Bulawayo Provincial Magistrate Tinashe Tashaya has dismissed an appeal by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) against a prohibition order issued by the police banning a planned demonstration by the opposition party in the city on Monday.
On Sunday, Officer Commanding Bulawayo central district, Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Phiri issued an order banning the planned MDC march.
In delivering his ruling, magistrate Tashaya said the right to demonstration is not absolute.
He said there are certain limitations to it.
“The court assessed whether the MDC defense submissions were fair, reasonable and justifiable. Taking into consideration evidence from the near past, violence has erupted from demonstrations resulting in the lives of the public being put in danger,” said Tashaya.
He said although the applicant’s lawyers had argued that the opposition party must not be denied the right to demonstrate because of the flaws of other organisations, it is impossible to ignore that the reasons for protesting are similar.
“The January protests were orchestrated by ZCTU challenging the harsh economic challenges, which are the same challenges being cited by MDC,” said Tashaya.
“People took advantage of demonstrations which had been said would be peaceful and looted shops.
“The respondents in their notice pointed out that the business sector is worried their businesses would be at risk should the demonstration go on.”
The magistrate said MDC stated in their submissions that they have secured 400 marshals for security, an acknowledgement there is a possibility violence may erupt.
MDC was being represented by Advocate Pepertual Dube, who was being instructed by Tanaka Muganyi of Tanaka Law Chambers.
Dube argued the police deliberately waited for the eve of the planned demonstration to respond.
She said their intention was to deny the MDC a right to demonstrate.
Dube says the police in their notice acknowledged that there are economic challenges.
“These challenges are what the applicants want to demonstrate against. Sections 58, 59 and 60 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provide for citizens to exercise their right against such,” she said.
ZRP legal representative, Rejoice Hove said the proposed demonstration poses as a threat to public safety since it is a nationwide call.
Hove urged the court needs to consider chaos that rocked the city during the January protests and what happened on the 16th of August in Harare after MDC demonstrated.
“MDC anticipates 5000 participants to partake yet they only have 400 marshals. They will not be enough to contain the situation should violence erupt, especially given they have no special training in security issues,” said Hove.