THE High Court on Wednesday struck down a ZRP ban on protests, saying the order issued last week was invalid.
The challenge to the police ban on protests was brought by a coalition of opposition parties and other activists who were represented by prominent lawyer, Tendai Biti who is also leader of the People’s Democratic party.
Justice Priscilla Chigumba’s ruling comes days after President Robert Mugabe lambasted the judges for allowing demonstrations by opposition parties. Mugabe’s attack on judges’ alleged “recklessness” followed violent protests in Harare but was largely seen as the strongman’s order to the bench to rule in favour of Zanu PF.
The judge said: “Our duty as the judiciary is to ensure that there was rule of law in the country and we issue judgements without fear or favour.”
Following the suspension of the ban on Wednesday, Biti said Justice Chigumba’s ruling was “a brave judgement that asserts the independence of the courts.” The former finance minister had argued in court that the ban on protests was unconstitutional and therefore illegal because the police officer who issued it had no authority to do so.
The order, issued by a senior officer in charge of central Harare, had banned protests in the capital for a period of two weeks. It came as the opposition parties were preparing to march through Harare after the police had violently disturbed a previous demonstration that had been allowed by the courts.
Zimbabwe has seen tens of demonstrations as citizens begin to show their unhappiness with the biting economic situation characterised by cash shortages, high unemployment and high profile corruption.
Opposition political parties trading under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) said they were going to stage a national protest in central Harare this week.
An official with NERA told NewZimbabwe.com that “we” are working on the “nearest” date of holding the protest “here in Harare” before the seven days which the court has given to government to appeal