Chiadzwa villagers seeks to overturn ZRP ban of protest over diamond proceeds

SOME villagers in Chiadzwa in Manicaland province have asked a Zimbabwean court to overturn a police ban of their protest against failure by some diamond mining companies to share proceeds from the exploitation of diamonds in their area.

The villagers resorted to taking legal action to challenge a Zimbabwe
Republic Police (ZRP) ban of their protest after Chief Superintendent
Plaxedes Mbira, the Officer Commanding ZRP Mutare Rural District
refused on two occasions to sanction their demonstration.

Newman Chiadzwa, a Trustee of Chiadzwa Community Development Trust
wrote to Mbira as the Regulating Authority of ZRP Mutare Rural
District on 26 October 2022 notifying him of his organisation’s
intention to stage a demonstration on 8 November 2022 and to hand over
a petition to some diamond mining companies operating in Chiadzwa in
Manicaland province.

Chiadzwa said the demonstration was aimed at demanding payment of
proceeds from the diamond sales, which was promised to the Chiadzwa
community under the Chiadzwa Community Share Ownership Trust in 2019
by government, which owns a stake in the diamond mining companies.

Chiadzwa protested that the Chiadzwa community is languishing in
poverty while diamonds are being extracted and sold and hence the
community deserves to have its share from the sales.

In response to Chiadzwa’s letter, Mbira on 30 October 2022, advised
him that his notice to stage a demonstration did not comply with
provisions of section 7(2)(h) and section 10(1)(c) of the Maintenance
of Peace and Order (MOPO) Act.

Mbira further stated that she could not guarantee the conduct and
behavior of the protestors within Chiadzwa, which is a protected area,
and proceeded to invoke the provisions of section 5(2) of the
Protected Places and Areas Act, which provides that conduct and
movement of persons within a protected area ought to be regulated or
directed by an authorised officer.

On 3 November 2022, Chiadzwa once again wrote a letter to Mbira
notifying her of his intention to hold the demonstration and petition
at Zengeni, which is a village in Chiadzwa on 15 November 2022.

But this too was turned down by Mbira on 9 November 2022, who advised
Chiadzwa that the demonstration could not go ahead on the basis that
his notice was not in compliance with section 10(1)(c) of MOPO Act,
which bars demonstrations within a radius of 100 metres of any
protected place. Mbira also referred to section 5(2) of the Protected
Places and Areas Act stating that he could not guarantee the conduct
and behavior of the protestors within a protected area.

This left Chiadzwa with no option but to engage Kelvin Kabaya of
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who on 11 November 2022 filed an
application at Mutare Magistrates Court seeking an order to set aside
the prohibition notice issued by Mbira and to bar ZRP from interfering
with the intended demonstration.

In the application, Kabaya argued that Mbira had misinterpreted and
misapplied the law. The human rights lawyer argued that section
10(1)(c) of MOPO relied upon by Mbira cannot be read in isolation but
should be read together with section 10(2) of MOPO, which provides
that subsection 1 of section 10 does not apply to gatherings for which
a seven days’ prior notice has been given to the Regulatory Authority.

Kabaya insisted that the intended demonstration was exempt from the
provisions of section 10(1)(c) relied upon by the Regulating Authority
and argued that it could not have been the purpose of the Protected
Places and Areas Act to completely prohibit the exercise of
constitutionally guaranteed rights even in protected areas.

Hearing of the application will continue on 1 December 2022 before
Mutare Magistrate Xavier Chipato.

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