Magistrate Tancy Dube on Monday 23 January 2012 annulled a police ban on public meetings organized by Bulawayo Agenda in Tsholotsho and Lupane in Matabeleland Province.
Bulawayo Agenda had on Monday 16 January 2012 gave notification to the police regulatory authority for Lupane District them of the intention to hold two public meetings, whose agenda involved giving an update to the community on the ongoing constitution making process. The first meeting was scheduled to be held on Sunday 22 January 2012 at District Development Fund (DDF) Training Centre in Tsholotsho with the second one planned for 28 January 2012 at Matshabalala Hall in Lupane.
But on Friday 20 January 2012, two days before the first scheduled meeting, the police advised Bulawayo Agenda that they did not approve of all the two meetings without giving any reasons for the ban of the meetings. Bulawayo Agenda then approached the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)’s Lizwe Jamela to institute an urgent court application challenging the police refusal of the meetings as they did not state sound grounds for the prohibition.
The court has sanctioned Bulawayo Agenda to proceed with the public meeting scheduled for the weekend and to reschedule and convene the meeting that did not take place on Sunday 22 January 2012 without giving any notice to the police. Bulawayo Agenda has had its programming disrupted raising concerns that this maybe a politically driven motive to disturb the organization’s activities, deny the organization’s right to freedom of assembly and association as set out in Section 21 of the Constitution and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Section 20 of the Constitution.
This is also the manifestation of continued crackdown on civil society organizations’ operations. This continued abuse of the Public Order Security Act (POSA) has denied the people of Tsholotsho and Lupane their right to express their views in and participate in public processes like the constitution making process. We therefore call upon parties in the inclusive Government to fulfil their obligations of protecting human rights. We believe that the long overdue legislative and institutional reforms are more needed now than ever for the promotion of a democratic society where there is free flow of information and exchange of ideas.
Bulawayo Agenda is a civic sector organization whose main mandate is to provide a non-partisan platform for ordinary citizens to debate and dialogue on topical issues. We believe in a democratic society in which people and civil rights are observed.
This Article was written by the Bulawayo Agenda Research and Information Department.