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Letter of complaint about denial of permission to hold meetings, partisan conduct & violation of citizens' right to freedom of assembly and speech
Bulawayo Agenda

February 24, 2012

To: Regulating Authority (Zimbabwe Republic Police, Lupane District)
Cc: Commissioner-General of Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)
Cc: Co-Ministers of Home Affairs
Cc: Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic)
Cc: Global Political Agreement negotiators
Cc: Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator in Zimbabwe

Dear Sir/Madam

RE: LETTER OF COMPLAINT ABOUT DENIAL OF PERMISSION TO HOLD MEETINGS, PARTISAN CONDUCT & VIOLATION OF CITIZENS' RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY & SPEECH

This letter serves to bring to your attention and seek your response to the Bulawayo Agenda concerning the conduct of the police in relation to the above-mentioned issues which relate to the protection of human rights and the availability of civic space for effective public participation in the current national reform discourses and processes in Zimbabwe.

We are very much concerned and disturbed by the increase in shrinking of the civic operating space as evidenced by arrests and intimidation of civic activists, journalists and even other political parties.

We are convinced that the police have, at will, violated human rights and refused to comply with the rule of law as provided for in the constitution of Zimbabwe and many other relevant statutes.

We particularly make reference to the following cases:

(a) Denial of clearance to hold public meetings (reference to Tsholotsho and Lupane);

On the 16th of January, 2012, Bulawayo Agenda (BA) notified the Zimbabwe Republic Police Regulating Authority for Lupane District (Matabeleland North) of its intentions to hold public meetings in Tsholotsho and Lupane on the 22nd and the 28th respectively, of the same month. On the 20th, the organization then got a response that the Tsholotsho meeting should not go ahead but as has become the norm, no reason was given despite our requests for these. The organization then approached the Magistrates Court which gave a ruling that the meetings should go ahead without notifying the police. In Tsholotsho, the organization failed to act on the ruling because threatened to disrupt the meeting and arrest its participants and Bulawayo Agenda officials. All this was despite the fact that BA had followed the requirements of the law as stipulated in the act which stipulates that individuals and organizations seeking to hold public meetings should within 5 (five) days notify the Regulating Authority. We therefore demand that there be clarity and openness in the conduct of the police as the law enforcement agents.

(b) Contempt of Court, disruption of our meetings and detention of two of our staff members

In flagrant violation of the court ruling cited in part (a) above, the police in Lupane District went on to disrupt the Lupane meeting and detained two Bulawayo Agenda staff members on the 28th of January for holding the meeting in Lupane as provided for, and as granted by the Magistrate's court ruling. On the fateful 28th of January, the Lupane Officer in Charge, only known as Harizivishe stated that the police 'do not take orders from the Magistrates Court but their bosses' and stopped the meeting and arrested the organization's officers.

We regard this incident as an example of the many instances where conduct of the police has been a total disregard of the rule of law in denying the citizens of this country their fundamental human rights and freedoms such as the Freedom of Assembly provided for in section 20 or our current Constitution. Considering the officer in question indicated that he answers to 'bosses', we would like to know which bosses he was referring to. This would help since we were under the legitimate assumption that police officers, just like all the other public servants in this country respect the sacredness of the constitution more that individuals and where there is a constitution versus individuals' scenario, the constitution must prevail. In the same vein, we would want an explanation as to why there were no arrests when a violent mob disrupted parliament official business, and a group "war veterans" disrupted Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) meeting. There is a clear selective application of the law. One other example is the fact that the state controlled press journalists (The Sunday Mail, 05-11 February, 2012) who clearly breached the Official Secrets Act (Chapter 11:09) by publicizing official correspondence between the Prime Minister and the President of the country have not been arrested or even questioned on their behavior!

Instead, we have witnessed the arrests peace loving and law abiding innocent citizens of this country such as the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe and Women of Zimbabwe Arise staff and members. We seek clarity on these matters, particularly the interest of the police in not just persecuting Zimbabwean citizens but also in defying court orders.

We are interested in knowing if there is a realization by the police that if such conduct persists; the country's citizenry will fail to effectively participate in the forthcoming stages in the constitution making and ultimate elections for the ushering in of a people's government.

We also want to know is there is a realization that this conduct has a potential of slipping the country deeper into internal conflict that will further disperse Zimbabweans and be blight on the regional and international attempts at democratization, development and peace.

In view of the above issues raised; as Bulawayo Agenda, we believe that progress in this country can only take place when;

1. The Zimbabwe Republic Police and other security institutions are accountable, transparent, Independent and non-partisan in discharging their constitutional mandate.

2. There is respect for the rule of law and due process of the law in and between our public institutions like the courts and parliament.

3. There is comprehensive security sector transformation aimed at depoliticization of the police and other security sector institutions; training of the security agents on human rights and restructuring of the institutions.

4. Agreed legislative Reforms under GPA such as Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act (AIPPA), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) are effected.

In concluding this complaint;

We therefore call upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to uphold the rule of law, respect the public institutions like the court, and respect and protect the right of all the citizens of Zimbabwe and allow Zimbabweans to freely exchange ideas and participate in national/public processes without undue interference.

We call upon the signatories to the GPA and members of the Inclusive Government to uphold the provisions of their agreement and prepare for the completion of a new constitution and subsequent holding of credible, free and fair national elections. We also call for a step up in reviewing repressive laws such as POSA and AIPPA for Zimbabweans to enjoy their liberties and exercise their freedoms and rights without fear and intimidation.

We also implore the negotiators and principals to the GPA to put Zimbabwe ahead of sectional and party interests and allow the populace to freely participate in key national processes for the realization of healing, development and peace rather than continued conflict and underdevelopment.

We plead with the SADC mediator to lead in ensuring that the current Zimbabwean leadership respects the commitment of the region, the African Union to the resolution of the Zimbabwean multi-faceted crisis and Zimbabweans' aspirations by allowing a democratic transition;

Cognizant of the role that SADC has already played;

We therefore call upon the regional body to closely monitor the human rights situation in the country and the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and exert enough pressure on parties to honor the agreement in all its provisions.

Hoping for your utmost consideration.

Yours faithfully,

Thabani Nyoni
Executive Director
Bulawayo Agenda Trust

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