HARARE – The police’s decision to ban an MDC Alliance rally in Harare’s Glen View suburb is tragic under a new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
This comes just after Mnangagwa told a meeting with business leaders on Thursday ahead of his maiden trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos next week that he usually thanks the opposition in Parliament for criticism because it helps him and his party to reform so that they stay in government longer.
So, proscribing the MDC Alliance rally only serves to starve ED of the counsel that can only be gained in the open as the opposition propagates itself.
While this ban could be the action of overzealous cops suffering some paradigm shift paralysis, we have no doubt that the police will be hard-pressed to justify a decision that seems mainly designed to block the gathering planned to welcome opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on his return from a medical sabbatical. There is really no cogent reason to curtail legitimate political activity.
The rights of assembly, association, and expression are protected in our expansive Bill of Rights and must not be curtailed in a manner reminiscent of the dictatorial one-party mindset of fallen despot Robert Mugabe.
Unless there was a real and present security threat, the decision announced by the police to bar the MDC Alliance rally will be seen as a crass manoeuvre to halt a series of opposition gatherings set for the coming weeks and months.
Curiously, the same police force okayed the MDC Alliance rally on Sunday in Epworth.
In our democratic political dispensation, it cannot be the role of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to block political rallies at the behest of the ruling party.
After all, ED has openly pronounced that even United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) were both welcome to monitor the elections.
He has said he wants “fair, free and credible elections,” in an interview with the authoritative Financial Times this week.
The security chiefs who made the decision should be well aware that barring legitimate political expression could be counter-productive if those barred from meeting decide to defy the ban and exercise their rights, setting the stage for confrontation and conflict.
The police and other security agencies are bound by their oath of office, and by the Constitution, to discharge their duties independent of direction and control of anyone.
We need a departure from the Augustine Chihuri era gentlemen. The onus is on those who decided to ban political gatherings to show they were reacting to valid security concerns.