SENATOR LILIAN TIMVEOS
POLICE BAN ON DZAMARA PRAYER RALLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL
30 August, 2015.
As Senator for the Midlands Province and resident of Zvishavane, I am deeply shocked and dismayed by the ZRP’s ban of a lawful prayer meeting for the missing activist Mr Itai Dzamara in Zvishavane on Saturday, August 22, 2015. This heartless action was unconstitutional, unwarranted, unfair and only served to put the Government into disrepute.
Elements of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and others allegedly drawn from the Zimbabwe Prison Services and dressed up in police uniforms prevented the family of Mr Dzamara and many others from praying for his safe return. What kind of society is this, where people are banned from praying for their missing loved ones?
For the record, the convener of the prayers, Dr Patson Dzamara, Itai’s brother, obtained police authorization for the prayers well in advance. Dr Dzamara then invited heads of several church denominations and political parties to participate as speakers and observers. The MDC-T President, Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai travelled to Zvishavane for the event.
It is shocking that although Dr Dzamara sought and obtained police permission for the prayer meeting, this was changed by the riot police officers who stopped the rally on the day. Not only was that a violation of the people’s constitutional right to practice their religion, it was also a breach of the constitutionally-enshrined rights to freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of expression.
I am very concerned that a written order by the ZRP permitting the meeting was disregarded without notice, in violation of the law. Attempts by the organizers to get explanations from the police were met with arrogance and threats and no logical reasons were given. The public would like to know who gave the order for a lawful meeting to be banned in this way and for the participants to be treated as criminals.
The actions of those who carried out this brutal operation are to be condemned in the strongest terms. Information reaching my office shows that many people who turned up at the venue, Mandava stadium in Zvishavane, were beaten, arrested, threatened and generally harassed. A night curfew was imposed on the town and people were not allowed to move in twos. The presence of riot police in full armour patrolling Zvishavane’s streets, along with three water cannons, was clearly meant to intimidate and achieved the desired effect of cowing the people into silence. Is that democracy?
Statements attributed to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and quoted by the ZBC on the incident were clearly not helpful. The Dzamara family is in pain and deep anguish. The last thing they want to hear are unsympathetic statements from politicians whose party is suspected to have been involved in the kidnapping and disappearance of Mr Dzamara.
The constitution is clear that it is the state’s duty to find missing persons. Despite a High Court order, the police and other departments tasked with assisting in the search have not reported any significant progress in the search for him. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Dzamara family is appealing to all people who can assist the search to come to their aid. It should be the duty of our police service to assist people in distress, not to harass and treat them as criminals.
I know that a large number of our police officers are only trying to do their job. It is now time to defy illegal and unconstitutional orders issued on political grounds for them to brutalize the people.
Statement issued by Honourable Senator Lilian Timveos, Senator for the Midlands Province, Shadow Minister, National Secretary and Spokesperson for Domestic Affairs, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T)
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SENATOR LILIAN TIMVEOS