BULAWAYO was an oasis of peace and tranquillity yesterday with no recorded incidents of violence as residents remained calm and went about their normal business following a prohibition order issued by the police against an MDC-Alliance demonstration.
Police on Sunday issued a prohibition order barring the MDC-Alliance from demonstrating yesterday and the Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court upheld the ban.
The ruling by Mr Tinashe Tashaya follows a notice of appeal filed on an urgent basis by the MDC-Alliance at the Bulawayo Magistrates’ Court challenging a prohibition order by the police.
The peace and calm in Bulawayo is a massive blow to plans by the MDC-A to engineer an uprising in the country and topple the legitimately elected Government of Zimbabwe.
Most of the city’s residents went about their business without interference while police maintained a high visibility in the Central Business District.
Most shops and major supermarkets in the CBD and outlying shopping centres remained open for business as usual while banks, bureaux de change and other firms in the city were operating normally.
Commuter omnibuses and Zupco buses were ferrying people into and out of the CBD with no hassles.
In an interview, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said no riotous behaviour was observed in the city.
“Bulawayo has been very calm and we urge members of the public to continue with their various social and economic activities. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) deployed its members to ensure that they conduct patrols and maintain law and order and above all curtail any lawlessness,” said Asst-Comm Nyathi.
“We want to urge members of the public to report anyone who would want to intimidate, threaten or block traffic. So far we have not recorded any incidents. The situation is very calm.”
Earlier in the day, the police had posted on micro blogging site Twitter, urging transport operators and the business community to continue offering their services as their security was guaranteed.
“The ZRP wishes to advise members of the public that the security situation in Bulawayo is calm. We urge the public to co-operate with the police as they perform their duties to ensure law and order is maintained.
“Business and transport operators are encouraged to allow the public to access their services. Any acts of lawlessness should be reported to the police for swift action to be taken on 09885479 or 0242748836,” ZRP tweeted.
The High Court on Sunday, blocked the planned demonstrations by the MDC-Alliance following an urgent chamber application by residents, the business community and churches. Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Mabhikwa ruled that MDC-Alliance could not go ahead with the demonstrations after the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association, the Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA), the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ), the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and city businessman Mr Davies Muhambi approached the High Court on an urgent basis seeking an order prohibiting the opposition party from carrying out the demonstrations in the city.
At the magistrates court yesterday, the officer commanding police in Bulawayo Central District, Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Phiri and her boss Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga were cited as respondents.
In dismissing the appeal, Mr Tashaya ruled that there was a likelihood of violence and destruction of property similar to the January protests if the MDC-Alliance was allowed to proceed with the demonstration.
He also noted that although citizens have a constitutional right to stage demonstrations, the same rights had limitations in the interest of public safety, defence, public morality and health.
“There is no guarantee that the January incident may not be repeated if the appellant (MDC-Alliance) is allowed to go ahead with the demonstration. Accordingly, the prohibition order is confirmed and the appeal is hereby dismissed,” ruled the magistrate.
MDC-A notified the police of their planned demonstration on August 8 this year, but the police on Sunday issued an order prohibiting the event for security reasons.
In its grounds of appeal, through its lawyer Advocate Perpetua Dube, who was instructed by Tanaka Law Chambers, the party argued that the reasons for prohibition given in the notice were vague, speculative and unreasonable.
Ms Rejoice Hove from the Attorney-General’s Office, who was representing the respondents, opposed the appeal. She argued that there was a possibility of violence with agitated members of the public likely to join in the protests due to the economic hardships in the country.
Ms Hove said flashes of violence were reported last Friday hence if granted permission to stage demonstrations, MDC-Alliance was likely to engage in violent protests given that the situation was volatile. She said the police acted on credible information.