Protests cleared as judges defiant amid Mugabe attacks
From MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE Zimbabwean government has suffered a huge setback in its plans to suppress mounting anger by citizens after the High Court dismissed as unconstitutional and a violation of human rights police’s ban on protests.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Priscilla Chigumba used the opportunity to respond to an attack on the judges by President Robert Mugabe, who lashed at the court for earlier proclaiming the demonstrations Zimbabweans have been staging against the worsening economic situation as a right enshrined in the Constitution.
Mugabe, who was returning from an unexplained overseas trip in the Far East, accused the judges of disregarding the peace of this country.
Chigumba responded saying judicial authority was enshrined in Section 162 and 164 of the Constitution.
“Courts are independent and must act without fear, favour or prejudice. It is essential to the rule of law that courts operate without interference in a democratic society,” Justice Chigumba said.
Meanwhile, in her ruling Chigumba said police ban no right to ban public protests.
“The police’s actions were unconstitutional and infringement to people’s rights.”
The ruling follows a two-week ban on public protests based on the allegedly draconian Public Order and Security Act. Police justified the ban claiming the angry protests had left the country vulnerable to terror attacks.
A coalition of opposition parties and residents associations opposed the ban in court.
Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and officer commanding Harare district Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama were cited.
Opposition parties and civil society hailed the court ruling.
“Zimbabwe is not Syria, Mogadishu or South Sudan where public protests have been a curtail for terrorism attacks,” said Tendai Biti who represented the opposition and residents.
MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu, said, “This is a victory for the rule of law and constitutionalism.”
– CAJ News
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