Police ban gathering, marching in Harare CBD
Freeman Razemba and Felex Share
Police have banned today’s planned marching and demonstration by the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) amid indications that the European Union was sponsoring opposition political parties to cause mayhem in the city. Police have allowed NERA members to gather at Robert Mugabe Square with only 10 people being allowed to proceed to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) offices to handover their petition.
After handing over the petition, the gathering must disperse immediately, police said.
The demonstration was ostensibly to protest the move by Government to take over procurement of Biometric Voter Registration kits.
Information gathered by The Herald yesterday showed that political parties under the banner NERA were planning to deploy more than 500 youths to block major roads and burn tyres with sponsorship coming from the EU and Counselling Services Unit (CSU).
MDC – T national deputy chairperson Mr Morgan Komichi was reportedly liasing with the two organisations.
A Transform Zimbabwe official, Mr Assan Mtembo, who has a fleet of buses plying the Harare – Chitungwiza route had also pledged his busses to ferry the youths to various spots.
However, Messrs Komichi and Mtembo could not be reached for a comment yesterday night on their phone.
Police said they effected the ban for security reasons and after the business community raised alarm over likely public disorder.
The outcry by the business community comes after property, including that belonging to Government was damaged, shops looted and innocent people assaulted during last year’s Nera demonstrations in the city.
Police have also dismissed reports that the demonstration had been allowed through a High Court order.
Nera wants to protest Government’s decision to procure biometric voter registration kits without the involvement of the United Nations Development Programme.
In a statement yesterday, national police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said the officer commanding Harare Central district Chief Superintendent Jasper Chizemo, in line with the Public Order and Security Act, called for a stakeholder meeting on Monday and the parties agreed that Nera could conduct a gathering at Robert Mugabe Square today.
“According to the regulating authority, who is the Officer Commanding Harare Central district (Chief Supt Chizemo), there will be no marching or gathering in the Harare central business district (CBD).
“We have, however, noted that some sections of the media are insinuating that the demonstration has been allowed through a High Court order. Police are not aware of the said order.”
Chief Supt Nyathi said the stakeholders agreed in the meeting that the gathering would be restricted to Robert Mugabe Square only, based on the concerns raised by the business community who are still reeling under the effects of the August 2016 demonstrations when they lost property.
“Police will maintain law and order in line with the service’s constitutional mandate and will not hesitate to take action against anyone who engages in unlawful acts of property destruction, intimidation or violence,” Chief Supt Nyathi said.
According to a response to Nera by Chief Supt Chizemo, evidence at hand had proved that property was damaged, shops looted and innocent people assaulted during previous demonstrations.
“In view of the evidence I have at hand arising from incidents which happened in the previous Nera demonstrations where property was damaged, shops looted, Government institutions destroyed, innocent people assaulted and vehicles damaged, the business community of the central business district (CBD) has expressed fear that a demonstration of 2 500 people will result in public disorder and breach of peace,” he said.
He said the marching of 2 500 people along the streets was likely going to disturb the smooth flow of human and vehiclular traffic for more than four hours.
Chief Supt Chizema said provisions of Section 59 and 86 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment were also considered in coming up with the decision.
Meanwhile, police have invoked the Public Order and Security Act and imposed a ban on carrying of dangerous weapons in public for the next three months in Harare suburban, Chitungwiza, Mbare and Harare South districts.
According to police, the decision was made following an increase in murder, aggravated assaults and robbery cases in these districts.
The ban will be effective from March 24 to June 24 and affects the carrying or concealment in public places of weapons such as catapults, machetes, axes, knobkerries, knives, swords or daggers and any traditional weapons.
Any person who fails to comply with the orders will be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
On Monday, police also issued such orders in Harare Central District and Gwanda District in Matabeleland South.