‘Ban on demos, unconstitutional’

A blanket ban on demonstrations violates citizens’ rights to protest as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a lawyer has said.

Esau Mandipa, a legal practitioner and law lecturer at Midlands State University says there is a need to balance law and order to allow people to exercise their constitutional rights.

Mandipa noted that political parties, unions and individuals have been denied a platform to enjoy the freedom to express themselves within the confines of the law.

He said the Constitution is the supreme law of the country and since Zimbabwe is a democratic country, the government must resort to using less restrictive measures than bar people from exercising their right to demonstrate.

“Instead of issuing prohibitive orders, alternative measures can be made to strike a balance in law and order and the right to demonstrate. These can be limiting the time of demonstrating, limiting places to demonstrate at, the prohibition of wearing political regalia,” said Mandipa.

He said when leaders violate rights provided for in Constitution, citizens are allowed to exercise their right to express their disgruntlement.

“For example, people demonstrated on August 1 after election results took too long to be announced. The same happened in 2013 and people went to the streets. This was because a provision of the Constitution had been violated with regards to the announcement of election results,” said Mandipa.

He said the government must refrain from heavy deployment of uniformed forces during demonstrations as they intimidate people thereby instilling fear in the citizens.

Mandipa said although the Constitution makes a provision for citizens to demonstrate and petition, they are obliged to do it peacefully.

He urged journalists to take a leading role in reporting on issues where constitutional rights are violated.

In August, the government banned the mainstream opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from holding demonstrations in major cities.

Recently, Cabinet proposed a law to ban all forms of industrial action by workers in the health sector whom they classified as an essential service.

Doctors and nurses are currently on strike following the alleged abduction of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZHDA) acting president Dr Peter Magombeyi as well as poor working conditions.

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