21 November 2017
Dear Commissioner -General Augustine Chihuri
On Saturday 18 November 2018, thousands of Zimbabweans gathered in Harare and Bulawayo to march against the continued stay in power of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe. This was the first time that Zimbabweans were allowed to exercise their constitutional right to petition without police interference in a long time despite the constitution being clear in section 59 that every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions but these rightists must be exercised peacefully. The constitution further says in Section 67 2d that every person has the right to participate individually or collectively in gatherings or groups or in any other manner , in peaceful activities to influence, challenge or support the policies of the government or any political or whatever cause.
On Saturday Zimbabweans demonstrated beyond any doubt that they can exercise these rights peacefully and without infringing on other people’s rights.
Previous attempts to march have resulted in police blocking the marches often resorting to heavy handed tactics even in instances where there has been clearance or court orders authorising such marches under the pretext of preserving law and order. In 2016 the government issued Statutory Instrument 101A, which temporarily prohibited demonstrations in the Central Business District of Harare after citing violence during protests.
However the huge protest march in the two major cities particularly Harare where no serious incidents of damage to property or criminality were recorded despite the absence of police should force a rethink of the Zimbabwe Republic Police incessant claims that protests are associated with violence and looting. Apart from minor destruction of road signs targeting Robert Mugabe Way and miscellaneous traffic offences , the Zimbabwe Peace Project monitors on the ground did not record any other incidents of violence or malicious injure to property. These are minor infractions that do not warrant a complete curtailment of people’s rights as provided for in section 59 and 67.
Indeed the peace and calm that prevailed on this day must inspire the ZRP not to assume the worst about Zimbabwean citizens.
Police are urged to swap provocative and heavy handed tactics in law and order to more inclusive methods that consult all stakeholders which strike a balance between a duty in maintaining order and allowing citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.
We must emulate other countries such as South Africa that maintain a database on protests and public violence. The data collected from this has revealed that policing methods and police conduct are often the catalyst of violence. The Zimbabwe Republic Police must also keep such data and use scientific methods in crowd control to mitigate against unnecessary infringement of people’s rights.
As ZPP we hope that lessons will be drawn from these peaceful protests and herald a new chapter where police respect citizens rights and engage the public to ensure orderly and peaceful protests.
ZPP is a Non Governmental Organization that was founded in 2000 by a group of faith based and human rights NGOs working and interested in human rights and peace-building initiatives. ZPP has become a vehicle for civic interventions in times of political crises. In particular, ZPP seeks to monitor and document incidents of human rights violations and breaches of peace.
If you are concerned about acts of violence in your community, ZPP encourages you to get in touch with us on Hotline and WhatsApp numbers
+263 774 883 406 and +263 774 883 417
Toll Free: 080 80199