Zimbabwe judge ‘takes on President Mugabe’ by backing protesters

Zimbabwean High Court judge Priscilla Chigumba has ruled that a two-week ban by police on protests was illegal.

Police issued the ban last Thursday prohibiting demonstrations in the capital, Harare, ahead of a planned anti-government protest by opposition groups.

The challenge was brought by activist Stan Zvorwadza, who heads the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe.

He told the BBC he welcomed the ruling and he and his members wanted to protest peacefully about the mismanagement of the country.

He was represented in court by Tendai Biti, a lawyer and former finance minister, who told the BBC it proved Zimbabwe’s courts were independent:

My clients can now demonstrate today or tomorrow. This is a brave judgement

We as human rights defender are we are very proud of the decision that has been handed down this afternoon.”

This ruling comes after a warning to judges over the weekend by 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

He criticised a court which gave permission for an anti-government protest at the end of August.

It turned violent when police ignored the court order and tear gassed demonstrators.

Mr Mugabe said the judges had showed a reckless disregard for peace, and warned that they should not dare to be negligent when making future decisions.

Today Judge Chigumba said the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law was important to democracy, which appears to be an indirect attack on President Mugabe.

She also told the police that if they felt they wanted to pursue plans to ban the protest, they had seven days to follow the correct procedures, which would mean approaching the minister of justice.

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