Suspend or vary curfew: ZimRights  

Tarisai Machakaire

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights) has filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court for police and soldiers to be barred from harassing commuters after daily curfew commences at 6pm.

This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed a 12-hour curfew that starts at 6pm daily against increased demand for public transport, which the sole public transporter, Zupco, is struggling to meet.
In the court application, Zimrights cited Health minister and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, police commissioner- general Godwin Matanga, Defence Forces commander Valerio Sibanda, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe and Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri as respondents.
They want police and soldiers prohibited from dispersing people queuing for public transport and observing social distancing after 6pm and for them to be barred from using unreasonable and disproportionate force in enforcing the curfew order.
Zimrights also wants the curfew order suspended or varied to commence at 9pm.
Zimrights chairperson Takawira Mashingaidze said after the curfew became effective on July 22, armed police and soldiers began to disperse and harass people who queued for public transport, forcing them to commute to their homes on foot from town.
“It has to be noted that the majority of the affected people rely on public transport which is regrettably currently unable to meet demand such that one can wait for hours before the bus arrives which would be after the curfew,” Mashingaidze said.
“There is no justification for the harassment of people who would have lawfully entered into town during the day to do their personal or official business who then decide to wait for the public transport while exercising social distancing and wearing a face mask.”
He argued that the police should not use the curfew order to infringe on constitutionally- guaranteed rights.
“Unless the court intervenes, a pattern of intimidation, threats, assaults, humiliating and degrading treatment of citizens will take root and become the norm causing undue hardships to the public especially those who rely on public transport,” he added.


“The fact that there is a curfew does not justify the utter disregard of fundamental rights and freedoms of people. This is not a curfew to enforce law and order, but rather for the furtherance of the public health agenda to contain the coronavirus (Covid-19).”
Meanwhile, the High Court has postponed to August 18 an application filed by Passengers Association of Zimbabwe and Combined Residents Association challenging Zupco’s monopoly as a public transport provider during the lockdown.
The parties are being represented by Choice Damiso who will present arguments on the merits of the case on August 18 before Justice Tawanda Chitapi.
“The judge has ruled that the matter is urgent and will hear the arguments on the merits.
“If not, he would have dismissed it and not gone to the merits,” Damiso told the Daily News.

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