IN yet another big blow on efforts to level the political playing field ahead of the August 23 harmonised elections, police in Chiredzi, Masvingo province, yesterday banned opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)’s campaign rally and fired teargas canisters to disperse hundreds of party supporters gathered for the event.
CCC leader Nelson Chamisa was expected to address the rally at Tshovani Stadium ahead of the launch of the party’s election manifesto in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province on Saturday.
In banning the Chiredzi rally, police claimed the event coincided with a State event and also failed to comply with security requirements prescribed under section 8 of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (Chapter 11:23).
“Your notification has not been approved in terms of section 8 of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act [Chapter 11:23]. There will be a State occasion on 05/07/23 for the official opening of Rusununguko Clinic in Chiredzi by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Masvingo province where all resources are focused,” read a police statement dated July 3, 2023.
CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere confirmed the ban, saying it would not deter them from their mission to penetrate so-called Zanu PF strongholds.
“Our mass rural penetration movement and ‘Get out to Vote’ campaign in Chiredzi and Chikombezi have shocked Zanu PF. Nothing can stop us. Today’s events prove beyond doubt that Zanu PF can never win a free and fair election, which is why they’re resorting to rally bans and abusing the police service to try and stop our campaign activity. They are terrified, unelectable and worse than (late former President) Robert Mugabe. We are undeterred by this unconstitutional conduct. President Nelson Chamisa has gone ahead with his presidential tour of Masvingo province and is meeting community leaders, traditional leaders, special interest groups and citizens in various parts of the province including Chiredzi and Chikombezi. While Zanu PF is capturing State institutions to ban our rallies, we are winning the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans. We are building a Zimbabwe for everyone.”
The ban comes at a time when the opposition is crying foul over the uneven playing field where the ruling Zanu PF party is allowed to carry out its programmes unhindered while police and other State security agents are being used to thwart opposition activities.
This is not the first time that Chamisa’s rallies have been disrupted by police. In the run-up to the by-elections held in March last year, several of his campaign rallies were banned by the police while others turned violent following infiltration by suspected Zanu PF supporters.
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Constitutional lawyer and National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku yesterday said his party also had its meetings disrupted. Madhuku added that the playing field will only be level after implementation of electoral reforms proposed in 2018 .
“We regret that but part of the problem is that we did not do enough as opposition to make sure that these laws are changed and now they are being used against us,” he said.
“We need better laws but for now parties must abide by the law and where necessary try to avoid confrontations with the police because we don't want a repeat of 2008, we want a different election in 2023.”