Police taken to court over new measures

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LAWYERS yesterday approached the High Court challenging the decision by the police to tighten the national coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown measures, arguing it was unconstitutional.

This comes as the police at the weekend announced a raft of measures to contain and mitigate the spread of the pandemic, among them stiffer requirements for travelling citizens.
The measures followed an imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew by President Emmerson Mnangagwa starting last Wednesday as the number of Covid-19 cases continued to soar.
As of Sunday, the country had recorded 2 512 cases, including 34 deaths and 518 recoveries.
In an urgent High Court application, the  Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe and legal practitioner Nontokozo Tachiona cited police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga, national spokesperson Paul Nyathi and Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe as respondents.
Commissioner General Godwin Matanga

The lawyers argued the police had unilaterally made a law by introducing the new measures when the Constitution does not empower them to do so.

“The second respondent (Nyathi), a law enforcement agent, issued a press statement demanding that applicants and everyone else coming to work must produce certain particulars before being allowed to pass through police checkpoints and roadblocks, when such particulars are not required in terms of any law, which request is unlawful, unconstitutional, infringes applicants’ constitutional right to freedom of movement and is inconveniencing.
“The respondents have acted illegally and unconstitutionally by assuming law making powers, which power does not exist in terms of any law,” read the urgent application.
“It is also their argument that the police intend to use the law which they created illegally at the expense of applicants’ fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution,” the court papers read.
“The measures and the requirements that the respondents seek to introduce are not found in any existing law, they constitute a new law which neither Statutory Instruments 83 of 2020 nor 174 of 2020, respectively, ever contemplated. The respondents have acted illegally and unconstitutionally by assuming law making powers, which power will never be available to them,” read the application. The lawyers want the police barred from executing their measures.
“Applicants seek an interdict barring respondents from acting upon and giving effect to ZRP press statement issued on July 25, 2020 as well as declaring that press statement, on the return day, to be ultra vires Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 as amended by Statutory Instrument 174 of 2020.”
This comes after the police announced that essential service workers in the health sector would now be required to wear uniforms when going to work and also produce their work-related identity cards while those who work in  civilian attire must carry with them a letter from a medical superintendent or chief executive officer (CEO) stating the place, dates and times of reporting on and off duty with contact details of the CEO to be indicated on the letter.
For those who work for companies or organisations, letters from their CEOs or general managers were a must, while government and parastatal employees must have exemption letters from directors and provincial heads for those working in the provinces.
Commercial A2 and A1 farmers are now required to produce an offer letter or lease agreement and an exemption letter from a local officer in charge,  while communal farmers would have to produce a supporting letter from the headman or village head also stating the business to be done, the date, time of completion.
At the same time, Nyathi said, food retailers and sole traders must produce certified copies of a shop licence and an exemption letter from local officer in charge of police station, while security guards must be in their uniforms and produce an ID and letter from the management indicating the contact details of the company CEO.


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