in peace. Remember, it is only in a peaceful environment that together as Zimbabweans we can collectively address the challenges bedevilling us.”
Comm-Gen Matanga said the police service will remain vigilant in safeguarding the existing peace and security.
Some 15 other officers recently returned from United Nations mission in Darfur.
Comm-Gen Matanga said the Zimbabwean police officers were doing well in maintaining peace internationally.
“The ZRP has for over two decades been seconding police officers to various peacekeeping missions across the world under the banner of the United Nations, African Union and Sadc,” he said.
“Essential lessons learnt from our active participation in fostering world peace, especially in war-torn countries has been the need to jealously safeguard the existing peace and tranquillity.
“We have also learnt that conflicts destroy peoples’ lives, social structures, national infrastructure and above all, result in catastrophic economic meltdown. This is the reason why as an organisation, we remain vigilant at all times in selflessly safeguarding the existing peace and security in our country.”