Zim police ban union march

policeHARARE Heavily armed police backed by water cannons cordoned off a Harare shopping centre to block a public march by workers at the weekend, in yet another example of how little the countrys security forces have changed despite formation of a power-sharing government six months ago.

The police blocked the planned march by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) despite a High Court order authorising the demonstration that the labour movement wanted to hold to commemorate a ruthless crackdown by police on another union march two years ago during which 15 top ZCTU leaders were arrested and brutally assaulted.

In a letter to the ZCTU, police officer in charge of Harare South district Titus Chagwedera said the protest could not go ahead because it would open healed wounds.

Chagwederas letter delivered to the ZCTU on Saturday, the day the union was due to hold the march, said the police could not sanction the demonstration also because they did not have enough manpower to monitor the public march.

Having reviewed the objective of your intended commemoration and march, it was resolved that the commemoration will open already healed wounds, Chagwedera wrote. Also we are severely strained in terms of personnel to cover the event . . . therefore, the commemoration and march have not been approved.

The police action appeared in clear contempt of an ordered granted by High Court Judge Tedious Karwi earlier on Friday prohibiting the two ministers of home affairs and the police from interfering with the march and commemorations.

Karwi specifically ordered the police or anyone acting through them to allow the ZCTU members to march towards the venue of their 13 September 2009 commemorations on 12 September 2009.

The co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi from President Robert Mugabes ZANU PF party and Giles Mutsekwa from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais MDC party, were not immediately available for comment on the matter.

Mutsekwa announced last July that the government had instructed the police to allow citizens to demonstrate but said citizens would still be required to notify the police before taking to the streets.

ZCTU acting secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the police action at the weekend showed that Zimbabweans rights and freedoms remain circumscribed despite existence of a unity government that was launched with promises to stabilise the political environment, open up democratic space and inspire economic revival.

Moyo said: It is a very unfortunate decision which comes just two weeks after the government, labour and business signed the Kadoma Declaration, a document which advises the government to behave. We still have the same old government even if we have new faces in it. We will be taking up the issue with the courts because the police are defying court orders.

Mugabe ad Tsvangirais coalition government has promised to carry out training and re-education programmes for the police and other enforcement agencies to ensure they uphold citizens basic rights and freedoms.

But this and other reforms and programmes meant to enhance the rule of law, democracy and human rights have yet to be carried out.

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