Zimbabweans are now free to protest and police have been instructed not to interfere. Home Affairs minister Giles Mutsekwa on Tuesday told journalists that his ministry does not deny anyone from taking part in peaceful demonstrations. His declaration, however, does not come without conditions.
“We had a meeting with the Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri. He will not unnecessarily impede people who want to demonstrate. We have given certain instructions to the police for the people to be allowed to demonstrate,” said Mutsekwa.
However he warned demonstrators who fail to notify the police that they shall be “guilty of an offence” and added that the police will not hesitate to use “minimum force” to control demonstrators.
Mutsekwa presides over the home affairs ministry with Kembo Mohadi, a
member of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party, under an arrangement agreed by the three main Zimbabwean parties as part of their
Chihuri, who is one of the key security figures behind Mugabe’s power, has been accused of ordering police to break up demonstrations by civic organizations, opposition political parties and other groups perceived as opposed to Zimbabwe’s veteran leader.
The police had continued to ban protests even after formation of a
“The ministry does not deny anyone from taking part in peaceful demonstrations. Let it be known to all and sundry that demonstrations
are allowed in Zimbabwe but must be done within the confines of the
law,” Mutsekwa said.
In 2004, Mugabe and his then sole ruling ZANU PF party enacted the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which made it illegal to demonstrate without first notifying the police.
The Act also made it a requirement for anyone to seek police clearance if they would want to hold a gathering of more than ten people.
Tsvangirai was brutally assaulted last year after he attended a public prayer meeting in Harare’s Highfield working class suburb that the police had banned.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean police on Tuesday arrested a deputy minister from
Tsvangirai’s MDC Party for allegdly stealing a mobile phone.
According to the MDC, party chairman for youth and Deputy Youth Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu “was picked up by police from his ministry’s offices” yesterday afternoon and detained at Harare Central police station.