The government’s Public Order and Security Act (POSA) requires Zimbabweans to seek permission from the police before meeting in groups of more than three to discuss politics. However, the law does not place restrictions on meetings of professional bodies and social groups such as schools or churches.
The Z$30 billion library that was due for commission on Friday at Tshangwa secondary school in rural Bulilima constituency, Matabeleland South province was sponsored by the British embassy in Harare.
The legislator for the area, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party told ZimOnline the police threatened to use force to stop the commissioning ceremony.
Mzila-Ndlovu said: Police did not give any solid reasons for the cancellation other than POSA. We (had) notified the police about the event but they decided to keep quiet until the last minute on Thursday night.
We had to cancel the Friday event since police were threatening to use force to stop the function.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was not immediately available for comment on the matter.
A British embassy official expressed disappointment at the interference by the police in an event that was entirely non-political, adding the police action deprived the community to celebrate a major achievement and months of hard work.”
Relations between Britain and Zimbabwe are at their lowest with London accusing President Robert Mugabe’s government of human rights abuses and ruining his country’s once brilliant economy.
Mugabe denies mismanaging Zimbabwe and instead claims an acute economic crisis gripping his country is because of sabotage by Britain and its Western allies bent on overthrowing his government as punishment for seizing white farmland to give to landless blacks.
Meanwhile, police on Friday stopped a lunch-hour civic society meeting in Bulawayo to discuss ongoing negotiations between Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party and the MDC because organisers had not sought permission.
An official of Bulawayo Agenda that had called the meeting said the police told the group they could go ahead with the meeting at their own peril.
Bulawayo Agenda co-ordinator Xolani Zitha said: Police only told us just before lunch hour to cancel the meeting, saying it was at our own peril if we went ahead with it.
ZANU PF and the MDC have since last April held talks under South African mediation aimed at finding a solution to Zimbabwe’s long running political and economic crisis. A key objective of the talks is to ensure free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
But political analysts say South African President Thabo Mbeki should urge Mugabe to end political violence, repeal his tough security and press laws if next year’s polls are to be free and fair. – ZimOnline
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