Tuesday 18.4.2017 in Latest Developments in Zimbabwe Country Page
Zimbabwe's authorities continue to selectively apply the law on the right to freedom of assembly. For example, civil society organisations and opposition political parties more often face bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining the necessary permission to organise demonstrations. Groups linked to the ruling Zimbabwean African National Union Political Front (ZANU PF) party, however, are able to march without hindrance and without seeking prior police approval.
In two recent examples of such restrictions on peaceful assembly:
- On 22nd March and 5th April 2017, police prevented the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) - a coalition of opposition political parties - from marching and holding their meetings in the centre of Harare. NERA was told to confine its activities to the outskirts of the city centre, where there would be very little public attention. There was a heavy police presence on 22nd March with riot police and water cannons present in the capital.
- Water shortages led to a protest on 11 April 2017, as citizens armed with a petition marched to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZNWA). Police stopped the demonstrators from reaching ZNWA because of security concerns and potential for the protest to turn violent.
On 24th March 2017, Saviour Kasukuwere, Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development and the ZANU PF Political Commissar, threatened journalists from the state-owned newspaper The Herald for publishing articles deemed biased against him. Kasukuwere verbally assaulted the journalists and had to be physically restrained by a fellow cabinet minister. The Media Institute for Southern Africa's Zimbabwe chapter condemned the Minister's actions, stating:
"[Kasukuwere's] abusive statements, particularly against the journalists working for The Herald, exceeds the acceptable measure of fair criticism and can be interpreted as bordering on threats to the media even when they are discharging their lawful duties. Misa-Zimbabwe urges politicians and other public officials to exercise emotional restraint when they are addressing or interacting with the public mindful of the fact that journalists have the constitutional right to cover events as they unfold without hindrance".