Zim police make U-turn on banning opposition rallies after public outcry
Afraid of discrediting the upcoming 2023 election, police chiefs have directed their provincial commanders not to block political parties from holding rallies saying such decisions will only be taken after “thoroughly consulting” police headquarters.
The Zimbabwean Constitution clearly states that if the President announces at election date, it means that all political parties are effectively allowed to hold public rallies.
But the police, of late, have been blocking opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) meetings citing controversial reasons.
Last week, the law enforcement organisation thwarted a CCC rally that was scheduled to be held in Bindura citing that the venue had no toilets.
A leaked memo from police chiefs has emerged telling provincial commanders not to ban political rallies in order to protect the integrity of the upcoming plebiscite.
“Commanders are reminded that the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe His Excellency, Cde ED MNANGAGWA has proclaimed the 23rd of August 2023 as the date for the 2023 Harmonised Elections.
“The President has on numerous occasions also preached the gospel of peace and tolerance ahead of the impending elections.
“It is against this background that commanders are urged to ensure that all the processes relating to elections are done peacefully and in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act Chapter 2:13 and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) Chapter 11:23,” read the memo.
“Of late, social media has been awash with incidences where some political parties claim to have been denied the right to hold their rallies by the Police resulting in skirmishes.
“These skirmishes are discrediting the electoral processes, as such, commanders are requested to ensure that political parties are allowed to hold rallies unless there are very valid reasons to warrant such rejections.
“Under such circumstances, Regulating Authorities are urged to thoroughly consult before coming up with decisions to deny any political player opportunity to hold a rally or meeting.
“Commanders should note that for elections to be deemed free. fair, peaceful and credible, the playing field should be reckoned as level, hence the Police actions should not discredit the electoral processes.
“The Regulatory Authorities should acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Electoral Act and MOPA so as to make informed decisions. The purpose of this legal instrument is for the police to prepare and take actions aimed at ensuring that any political activity is done peacefully.”
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono said some African ambassadors told him that they were not going to endorse Zimbabwe’s elections due to the unfairness of the political environment.
“After pressure from some Election Observers, and some quiet words from African Ambassadors, the Zimbabwe Police has issued a notice to its provincial commanders to allow opposition rallies to go ahead.
“Two African ambassadors told me that it would be impossible to endorse an election that is so blatantly unfair, and being held on an unequal stage as seen over the past few days.
“The Commonwealth also stopped Zimbabwe’s readmission until after the election which will be used as one of the important criterions for readmission with Canada pushing hard on that front,” Chin’ono said.