Union protest banned, court outlaws broad restriction of protests

Peaceful Assembly

On 11th October 2018, police officers arrested activists and trade union leaders ahead of a demonstration against the country’s ongoing economic crisis. Reports indicate that about 20 people were arrested in Mutare and 13 in Masvingo, and at least 19 people were arrested in Harare. Among those detained was Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - the country's largest trade union.

The union had planned national protests against sharp price hikes, a new tax on electronic transactions and daily shortages in basic commodities ranging from fuel to bread as the economy faces a new crunch.

Public gatherings were out lawed in the country in September 2018 by a public order, after a cholera outbreak killed dozens, and over 3,000 other cases were identified by health officials.

In a more positive development, on 18th October 2018, the Constitutional Court outlawed section 27 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which prohibited demonstrations without clearance from the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The Court found that the legislation was open to abuse by State machinery.

The judgment followed an application brought by the Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment, the National Vendors' Union of Zimbabwe, Combined Harare Residents' Association and the National Election Reform Agenda.

ZIMBABWE’S Constitutional Court’s Justice Makarau said:

“In addition to failing to pass the test on fairness, necessity and reasonableness, there is another feature of section 27 of POSA that I find disturbing. It has no time frame or limitation as to the number of times the regulating authority can invoke the powers granted to him or her under the section… Thus, a despotic regulating authority could lawfully invoke these powers without end. This could be achieved by publishing notices prohibiting demonstrations back-to-back as long as each time the period of the ban is for one month or less. It, thus, has the potential of negating or nullifying the rights not only completely, but perpetually.

Association

On 27th September 2018, the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered the Zimbabwean state to pay a total of 150,000 USD to Jestina Mungareva Mukoko, Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Board Member of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. The payment order was made in compensation for her abduction, incommunicado detention and torture by state security agents in 2008. On 3rd December 2008, Mukoko was abducted by unidentified armed men from her home and her whereabouts remained unknown until 24th December 2008, when she first appeared before the Harare Magistrates Court. Mukoko and two others were accused by the Government of “recruiting or goading other people to undergo military training in neighbouring Botswana aimed at toppling Robert Mugabe’s Government.” However, in September 2009, the High Court of Zimbabwe granted Ms. Mukoko a permanent stay of prosecution (an order restraining the state from pressing charges) because of the violations she had suffered in the hands state security agents.