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New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
Crisis Report Issue 158
in Zimbabwe Coalition
March 06, 2013
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Continue to Bar Referendum Meetings
Republic Police (ZRP) continues to bar and disrupt draft
constitution publicity meetings across the country just 10 days
before Zimbabweans vote to either adopt or reject the draft
constitution during a crucial referendum expected to pave way for
the harmonized elections later in 2013.
In what could
be construed as a misapplication of the ZRP powers granted by the
Public Order and
Security Act (POSA); the police have taken to disrupting or
forbid-ding the convening of constitutional meetings with the latest
incident being the disruption of the MDC-T rally in Harare’s
Highfields suburb on Tuesday 5 March.
of the MDC-T meeting was reportedly done on the premise that the
police had not “cleared” the meeting – a premise
that MDC-T organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa considered to be
unfounded given that the police had been notified.
“They insist that they did not clear the meeting even when
we are convinced that all we needed to do was notify them like we
There is disagreement
whether the POSA requirement for the convening of a public meeting
is that one should seek permission from the police or that one should
merely notify them of such intent but perhaps the police appear
to hold the latter view if recent events are anything to go by.
frustration over the disruption of its meeting was equally shared
by the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA) who yesterday found themselves
on the receiving end of a pre-emptive announcement
by police in Chipinge, given five days in advance, that they would
not brook an envisaged NCA meeting scheduled for Friday 8 March.
Both the MDC-T
and NCA meetings were supposed to discuss the COPAC draft Constitution
ahead of the crucial referendum to be held on March 16 and the barring
of these two organizations from holding their meetings raises the
question of whether police consent is a prerequisite to the convening
of public meetings.
Prior to this
, police barred a constitutional debate by the Media
Centre in Harare on February 27 and a community meeting on the
COPAC draft Constitution organized by the Centre
for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) in Chegutu on February
Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition (CiZC) Director McDonald Lewanika said:
clear that our beloved country is now trending back towards being
a police state.
of the police, in barring and disrupting the meetings of both those
who are of the ‘Yes’ vote lobby and those of the ‘No’
vote lobby pile up on the now regular raids on NGOs.
developments clearly show that free political activity in this country
is under arrest.”
unwarranted disruptions expose the partisan nature of the police
force that, besides implementing Zanu-PF resolutions, also seems
to believe that Zanu-PF alone should be given the leeway to have
audience with the people.
these conditions elections will be a nightmare and a credible referendum
Police are supposed
to be notified of public gatherings four days before, according
to the requirements of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA)
and civil society organizations largely adhere to this stipulation
only to be rewarded by refusal on the part of the police.
Madock Chivasa expressed disgruntlement over the police actions.
did not give any specific reasons why we should not go ahead with
our meeting. It is clear that we are dealing with an authoritarian
system which is undemocratic and does not tolerate plurality,”
emerging pattern of consistently barring and disrupting the MDCs’
and civil society meetings upon receiving appropriate notification,
reinforces the widely held view that the ZRP is partisan and selective
in its application of the law given that ZANU PF public events or
meetings are not subject to similar obstructions.
Police Commissioner- General Augustine Chihuri’s self-confessed
affiliation to Zanu-PF lends credence to suspicions of police bias.
It is plausible
that the continued embargo on political meetings facilitated by
the ZRP could shrink the democratic space for other players, while
Zanu-PF enjoys unbridled space, given that any breach of the police
directives could lead to arrest on accusations of holding illegal
public gatherings under POSA.
2012, police have arrested several civil society leaders and raided
over eight Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which are working
to promote democracy, alleging illegal voter registration and possession
of banned radios.
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