Magistrate Quashes Police Ban Of National Healing Play

The interdict came after Collin Maboke, a member lawyer of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), instituted urgent proceedings challenging the police ban of the play.

The police through Chief Superintendent Nyapfuri, the Officer Commanding Zimbabwe Republic Police Masvingo Central District, had banned the public performance of “No Voice No Choice”, a production by two community theatre groups, Edzai Isu Theatre Arts Project and Zvido Zvevanhu Arts Ensemble.

The play, which was nominated for the Outstanding Theatrical Production at the National Arts Merits Award held in February 2012, was scheduled to be staged in Masvingo Province during the on-going Youth Cultural Arts Festival. The venues were Mucheke bus terminus and at Charles Austin Theatre Hall on Thursday while the last performance in the province was scheduled for Friday at Rujeko Hall at 1pm.

In a letter dated Thursday 1 August 2012 and addressed to versatile theatre practitioner Tafadzwa Muzondo, the organiser of the event and the producer of the play, Nyapfuri stated that the police could not sanction the performance of the play “due to security reasons” which he did not disclose.

But Maboke filed an application seeking to declare as unlawful the prohibition of the theatre performance and to set aside the police order prohibiting the public show of the play.

Magistrate Zinyati granted the application which also sanctioned the two theatre groups to proceed with the staging of the drama performance as scheduled so as to promote the organisation’s right to freedom of association, assembly and expression as set in the Constitution.

The police were interdicted from disturbing or interfering in any way with the drama performance to be held on Thursday and Friday and ordered to allow the play to run uninterrupted.

This is the third time in less than two years that ZLHR has had to intervene in defence of theatre practitioners and artists’ expression in Zimbabwe.

In February last year, ZLHR fought on behalf of Rooftop Promotions and obtained an interdict from Bulawayo Magistrate Rose Dube barring the police from prohibiting the theatre production group from staging a theatre performance entitled “Rituals”.

This was after the police through Chief Superintendent, R. N Masina of Bulawayo Central Police Station, had banned the public performance of Rituals on the basis that they could not sanction the performance of the play because the government was already attending to issues of national healing through the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration.

In September last year, ZLHR also successfully challenged the police ban of the Gwanda-based Jahunda Community Theatre play entitled “1983, the years before and after, a play on the past disturbances seeking to establish true National Healing, true peace and true reconciliation.”