MDC-T has taken Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri to court challenging a decision by the police in Bulawayo to bar the opposition party from staging another demonstration in the city.
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led party’s planned demonstration had been scheduled for Saturday.
MDC-T yesterday filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Minister Chombo, Comm-Gen Chihuri and the officer commanding police in Bulawayo Central District as the respondents.
The party seeks an order interdicting police from interfering with its planned protests or discouraging its supporters from participating in the envisaged march.
In its application through lawyer Mr Kholwani Ngwenya from TJ Mabhikwa and Partners, the opposition party argues that police had no legal basis to bar its supporters from staging a demonstration.
Florence Nyika, who is the party’s women assembly organising secretary for Bulawayo province, in her founding affidavit, said the planned protest sought to bring to the fore MDC-T’s position on the challenges faced by women in the country, poverty, corruption and the declining socio-economic and political conditions in the country through a “peaceful demonstration.”
“Top on the priority of the issues of the planned peaceful march is the shocking levels of hunger, escalating poverty, unemployment and alarming levels of corruption. It is the applicant’s position that in the face of such high levels of hunger and poverty, women are the most affected in the society by virtue of being in direct and constant touch with children, the elderly and sick who are in need of food, clothing, water and other basic amenities,” she said.
Police, who are the regulating authority in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), argued that the situation on the ground was volatile following last week’s violent protests and looting in the city.
They said there was no guarantee for security given that most of their officers were deployed to various areas to monitor the situation following the recent violent protests.
However, MDC-T argued that its constitutional rights could not be violated on the basis that some criminal elements staged violent protests. The party distanced itself from last week’s protests.
A total of 86 men including two juveniles have since appeared in court facing charges of engaging in violent demonstrations and looting from a supermarket in Bulawayo and vandalising property and stoning cars. Between April and May this year, MDC-T had similar demonstrations in Bulawayo and Harare during which its rowdy supporters flooded the streets of the capital’s central business district and disrupted traffic flow and harassed Harare City Council workers.
This prompted police to warn the opposition party’s leaders that they would not be allowed to infringe on the rights of innocent citizens.
During the protest, a Choppies Supermarket security guard was hospitalised after sustaining serious injuries at the hands of the marauding MDC-T supporters who ran amok in downtown Harare in the wake of an address by Tsvangirai calling for the unconstitutional removal of President Mugabe from power.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba recently said the rowdy behaviour exhibited by some supporters was the reason why sometimes they were reluctant to clear such gatherings.