Police block public debate on constitution in Harare

MDC-99 President Job Sikhala

By Violet Gonda
27 February 2013

The police have yet again come under heavy criticism after blocking a public meeting organized by the Media Centre in Harare on Wednesday. The public debate on the draft constitution, was to include senior members of ZANU PF, the MDC formations, ZAPU, Mavambo Dawn/Kusile political parties and the National Constitutional Assembly.

One of the scheduled speakers, the President of the MDC-99 Job Sikhala, said he was notified by the Media Center on the morning of the discussion and told that the police had banned the indaba.

Sikhala told SW Radio Africa he was told the police banned the meeting for a number of reasons including the issue of how panelists were selected. The police also said they are “no longer allowing public meetings to be convened by NGOs outside the arrangements of government.”

Talking about the popularity of meetings arranged by civic groups Sikhala said: “They are extremely popular. Zimbabweans are anxious to hear how their country is going to move forward. These are well advertised platforms for Zimbabweans to express their democratic views and the police officers are now becoming more and more dangerous in curtailing the democratic discourse in our country.”

Sikhala urged the NGOs to challenge this latest police ban in the courts and also said they must “start organizing demonstrations against such clampdowns.”

Media Centre programs officer Charles Saki confirmed the meeting had been cancelled even though they had given the police advance notice. The organisation is planning to organize the event again in a few days.

A law that police frequently use to silence the masses is the repressive Public Order and Security Act. Recently the parliamentary watchdog, Bill Watch, issued a report about the MDC-T Mutare Central legislator, Innocent Gonese, who tried to revive the POSA Amendment bill in the Senate.  After over an hour of debate a vote was taken and Gonese’s motion was rejected by 28 votes to 17. Bill Watch said the vote illustrates ZANU-PF’s domination of the Senate; the Chiefs who voted followed the ZANU-PF lead.

However, Bill Watch said this is not necessarily the end of the Bill saying: “Gonese is to table a motion in the House of Assembly asking that the Bill, as passed by the House in December 2009, be sent to the President for assent, despite the Senate’s rejection of his motion.”

Constitutional Minister Eric Matinenga, who has called for the suspension of POSA, says he was surprised to hear that the police had banned the Media Centre public gathering.

“If this is the position it’s very sad because I had actually been saying this unpacking of the draft should be done as expansively as possible. I am concerned if that indeed is the position.”

“In fact as I speak to you I have written a letter to the co-Home Affairs Ministers, suggesting that during the outreach programme we did not really apply POSA strictly and there is no reason why that relaxed approach should not be applied today when we are now seeking to create awareness on the part of the public about the contents of the constitution,” Matinenga revealed.

The latest development comes as police is escalating their clampdown on civil society organizations, as the country prepares for crucial elections.
Deputy police commissioner-general responsible for operations, Innocent Matibiri, told a parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs earlier this week the police will also target NGOs that have been distributing shortwave radios in the country and will confiscate radio receivers from listeners.

According to the state controlled media hundred of radios, which people use to listen to external radio stations, have been confiscated already and some distributors arrested across the country. A number of NGOs, such as the Zimbabwe Peace Project, have fallen victim to police raids and confiscations of communication equipment.

The move was slammed by many, including the Regional Integration and International Cooperation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who protested by walking into Tuesday’s cabinet with a radio and is said to have demanded to know how the receivers are illegal.

Misihairabwi –Mushonga, who is also the MDC Secretary General, had earlier addressed a meeting in Gwanda where she challenged the police to arrest her for owning the shortwave receiver.

“I have the little radios here, if the cops want to arrest me they can come. It’s a right for everybody to listen to information that they want. Surely how can we have a situation where when you touch a radio you are arrested. If I had more of them I would have given you and see if they arrest us all and take us to jail,” said Mushonga.

“Because it is nonsensical that in a country that was liberated we are still being denied the right to listen to what we want to listen to. We won the right to listen to whatever we want to listen to because it is there in the new constitution,” she said.

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14 Responsesto “Police block public debate on constitution in Harare”

  1. TANETA says:

    police state , please give us a break this was just a simple debate not a meeting to organize a coup ,what are you scared of anyway.kuvhunduka chati kwatara hunge une katurukwa.

  2. super mondo says:

    there are so many police that will have to go on trial when the civil war ends.be warned.the war only started in 1980.

  3. wilbert_mukori says:

    Mugabe is now really panicking that this Copac rubbish will be rejected. Vote No and Mugabe and Zanu PF will be finished!

    • Yepec says:

      Mugabe is not worried at the Referendum results which he has accepted as an overwhelming “Yes vote” but the elections that will follow. He would like the NO votes to win but knows that is not the case. A win for him and his Party, is a must in the elections to follow, so that he can die in office or resign when somebody taking over promises to protect him.

      • wilbert_mukori says:

        I have said a thousand times and will say it again you, Yepec, Tsvangirai and the rest of the MDC leadership’s incompetence is truly breath taking! Ask yourself what would a NO vote do?

        It will mean a new body will be instituted to implement the reforms and write a new DEMOCRATIC constitution. No one would accept the three political parties constituting this GNU can be trusted to carry out the same tasks when they clearly failed to do these last five years.

        Implement the reforms and write a democratic constitution will mean free and fair elections – with no violence, a free media, etc. That is the one thing Mugabe and Zanu PF DO NOT want.

