Government lays law on planned opposition protests

George Charamba

MDC-Alliance and its leadership will be held accountable if their planned demonstration on Thursday results in loss of life and limb or damage to property, Government has said.

MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa, who last week branded “stupid” demonstrators who took part in the August 1 demonstrations which left six people dead and damaged property, said his party will march against the Government on Thursday.

It emerged yesterday that the planned protests have nothing to do with economic issues, but are meant to pressure President Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF to share power with Mr Chamisa and his party.

Mr Chamisa told London-based international news magazine, The Guardian Weekly that his Thursday protests would call for a “transitional authority” to “move the country forward”.

Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications), who is also the Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba, yesterday said the onus was on the opposition political outfit to ensure there was no injury to life and damage to property.

“Section 59 of the Constitution is very clear, it confers the right to demonstrate on all Zimbabweans,” he said.

“There is no intention of withdrawing that constitutional right except there is a qualification on that right both at the level of the Constitution and subsidiary law.

“Apparently, our laws place a burden on the organisers of that demonstration to make sure there is no injury to life, limb or property. In the event of any damage at whatever level, the onus is on the organisers and that must be known fully by the MDC-Alliance.

“By their own admission, they are the ones who have approached the police, they are the ones who have called for the demonstration and we assume all demonstrators belong to them. So, we hold them fully and squarely accountable. They are liable jointly and severally.”

Mr Charamba said certain protected areas will be a no-go area for opposition supporters.

“There are certain places which are protected at law which means you can’t violate those places and there is a difference between expressing your grievance and violating the law,” he said.

“Certain things may not happen.”

In November last year when Zimbabweans demonstrated against former President Mr Robert Mugabe, security forces were on alert and barred people from entering protected areas like State House.

Mr Charamba went on: “This country has a precedent of abuse of Section 59 by way of events of August 1 for which a whole international Commission of Inquiry has been set up.

“The act of setting up the Commission is our own way of saying NO to untoward behaviour during the pursuit and enjoyment of Section 59. About this, let not more be said.”

Mr Charamba said ultimately, a right presupposes continuity of life and “there must be the Zimbabwean State, Zimbabwean life and the morning after the demonstration for everyone.”

“Government has taken note of statements from MDC Alliance leader (Mr Chamisa) to say that nations are built on love and unity and we hope that being a pastor, he will live the verse,” he said.

Security agencies have said they are ready to deal with anyone found breaking the law.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema last week said Government had put in place security measures to deal with malcontents planning to disturb the peace prevailing in the country. – Herald