persecuted party

Zimbabwe: Police ban 92 CCC opposition party campaign rallies

By Farai Shawn Matiashe

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Posted on July 12, 2023 15:27

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party Citizen Coalition For Change (CCC) supporters stand outside Bindura Civil Court in Bindura, Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe, 9 July,2023. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party Citizen Coalition For Change (CCC) supporters stand outside Bindura Civil Court in Bindura, Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe, 9 July,2023. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change, has had nearly 100 of its election campaign rallies banned by the police for petty reasons over the past year.

Poor sanitation at the venue and the police’s lack of resources to facilitate the gathering were cited as reasons to prevent the rallies. In a period of one week alone, the police banned CCC’s six rallies scheduled across the country, including its 2023 election campaign launch rally at the weekend.

The CCC party was formed in 2022.

The Maintenance of Peace and Order Act, which governs gatherings, processions and public demonstrations, stipulates that political parties must notify the police if they are having any sort of convocation.

The police, who have often been accused of aligning with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), are using this law to create hurdles for the Nelson Chamisa-led party.

Chamisa is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s main rival in the general election slated for 23 August this year.

Thwarting CCC campaign launch

CCC was supposed to have its campaign launch in Bindura, about 100km from Harare, on Sunday, 9 July, before the police banned it at the 11th hour, citing a lack of toilet facilities and poor road access to the venue.

The party’s lawyers approached the magistrate court in Bindura, which set a date to hear the matter after the planned date for the rally. They then filed an urgent application at the High Court on Friday in a bid to have the decision overturned, but were referred back to the magistrate in Bindura.

On Sunday, the lower court upheld the police’s ban on the CCC campaign launch.

Police colluding with Zanu-PF

CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere accuses Zanu-PF of using the State apparatus at its disposal to suppress the main opposition party.

“Our mass rural penetration movement and get-out-the-vote campaign have shocked Zanu-PF. Nothing can stop us,” she tells The Africa Report.

“Zanu-PF can never win a free and fair election, which is why they are resorting to rally bans and abusing the police service to try to stop our campaign activity. They are terrified, unelectable and worse than Robert Mugabe,” she adds.

We are winning hearts and minds

She says CCC’s strategy is to reach the rural areas across the country which are Zanu-PF’s strongholds.

“We are undeterred by this unconstitutional conduct. Chamisa and our cluster leaders will continue to meet community leaders, traditional leaders, special interest groups, citizens and mobilisers keen for change,” she says.

“While Zanu-PF is capturing State institutions to ban our rallies, we are winning hearts and minds,” she adds.

In an internal police memorandum leaked to the local media, police commanders at headquarters in Harare chided provincial commanders from banning political party rallies, saying it discredits the credibility of the elections.

“Of late, social media has been awash with incidents where some political parties claim to have been denied the right to hold their rallies by the police, resulting in skirmishes,” reads part of the memorandum which the police later acknowledged as authentic on their official Twitter handle.

“These skirmishes are discrediting the electoral processes. Commanders are requested to ensure that political parties are allowed to hold rallies unless there are very valid reasons to warrant such rejections. Under such circumstances, regulating authorities are urged to thoroughly consult before coming up with decisions to deny any political player an opportunity to hold a rally or meeting.”

Policing based on political affiliation

Analysts say it appears there is a law for CCC and a different one for the ruling party. Zanu-PF was permitted to ferry its supporters from all over the country to a Mnangagwa campaign launch event in Chipinge last month.

The ruling party activists are allowed to sing party songs outside the venue and to force-march citizens to their gatherings.

Our police services have been reduced to security and vigilante arms of Zanu-PF

This is a different story from what happened to CCC where the police disrupt rallies and arrest supporters, as evidenced during Chamisa’s Masvingo province tour which was invaded by the police working alongside Zanu-PF members.

“It is not only unfair but also an abuse of state security apparatus for police to ban CCC meetings,” says political analyst Maxwell Saungweme.

“The role of the police must be to protect people at CCC rallies,” says Saungweme.

“Unfortunately, the politicisation of our police services is more than four decades long and our police services have been reduced to security and vigilante arms of Zanu-PF,” he says.

Clearly, CCC has been systematically denied its political rights and freedom of assembly in terms of rallies, says political analyst Vivid Gwede.

“The same restrictions have, however, not been faced by its main protagonist, the ruling Zanu-PF party. Zanu-PF has not only been allowed to gather people, but even to bus supporters to their meetings,” he tells The Africa Report.

Police abuse dents poll credibility

Saungweme says the banning of CCC rallies is one of the many ways the 23 August elections have already been rigged.

“Other methods include constituency gerrymandering from the delimitation process, the voters roll [being in a] shambolic state, not giving fair airplay to CCC on national media channels, abuse of state resources for Zanu-PF campaigns and the capturing of institutions including police, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, state media and judiciary,” he says.

“In short, the electoral playfield is already tilted in favour of Zanu-PF, and the elections are already not free and fair.”

In Chiredzi, 432km from Harare, police arrested eight CCC supporters who had defied the ban to attend a rally. Chamisa ended up holding the rally in Masvingo, some 200km away from Chiredzi.

In Bikita, southeastern Masvingo province, former deputy information minister and aspiring MP Energy Mutodi reportedly fired gunshots at CCC members who had gathered at a township waiting for Chamisa’s arrival.

Mutodi and other Zanu-PF activists who disrupted CCC events have not been arrested.

“The police not only forbid CCC rallies but actively intimidate supporters by making arrests and employing violence,” says political analyst Lazarus Sauti.

“It is obvious that the law has been weaponised prior to the elections,” he says.

“The ongoing restriction on CCC rallies will not only make the elections on August 23 a complete farce but also harm Zimbabwe’s fragile political landscape,” he adds.

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