POLICE have issued stringent conditions for today’s National Election Reform Agenda (Nera) organised demonstration against government’s decision to take over the procurement of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
But Nera yesterday vowed to go ahead with the demonstration and last night said it had approached the High Court seeking to overturn the police’s stringent conditions which bar protestors from marching in the capital’s central business district.
Although police partially agreed to the planned protest, they ordered the protestors to assemble at Freedom Square opposite Rainbow Towers and send only a 10-member delegation to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to depose a petition.
Officer Commanding Harare Central District, Chief Superintendent Jasper Chizemo said the stringent conditions should be obeyed in full, setting up a possible clash with protestors, who were threatening to disregard them.
“In terms of Section 26(6) of Posa Chapter 11.17, I impose the following conditions that 2 500 people you intend to bring into town are to gather at Robert Mugabe (Freedom) Square. 10 people to proceed to Zec offices and handover the petition,” Chizemo said, in a letter to Nera official Joelson Mugari.
“No marching or gathering in the city centre. After handing over the petition the gathering must disperse immediately.”
Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi weighed in saying police will maintain law and order in line with their constitutional mandate and will not hesitate to take action against anyone who engaged in unlawful acts of property destruction, intimidation or violence.
Previous demonstrations have turned bloody following serious clashes between police and the protestors, resulting in property being damaged.
However, MDC-T secretary general and Nera head of legal services, Douglas Mwonzora, described the conditions as unacceptable.
Mwonzora said they have since filed an urgent High Court application with the assistance of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and will be guided by the court’s outcome.
“We don’t accept that and that is why we have taken an application to court. The good thing is that they have allowed us to do our gathering but their conditions are not acceptable,” Mwonzora said.
“It is not up to police to set up conditions which are so unreasonable because these are constitutional rights. We have emphasized that constitutional rights of Zimbabwe are not negotiable. We have gone to court and we are going to assemble at the Freedom Square and after that we will be advised by the leaders on what to do in view of what will have come out of the courts.”
During a tense meeting among political parties at the Zec offices yesterday, Mugari read out the letter to the representatives of political parties who threatened to disobey the stringent conditions set by the police.
Some even threatened to picket at the Zec headquarters.
Mugari accused police of trying to reintroduce the Statutory Instrument that was introduced by former Harare district police boss Chief Superintendent Norbert Saunyama prohibiting demonstrations in the CBD.
“They refused our conditions to gather at the Africa Unity Square and have a short march. They have their own conditions,” he said.
“If we are saying Makarau must go then we should come and picket at the Zec headquarters even for a whole week until she leaves. This will make us win our war.”
Zec has indicated its willingness to use BVR, but President Robert Mugabe’s lieutenants in both government and Zanu PF have embarked on a campaign to criticise the move, as well as claim it would be an unnecessary expenditure.
Government has also hijacked the purchase of the kits after initially agreeing to accept funding from the United Nations Development Programme.