By Professor Matodzi
Victoria Falls, September 14, 2016 – POLICE have reversed a ban they had earlier imposed on a meeting organised by a top rights group as authorities step up repression in the troubled country.
Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiwona, the Officer Commanding Victoria Falls District last week issued a prohibition order banning the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights).
The meeting was intended to discuss the state of enjoyment of socio-economic rights through effective service delivery in the resort town.
Chiwona claimed that such meetings were being used as a “prelude” to “centralised” violent demonstrations and also claimed that intelligence reports gathered by ZRP showed that the meeting could be used to mobilise for violent demonstrations.
The ban prompted ZimRights, represented by Lizwe Jamela of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to file an application at the Bulawayo Magistrates Court on Monday seeking an order to have the ban reversed.
Bulawayo Magistrate Sheunesu Matova, who presided over the application, on Monday ruled that Chiwona’s actions do not depict any cogent grounds to ban the meeting and therefore his prohibition order was unlawful.
Some hours before the hearing of the ZimRights application, Chiwona had baulked at the litigation processes instituted by Jamela by withdrawing the prohibition order which he had issued on September 08, 2016 outlawing the public meeting.
In his letter to ZimRights, dated September 12, 2016, Chiwona said he had withdrawn the prohibition order and invited Celia Mafu, ZimRights’ Provincial Coordinator for Matabeleland North and South to attend a meeting, where he wanted the human rights organisation to furnish ZRP with particulars of the Convenor and the deputy Convenor of the meeting, a significant climb down from his earlier order banning the ZimRights meeting.
In setting aside the prohibition order, Magistrate Matova said its issuance is not compliant with Section 26 of the Public Order and Security Act Chapter 11:17, which Chiwona had cited in banning the meeting.
The Magistrate also interdicted Chiwona and his agents from disturbing or interfering in any way with the meeting.
Chiwona’s actions in banning the ZimRights meeting comes at a time police in Harare have also issued a notice of a proposed temporary prohibition order against the holding of demonstrations in central Harare.