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POLICE yesterday blocked Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader, Joice Mujuru from holding a rally in Ntabazinduna in Matabeleland North, with the Bulawayo High Court failing to handle the opposition party’s urgent chamber application seeking a reversal of the ban.
Thousands of ZimPF supporters, who braved the searing heat, had already gathered awaiting results of the court application, but riot police closed off the venue.
ZimPF had notified the police on September 3 about the rally set for Ntabazinduna Hall grounds. But officer commanding Nkayi District, a Chief Superintendent N Tembo, in a letter dated September 6, advised the party that the rally could not be sanctioned, claiming it coincided with a workshop.
“It is from this background that two meetings cannot be conducted at the same venue. The police have an operation running in Nkayi District from September 7 to 14. So we will not have enough manpower to provide you with the required security at your rally,” Tembo wrote.
ZimPF yesterday filed an urgent High Court application. But court officials reportedly tossed its lawyers from one office to another until the rally’s scheduled time lapsed. The courts’ attitude was blamed on the threats made by President Robert Mugabe, who accused the judiciary of sanctioning demonstrations, which turned violent.
The party had cited officer commanding Nkayi District and Commissioner General of Police, Augustine Chihuri as first and second respondents, respectively, in the application.
In his founding affidavit, Max Mnkandla, ZimPF’s Mat North provincial chairperson, submitted that the respondents’ unlawful actions in disallowing the rally necessitated the application.
“Applicant alleges violation of the fundamental rights of its membership to assemble and associate without unjustifiable interference and denial of same by first respondent, who is the regulating authority for purposes of enforcing the Public Order and Security Act Chapter 11:17 as amended at March 1, 2007 under Nkayi District,” reads the affidavit.
Mnkandla said reasons for banning the rally smacked of hypocrisy and malice.
“They dearly border on the unconstitutional denial of applicant’s membership of their rights to freedom of association and assembly for the following reasons,” the affidavit read.
A dejected ZimPF lawyer, George Nyandoro said it was a sad day for him and his clients that the courts were not prepared to hear their case and tossed them from one room to another until the rally’s scheduled time lapsed.
“We filed an urgent chamber application with the courts early in the morning with a view it was an urgent matter, hoping that my clients will be able to hold the rally even at 2pm,” he said.
“We paid the money to the sherriff so that the respondents are served with papers. When we went to the registrar, we were told that we needed to advise the police about the case. The registrar said the judge was there, but the respondents also needed to be present.”
ZimPF national co-ordinator, Dzikamai Mavhaire had to ask for police permission to apologise to the supporters after the rally flopped.
Interim party spokesperson, Methuseli Moyo said the forces of darkness had thrown spanners into the works.
“We regret to say we are unable to proceed with the rally. On a positive note, the regime’s determination to disrupt our political programmes is a clear sign that they are feeling the heat and are dead scared. Police were deployed to turn away people coming to the rally, while the wheels of justice moved rather slowly to frustrate us. Meanwhile, the Gwanda rally is on tomorrow (today),” he said.
Police also mounted a roadblock outside the Ntabazinduna police training depot — the main road leading to the venue — in what ZimPF said was an attempt to scare its supporters from attending the rally. By Silas Nkala / Nqobani Ndlovu. source-newsday