        Of course implementing the reforms will mean the party’s own performance coming under the full free media scrutiny and a real competition of ideas will ensue. New political players quick off their feet and smart as a whistle will emerge in this new democratic green valleys with cool mountain streams.

        Given this MDC current crop of deadwood and flawed and indecisive leaders, will they survive the new competition? I do not think so! So it would seem MDC as it is presently constituted would too be better off with the chaotic status quo fighting a discredited dictatorship in this politic Sahara desert were their own competence is never closely scrutinized. So a yes vote would be in Tsvangirai
        and MDC’s best interest.

        Yes I agree that a yes vote would be in the best interests of Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the best interest of Zanu PF and MDC in their own selfish and narrow minded kind of way.

        But when the people cast their vote in the referendum it is not what is in the interest of Mugabe, Tsvangira, Zanu PF or MDC that they should be concerned about but what is in the best interest of themselves as individuals, the nation at large and posterity. There is no doubt that there is a convergence of the interests of individual, national and posterity in having the reforms implemented now and move the nation finally out of the Sahara Desert of tyranny and corruption into the green valleys of democracy, freedom, liberty and prosperity – Kudyiwa zhezha nechirimo!

        A yes vote in the referendum means people agree to go ahead with elections although the reforms have NOT been implementing. Whether or not the people fully appreciate the consequences of that is irrelevant; it is assumed that they do, ignorance is no excuse; and the consequence is that there will be a repeat of wanton political violence of 2008!

        Mugabe has his terror machine well-oiled with money from the sale of Marange diamonds. He has sworn there will be no regime change and he is not one to mince his words. There will be election violence; that is certain!

        The gruesome death of that 12 year old boy, Christpower Simbarashe Maisiri, should be the wakeup call to all Zimbabweans to stop and think before they commit the whole nation to yet another meaningless and bloody election process. People must vote no and force the implementation of the reforms so all future elections are free and fair – free of all this mindless violence.

        The greatest tribute Zimbabwe can ever pay to Christpower is not that Prime Minister Tsvangirai and x number of his Ministers attended his funeral but that he was the last victim of Zimbabwe’s culture of mindless political violence!

        • Yepec says:

          Wilbert, are you back into your old habit of racing clouds in the sky? It seems like you are now saying anything that comes to your mind first without regards to its being factual or not – a sign of a mentally challenged person

          • wilbert_mukori says:

            You notice you have not said a single thing I said which is not “factual”.

    • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

      You are either ill-advised or simply an idiot if you think Mugabe will have sleepless nights over the rejection of the COPAC initiative. If anything, this is what Mugabe wants as the country will revert to the Lancaster House Constitution that gives him enormous powers which have largely been curtailed by the COPAC draft constitution. Either way you think about the COPAC draft constitution, ‘kumama chete’. Be advised not to fool people on legal issues you are not acquainted with, mate. Nobody can never be an expert political analyst and an expert legal legal professional at the same time. We all know you the newly found political analyst for SW Radio Africa but you have no idea about legal issues as you always fumble when you discuss legal matters. Your best bet is to leave legal matters to people who are best equipped to deal with them.

  4. Both parties want a yes vote so this is not a mugabe tsvangirai issue its just a police issue.

  5. Common Sense says:

    ZANU-PF are scared again and have to cheat their way ahead to try and win.

    Your actions Mr & Mrs Policeman will only make MORE people NOT vote for ZANU-PF….

  6. Tanonoka Joseph Whande says:

    The MDC has lost direction. How can it possibly be involved in this rubbish? This is the period when lawmakers should be criss-crossing the country explaining and answering questions about the constitution to people. But, alas, all political parties are campaigning for a yes vote from the very people who are being taught about the constitution. Will politicians be satisfied if people just cast their vote weather or not they understand this wretched document? Will they be able to bank on such results? Why are people being arrested for discussing the draft constitution while ZANU-PF people and chiefs are left to influence people with wrong self-serving information? MDC is a shameful group to say the least. Tsvangirai should be paying attention to all thats happening at home at this critical time instead of travelling to Asia to receive useless honorary degrees from dubious and meaningless universities.

  7. Chimbwidos Warvets says:

    Ko yo mhanza ya Obert Gutu kupenya kunge guyo redovi. Akaiwana kupi mhanza inopenya kudaro mwana wazuru isu mbiriyakare tisina? Mazuva anokwave nemushonga unoita kuti vudzi ridzoke zvakare. Obert Gutu should go and see his medical practitioner for advice to get his falling hair back. It must be embarrassing for a young man like him whose hair is always falling off but Obert Gutu’s problem can easily be resolved through medication and treatment if he seeks advice from his doctor.

    • Yepec says:

      For your information that is the MDC-99 President, Job Sikhala, in the picture above. Stop your hallucination and come to reality, he does not look like Gutu, t all. By the way, the liberation struggle ended in 1979 (fake war veteran) !.

  8. wilbert_mukori says:

    Zimbabwe is spending a staggering US$ 100 million to hold this referendum and the whole process is totally discredited because of the actions of this regime by denying the people the opportunity to read, share ideas with others so they understand what this Copac constitution is saying before they vote!

    The silence from PM Tsvangirai and MDC on this is deafening!

    Any thinking Zimbabwean out there should be asking themselves what surprises Mugabe has in store for the nation once he gets his yes vote safely in the bag!

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