Zvamaida Murwira, Harare Bureau
Government has not banned marches or demonstrations that are conducted in a peaceful manner and within the confines of the law, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo said people or organisations who made allegations of human rights abuse were entitled to those views but such opinions were not consistent with what was obtaining on the ground.
Minister Moyo said this in Senate on Thursday during a question and answer session.
He was responding to a question from Manicaland Senator Douglas Mwonzora (MDC Alliance), who wanted to know what the Government was doing to address concerns particularly from the British Parliament, over the human rights situation in the country, which is said to be an obstacle in rejoining the Commonwealth.
“All we can say is that there has been a human rights rapporteur who has been here and other personalities who have come to the country and expressed their own different opinions as far as the situation is concerned. What they say is their perception in as far as human rights abuses are concerned. They believe that this Government has banned demonstrations for good or something like that. As far as I know, it is not the policy of this Government to ban peaceful marches and demonstrations — that is not the case,” said Minister Moyo.
There have been claims from the MDC Alliance and civil society organisations that the Government is closing the “democratic space” through banning of marches and demonstrations.
The MDC-A has been making claims that its demonstrations are being banned but the police have denied the allegations, saying whenever that happens, they act within the confines of the law.
Last month, police had to disperse rowdy MDC-A youths who chanted slogans, disrupted traffic and harassed vendors along Nelson Mandela Avenue and First Street in Harare.
They had gathered outside Harvest House after the party had cancelled a rally approved by police in the open area near the Exhibition Park and opted for the party headquarters.
Police ordered the party’s supporters to assemble inside the venue and vacate the streets but they defied the order.
The police intervention then came after the rowdy supporters continued waving placards, singing and chanting before the arrival of party leader Nelson Chamisa.
Some shops in the surrounding area were temporarily closed and only reopened after police intervention.