Police tried to wreck Chamisa festivities

 Police tried to wreck Chamisa festivities
Published: 30 September 2019 (123 Views)
BARELY 24 hours after a special United Nations human rights envoy issued a damning assessment of Zimbabwe's democratic credentials, the country's notoriously partisan police force tried to ruin the MDC's 20th birthday celebrations in Harare yesterday, the Daily News on Sunday reports.

The capital city woke up to a sea of cops in the central business district, while hundreds others manned ubiquitous roadblocks along the major roads leading into the CBD, as the law enforcement agents also sealed off the MDC's national headquarters in the city centre — all this clearly meant to disrupt the festivities, as well as the planned march to Rufaro Stadium, the venue of the party's celebrations.

At the same time, and speaking at the festivities, MDC president Nelson Chamisa warned that authorities were testing the patience of the party's supporters and other ordinary citizens due to their repressive tendencies.

As early as 6am, police had mounted roadblocks on major roads leading into the city centre and the high density suburb of Mbare — where thousands of MDC supporters still converged despite the heavy police presence.

Several motorists and commuters were made to wait for minutes on end in the usually chaotic morning rush, which was made worse by queues of cars that were being subjected to rigorous checks by police.

The area between Angwa Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue was impassable, as police sealed off Morgan Tsvangirai House — the headquarters of the MDC — before stopping a planned march to Rufaro Stadium.

Addressing thousands of supporters at the stadium, Chamisa bemoaned the police "harassment" and warned that if people lost patience, it would be difficult for jittery authorities to contain them.
"In the morning … the police wanted to block the programme.

They came with all sorts of plans and denied our secretary-general (Chalton Hwende) and other staff from getting into our headquarters.

"I asked them why they were afraid of the MDC ... What if we rebel? ... People could have been intimidated, but you refused to be intimidated and came out in large numbers," Chamisa told his cheering supporters.

The MDC has been at the receiving end of a sustained government assault on its supporters and officials, who on August 16 felt the full force of the authorities' thuggish tactics when heavily armed police ruthlessly broke their protests in the capital.

Several demonstrations that had been earmarked for other cities and towns were also subsequently banned, leading to strong local and international condemnation of the government.

On Friday, United Nations special envoy for human rights — Clement Nyaletsossi Voule — gave a scathing assessment of the government's commitment to allowing the opposition and pro-democracy groups to hold marches and demonstrations in the country.

Voule also questioned the government's deployment of troops to deal with protests, saying most of the provisions of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill (Mopo) — which allows the practice — were not different from the repressive Public Order Security Act (Posa).

"I was informed that the Posa will soon be repealed and replaced by the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill which ‘will provide mechanisms to ensure that the police, in maintaining law, order and suppression of civil commotion or disturbances in any police district, do so in a manner that does not compromise human rights'.

"While I acknowledge that there is a need to enact a new law in accordance with international human rights norms and standards, the Mopo bill has worrying similarities to the Posa — revealing a common scope in which the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly is not fully guaranteed.

"Instead, the Mopo bill continues to give law enforcement agencies broad regulatory discretion and powers. The Mopo bill does not propose significant substantive amendments targeted to address the main problems prevailing in the Posa," Voule observed.

"I have perceived that the use of military forces has a profound negative impact, including in the minds of the population, who fear these forces are not adequately trained to handle demonstrations. On this point, I would like to stress that the involvement of the military in the managing of assemblies contradicts the guidelines for the policing of assemblies by law enforcement officials in Africa, as they provide that military forces must only be used in exceptional circumstances and only if absolutely necessary.

This same criteria has been used … to ensure that public order is, to the maximum extent possible, upheld by civilian rather than military authorities" the UN human rights specialist said further.

"From my discussions on recent events, I have perceived that the use of military forces has a profound negative impact, including in the minds of the population, who fear these forces are not adequately trained to handle demonstrations," he added.

Yesterday, Chamisa said despite increasing repression and continuing harassment of the opposition by authorities, the MDC remained strong and united.

"We are transforming our party, restoring the party to where it was in 1999. We are back in this stadium because this is where it all started. We are now united, of course at one point we parted ways with other leaders, but we are now back together," Chamisa said — referring to the MDC splits of 2005 and 2014.

The youthful opposition leader also said he would be pushing strongly to end President Emmerson Mnangagwa's and Zanu-PF rule.

"The country is in a precarious position, but we are saying all progressive forces must converge. Let's have a free Zimbabwe campaign and remove this government. I refused to go to Polad (the Political Actors Dialogue) because it is a joking platform. Demonstrations that the police stopped are not taking place because we don't want to demonstrate. Are you ready … tired and angry? Will you respond to a call to demonstrate? When do you want us to pour into the streets?

"We are planning for demonstrations that will last until Mnangagwa accepts dialogue. Let's go and organise the party for that. December is far. We must organise now," Chamisa said.

Zimbabwe is currently in the grip of a huge economic crisis which has spawned shortages of fuel, power, water and critical medicines in hospitals. Apart from shortages, Zimbabwe is in a hyper-inflationary environment which is now almost similar to 2008 when inflation decimated the lives of ordinary people and businesses.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa has asked for patience to mend the broken economy, although his critics say hopes are fast fading that his government will turn around the sickly economy.

- dailynews

Tags: Chamisa,
 

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