POLICE in Chivhu in Mashonaland East province on Tuesday 06 March 2018 made a volte-face and sanctioned a demonstration organised by a residents association, which the law enforcement agents had banned on flimsy grounds.
The Chivhu Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (CHRRA) had through their chairperson Collen Zvarevashe on 22 February 2018 notified the ZRP of its intention to hold a protest march demanding the expulsion and arrest of some corrupt officials at Chikomba Rural District Council.
But the ZRP on Tuesday 05 March 2018 turned down CHRRA’s request on the basis that there was a threat that the residents’ protest would result in serious disruption of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
The blockade of the residents’ protest march compelled CHRRA to engage lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, whose lawyer Fiona Iliff filed an urgent chamber application in the High Court on Tuesday 05 March 2018 challenging the ZRP’s refusal to sanction the residents’ demonstration.
Through the urgent chamber application, Iliff argued that the ZRP’s ban of CHRRA’s protest was in violation of the residents association and the Chivhu residents’ constitutional rights to peacefully demonstrate and petition without unlawful interference from the police as set out in Section 59 of the Constitution.
The human rights lawyer asked the High Court to issue an order compelling the ZRP not to interfere directly or indirectly with the residents’ march without a valid court order and to provide sufficient manpower of police officers to redirect traffic and keep peace during the demonstration.
But after the filing and service of the urgent chamber application on the respondents who included Chief Superintendent Stephen Baleni the Officer Commanding Chivhu District, ZRP Commissioner General Godwin Matanga and Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu, the ZRP made an about turn and sanctioned the demonstration.
In a letter, which was received by CHRRA around 7: PM on Tuesday 06 March 2018, Chief Superintendent Baleni, the ZRP Officer Commanding Chivhu District sanctioned the residents’ demonstration and advised that participants should remain “peaceful” during the protest.
Despite, the volte-face by the ZRP, Iliff is pressing ahead with pursuing the setting down of the urgent chamber application seeking an order declaring the ZRP’s refusal in the first place to sanction the residents’ protest as unconstitutional.