Zimbabwe: No Demo in Mutare, Opposition Supporters On Standby

Police in the eastern border city of Mutare late Wednesday issued another prohibition against a demonstration organised by the opposition MDC which was scheduled for Thursday.

This is the fifth opposition demonstration to be prohibited by police inside a week after such intended moves in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Masvingo were also upheld by the High Court.

Amid claims police and State security officials were going to ransack the MDC offices in Mutare, the opposition's provincial leaders called for a press conference at a privet office in the Manicaland capital at which chairperson Prosper Mutseyami insisted that the protests will proceed as planned pending an urgent High Court application appealing the ban.

"As a party the demonstration is on. That is paramount. The protest depends on our appeal in the courts because what the police have done to us is not normal. Whilst we wait for the court outcome we have put our supporters on standby just in case we get positive response from courts," said Mutseyami.

Responding to the MDC's notice of the plan to protest the police claimed the notification was defective.

In her response, Officer Commanding Mutare Central district Florence Marume said the convener did not notify the manner in which the participants will be transported to the place of assembly and from the point of dispersal.

"The notification was defective because it did not state the person and the place the petition was going to be handed over to.

"This office is not in support of the demonstration because of the defect noted in your notification letter and for reasons stated on the prohibition notice," said Marume.

However, in its prohibition order the police claimed the planned demonstration was likely to result in public disorder or breach of peace.

The order also stated that during a consultative meeting with stakeholders and business community of Mutare held on August 19, 2019 at around 09 00hrs at Mutare Central District Headquarters about 31 business people cited incidences of the 15 and 16 January 2019 protests that disrupted business in the city causing a lot of losses in business community.

"Further there is credible information on oaths and petitions from the business community indicating that the intended public demonstration may result in extensive loss or damage to property," reads the prohibition order.

But Mutseyami said it was not the duty of the police to represent the business people but the courts of law.

"The police have mentioned concerns by business people who were not even mentioned in their response. We wonder whether police have become advocates for business people.

"We thought if there was an association of business who had a disagreement with our intentions they were supposed to challenge us through the courts as prescribed in the country's laws," said Mutseyami.

Meanwhile, hordes of armed riot police officers have been deployed in the eastern border city to thwart any possible protest by opposition supporters.

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