SINCE January police have barred 84 ZANU PF rallies and meetings, more than the 59 from opposition parties, out of the 1 730 applications made by the country’s political parties and candidates.
The police statistics fly in the face of opposition claims that the police have been stopping their rallies, when in fact law enforcement agents have just been implementing the provisions of the law, mainly the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act which lays down a simple set of requirements ranging from a 72 notice period, proof that the venue owner agrees to the meeting, and the need to consult businesses and residents in the immediate vicinity of a proposed meeting.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the figures were obtained from all of the country’s police stations, which maintain registers of notifications that would have been made to police stations and districts through regulating authorities, who are the officers commanding.
Asst Nyathi said all political parties should inform police of any gathering so that law enforcements agents can carry out their duties in terms of providing security.
“Approved are 1 585. Of these ZANU PF notified 1 280 gatherings and 1 196 were sanctioned, CCC notified 343 and 300 were sanctioned, MDC-T notified 30 and 23 were sanctioned and other political parties made 77 notifications and 68 were sanctioned,” he said.
The police spokesperson said failure to comply with the provisions of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA), was the main reason why some rallies were turned down.
“People are not complying with provisions of MOPA like the issue of notification within 3 days or 72 hours, but some are failing to do so. There is also the issue of consultative processes. There is a difference between notification and compliance. You need to notify and then comply with the provisions of MOPA,” he said.
Ass Comm Nyathi added that some political parties wrongly believe that if they notify the police then their rally is sanctioned, however, that is not the case as people and businesses in the precincts of the chosen venue also have to be considered. “Consultative processes include people who are within the locality of where they intend to hold gatherings or rallies. If they have objections in terms of MOPA they should be noted down. If there are appeals they should go to local courts,” he said.
Ass Comm Nyathi added that when some party leaders give feedback to their supporters they fail to articulate the whole process that would have taken place for a gathering or rally to be disproved. “Sometimes people rush to say there is a ban yet in actual fact there is no ban. Police do not ban rallies. People should just comply with provisions of MOPA,” he said.
On the issue of venues, Asst Comm Nyathi police have no jurisdiction to grant one or deny it as that is provided for by institutions or individuals who own the facilities.
“However, sometimes people want to notify the police before they get authority or permission to use a particular venue. If they are denied the right to use venues, they then blame the police.
“That is why we are insisting that whoever notifies a gathering or a rally should also attach proof of having been given authority to use a particular venue where they intend to hold the rally.
“It will make the work of the police easier in terms of maintaining law and order in the country. Also, when people are notifying, there is no need to use a confrontational approach,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi also said police have observed an issue of executive meetings whose numbers however breach provisions of MOPA.
“Sometimes people say we want to have an executive meeting and there are clear provisions in terms of MOPA, but one would find that there will be 100 people as executive members or 500.
“One gets to wonder if an executive meeting should have so many figures. If neighbours raise objections and the police come to stop the meeting then it will be regarded as having interfered yet we are saying if it is an executive meeting let it be one with limited people be it a ward, cell, or branch,” he said.