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Radio Dialogue denied procession clearance
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS)
March 20, 2012

The Bulawayo Central Police District has denied Radio Dialogue clearance to hold a free-the-airwaves procession.

In refusing to grant the clearance, the police cited that "they had received a directive from the top, instructing them not to grant clearance for any procession or march until further notice".

ZACRAS condemns the manner in which the police are undermining community radio operations. In denying the clearance, the police should have provided substantive and specific reasons, as espoused in Section 26 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

Section 26 of POSA clearly states that, if a regulatory authority is in possession of credible information indicating that holding an event will result in public disorder, he can invite a convenor to a consultative meeting to explore options to prevent the perceived threat.

The same section goes on to state that, if after the consultative meeting, the regulatory authority on reasonable grounds, is convinced that no amendment or condition contemplated in the consultative meeting would prevent the occurrence of public disorder, he or she can issue a prohibition notice, giving the reasons and grounds therefore to the convener.

In the Radio Dialogue case, no substantive and clear reason has been given, with the reasons proffered thus far, being vague and a clear violation of citizen's right to freedom of assembly and association, as espoused in Regional and International human rights instruments.

It is saddening that the provisions of POSA, which give the police power to either grant or deny clearances, are being used to hamper citizen's enjoyment of their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association .It is against this background that ZACRAS is calling for the repealing of such legislation which is not permissible within a democratic society.

Provisions of POSA state that clearances can be denied if the event will likely cause public disorder. Community radio serves a development purpose seeking to enhance community participation and access to information. This in no way is a threat to public order, breach of peace or public safety. Noting the developmental purpose of community radios, various stakeholders, amongst them the police force, should augment community radio operations and not be a stumbling block in the advancement of community radio interests.

As stated by Uzumba Member of Parliament, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (ZANU-PF) in a Newsday article of 19 March 2012, licencing community radios will accord minority groups platforms for engagements, access to information and its dissemination.

It is ZACRAS' view that the promotion of community participation in local and national issues enhances communities' social inclusiveness. This in turn leads to citizen focused policy formulation, as communities actively participate and contribute in governance related issues.

The procession was part of the proceedings of a community radio conference to be held by Radio Dialogue, in partnership with ZACRAS and Bulawayo Agenda on the 21st of March 2012 .The procession was scheduled to commence from Bulawayo City Hall to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, which is the conference venue.

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