Harare, September 12, 2013 – A High Court judge has annulled a police ban on a planned procession by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaving the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) with egg on its face over its overzealous actions.
The ZRP had banned a procession organised by the ZCTU scheduled for Saturday to celebrate trade union rights in Zimbabwe. The labour union also intended to hold a cleanup campaign at Copacabana commuter omnibus terminus in Harare and thereafter stage a lunchtime march.
But High Court Judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi on Thursday overturned the police ban and interdicted the ZRP from disturbing or interfering in any way with the ZCTU’s procession. Justice Mathonsi directed the ZRP to provide police escort for the procession.
The interdict came after the ZCTU through their lawyers Jeremiah Bamu, Tawanda Zhuwarara and Bellinda Chinowawa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights filed an urgent chamber court application seeking to overturn the police ban and declare it illegal and void at law.
In their application, the lawyers argued that the ZCTU as a registered trade union is exempt from the limitations and qualification imposed on processions. The lawyers also contended that the ZRP’s refusal to allow the labour union permission to hold its procession in commemoration of workers’ rights is beyond what is prescribed by the Public Order and Security Act and violates the ZCTU’s right to freedom of assembly and association as enshrined in the Constitution.
In banning the ZCTU procession, the ZRP argued that the political situation obtaining in the country was not conducive to hold the commemoration.
“The political situation is not yet conducive for such events as unscrupulous elements might take advantage and hijack the whole programme. Intelligence at hand indicated that there are some people who are waiting to hijack any march or procession,” reads part of the ZRP letter written to ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo by Chief Superintendent Saunyama.
In Bulawayo, the police also restricted the ZCTU to hold its commemorations at the labour union’s head office scheduled for Friday and not to stage a procession as had been planned. The ZCTU’s lawyers were reportedly working on challenging the police interference in court.
The ZCTU which was instrumental in the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change has had several run-ins with Zimbabwean authorities over its activities which President Robert Mugabe’s administration has prohibited in the past decade.
In 2006, some of the union’s militant leaders Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe were arrested and brutalized by the police after they led anti-government protests.