A discussion forum organized by the Daily News newspaper in Bulawayo, focusing on the legacy of the late national hero Joshua Nkomo, was banned by police on Wednesday.
This was the second time that the event had been blocked from taking place, with the police claiming it was "political". Back in July, suspected intelligence agents ordered the Daily News to cancel a Joshua Nkomo memorial lecture, which was to take place National University of Science and Technology (NUST).
This time the police summoned the newspaper's head of operations for the Southern Region, Ray Matikinye, to Bulawayo Central Police Station and informed him of the decision to ban the forum. The paper had notified police of the event almost a month ago and received clearance.
The law says police are only to be notified of public events, but they have used this to ban rallies and meetings organized by anyone perceived to be opposed to ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe.
The Commanding Officer for Bulawayo Province, Chief Superintendent Rangwani, is alleged to have warned the paper not to go ahead with their meeting. He was quoted as saying: "You should be aware of the consequences if you dare go ahead with the event."
The paper's chief editor, Stanley Gama, reportedly said the ban did not engender confidence in the government's commitment to both media freedom and to peaceful elections next year.
Gama said: "I think the media community and Zimbabweans at large have a good reason to be very afraid as we approach national elections slated for next year. What with Big Brother, in the form of police and the intelligence service, watching and meddling in everything because they can?"