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Police ban rallies
February 21, 2007

In a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association the government has imposed a three-month ban on demonstrations and political rallies in Harare.

In separate public notices published in The Herald on 21 February 2007 the officers commanding Mbare and Harare South chief superintendents Tsitsi Sadzamari and Thomsen Toddie Jangara respectively, said all demonstrations and rallies in the two respective districts had been banned until 20 May 2007.

The police cited the violence, looting and destruction of property in Highfield on 18 February and Kambuzuma on 4 February 2007 as reasons for the ban. On the 18th, police violently stopped a High Court sanctioned rally in Highfield by the opposition MDC leading to violent clashes between riot police and supporters of the main opposition party.

The police invoked the restrictive Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to effect the bans under Section 27 which allows for the temporary prohibition of the holding of public gatherings within police districts for a period not exceeding three months.

The clashes in Highfield came a day after the High Court granted the MDC an order allowing them to proceed with their rally to launch its 2008 presidential campaign at the Zimbabwe grounds in the same suburb.

In her judgment Justice Anne-Marie Gowora said the police had not issued the proper prohibition order in their bid to bar the rally from proceeding accordingly. The government still proceeded to disrupt the rally despite the MDC winning its urgent application barring the police from interfering with or disrupting the rally leading to the violent clashes.

In his opposing affidavit, Chief Superintendent Jangara had argued that the police did not have sufficient manpower and that the MDC supporters had violent tendencies as the reasons for banning the rally.

Meanwhile, the police arrested MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti and Glen View legislator Paul Madzore immediately after the court ruling on 17 February 2007 for allegedly assaulting five policemen during street demonstrations in Harare the previous day. Biti, Madzore and seven other MDC members were only released on bail on 20 February 2007 on charges of public violence and remanded to 7 March 2007.

The demonstrations were staged to protest against the ever escalating cost of living which has seen inflation shoot to 1 600 percent pushing the prices of basic commodities beyond the reach of the ordinary citizen.

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