Zimbabwe: Govt Stands Firm on Illegal Demonstrations

19 August 2019

The illegal demonstration in Harare's city centre last Friday was a failed attempt at getting Zimbabwe on the agenda of the recently-ended SADC Summit in Tanzania which saw President Mnangagwa assume the chairmanship of the Regional Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo said this yesterday in a statement in which he vowed to continue re-engaging with all those "who, for whatever reason, chose to distance themselves from Zimbabwe over the past two decades or so".

Minister Moyo said while Government takes heed of criticism on the manner in which the demonstrations were handled, the same critics have been suspiciously quiet on the behaviour of the demonstrators who violated a High Court ruling.

"The Government of Zimbabwe under the Second Republic does not condone acts of violence by any individual or organisation.

"While the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for the right of citizens to partake in political action such as demonstrations, this right is not absolute in nature. It must be exercised legally and in full acknowledgement of the rights of others. Neither does such a right absolve the State of its obligation to guarantee public order, law and security. Citizens and organisations, including political parties, are required and indeed expected to abide by the law.

"The August 16th demonstration organised and led by the MDC-A was illegal and constituted a serious violation of the precept of 'rule of law' which they claim to hold dear," Minister Moyo said.

The banning of the demonstration, Minister Moyo said, was necessitated by the MDC-Alliance's incitement of violence and subsequent discovery of a contraband of weapons.

"On 15 August, in the wake of highly irresponsible and inflammatory statements made by the MDC-A leadership and on the basis of a weapons cache discovered a few days previously, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), as the civil authority responsible for ensuring law and order, issued a prohibition order effectively denying legal authority for the demonstration to proceed the following day. The prohibition order was communicated to the MDC-A well in time to enable them to advise their supporters that authorisation for the demonstration had been denied. In accordance with their constitutional rights, the MDC-A appealed to the High Court seeking to overturn the civil authority's prohibition order. In its wisdom, the High Court upheld the civil authority's decision and dismissed the MDC-A's appeal," he said.

"The fact that the MDC-A leadership -- themselves noted lawyers -- decided to defy both the civil authority and the High Court and to proceed in a highly confrontational manner with an illegal demonstration was as irresponsible as it was unfortunate. They must take full responsibility for the consequences of their injudicious actions and their statements to incite and encourage their followers to challenge the law whilst they themselves 'led' from 'positions of safety'."

Minister Moyo said the confrontation by the MDC-Alliance was deliberately timed to coincide with the Sadc Summit in order to paint the country in bad light at a time when Zimbabwe was assuming the chair of the Organ Troika.

"Once again, the MDC-A, as part of its relentless attention-seeking agenda, has incited public unrest at home to coincide with a key international event. The deliberate act of defiance of 16th August was timed to coincide with the SADC Summit meeting scheduled to take place the following day, 17th August, in Tanzania at which Zimbabwe will assume the Chairmanship of the Regional Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. The action was designed to achieve two specific objectives: firstly, by fomenting instability at home, to cast doubt among SADC leaders with regard to the suitability of Zimbabwe to take on the leadership of this key SADC Organ; and, secondly, to have Zimbabwe included in the agenda of the SADC Summit with the hope of breathing new life into their already long-discredited 'legitimacy' claims and with the intention of attaining their and their foreign backers' objective of imposing some form of regional or continental mediation process upon our Government," he said.

"Once again, they have failed. Both they and those within Zimbabwe and beyond who continue to harbour such fantasies and who continue to pursue the politics of regime change by way of violence and terror and who must surely shoulder much responsibility for the ugly scenes witnessed in the streets of Harare on 16 August and indeed the tragic events of 1 August 2018 and 14/15 January, 2019, should simply cease and desist."

Minister Moyo said while Government takes heed of criticism on the manner in which the demonstrations were handled, the same critics have been suspiciously quiet on the behaviour of the MDC-Alliance.

"We take due note of the criticism which has come from various quarters. We also take note of the deafening silence, from those same quarters, regarding the callous actions of opposition formations and the cynical abuse of their followers in order to achieve an ultimately forlorn political objective," he said.

The MDC-Alliance, Minister Moyo said, has been mistaking the President's call for dialogue as a sign of weakness.

"Just hours before the illegal demonstration of 16th August, His Excellency again repeated that his door was open and his arms outstretched for such inclusive dialogue. MDC-A appear to have interpreted His Excellency's comments as a sign of weakness. Again, they erred," he said.

The minister also dismissed social media reports on fatalities during the demonstrations.

"Whilst the scenes which unfolded in our streets were indeed distressing to behold -- as they are in any such circumstances -- order was swiftly re-established and instances of serious confrontation avoided. There have been no reports of any serious injuries. Social media allegations of fatalities are simply 'fake news' and must be rejected with contempt," he said.

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