SW Radio Africa (London)

16 November 2011

Zimbabwe: Police Demand 'Permit' for Birthday Party

A Harare family had the shock of their life last Friday evening after an overzealous policeman demanded that they produce a 'permit' for the birthday party they were hosting.

The party, attended by 40 to 50 people, was interrupted when a senior policeman driving a BMW arrived at the property and demanded a permit, claiming it was a public gathering of more than 5 people.

Many people at the party expressed surprise since they were on private property. Even the repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which is used to crack down on political activity does not cover activities on private property. But the policeman was not bothered by this and spent an hour demanding a permit, at one time even insisted on taking the home owner to Borrowdale Police Station for questioning.

It was only after one of the revellers called up someone in the police force and handed over the phone to the officer on site, that the matter was eventually resolved.

Under POSA there is no requirement for notice to be given for gatherings held exclusively for "bona fide religious, education, recreational, sporting or charitable purposes, baptisms, weddings, funerals and cremations."

Additionally POSA does not say that police permission is required for any meeting, procession or demonstration, but the police have taken advantage of the general lawlessness in the country to do as they please.

The incident only highlights the growing paranoia gripping Mugabe's regime and suggests that an instruction has been issued to clamp down on any gatherings, to create increasing intimidation.

In a related issue the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on Wednesday reported that police in the Midlands city of Kwekwe arrested two of their employees, Beloved Chiweshe and Maureen Gombakomba, for convening a public meeting.

The two are said to be in police custody in the town facing as yet unclear charges. The Coalition said: "The harassment of civil society activists is rising sharply."

In addition to the arrests of Chiweshe and Gombakomba the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have also raised alarm "over the unlawful surveillance on" former TV presenter and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko "by unknown individuals."

In December 2008 Mukoko was abducted in the early hours of the morning by six men and a woman who did not identify themselves. In her testimony she said they forced her into a Mazda Familia vehicle and ordered her to lie low on the seat of the car.

Once at a torture base they put her in solitary confinement for 19 days while torturing her to try to force her to admit to recruiting youths for military training.

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