Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zimbabwe Refutes Western Claims of 'Ban on Demonstrations'

‘No ban on demonstrations’

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT has dismissed as "false" reports, emanating mainly from the West, that the Zimbabwe Republic Police does not allow people to demonstrate.

Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, co-Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa said demonstrations were allowed, but certain procedures had to be followed, as in any other country.

"Section 93 of the Zimbabwe Constitution gives the ZRP the responsibility for preserving the internal security of and maintaining law and order in Zimbabwe.

"The ZRP fulfils its mandate by enforcing laws and regulations that are made by Parliament," he said.

Minister Mutsekwa said the rationale of these laws was to try and strike a balance between the rights of those who want to demonstrate and those who want to proceed with their daily business without hindrance.

He said many people misconstrued the role of the police in managing public order situations.

"This is particularly so when it comes to the requirement to give notice to the police by convenors of public meetings, gatherings or processions.

"The notification is not meant to be some form of application for permission from the police to proceed with the intended gathering or procession," he said.

Minister Mutsekwa said the intention was to initiate a process of consultations and negotiations between the police and the convenor on how best the procession or gathering may be managed.

"It would be inviting chaos, for example, if persons any where, any time were allowed to hold public processions or gatherings in public places without the knowledge of the police.

"The obvious result will be the mayhem that will be created by vehicular and human traffic, particularly in built-up areas such as towns and cities," he said.

The purpose for notification was to ensure that the police and convenor could agree on the modalities of the gathering or meeting.

These include the venue, time, duration and date of gathering, the anticipated number of participants, the appointment of marshals, the exact and complete route of the procession or demonstration and the time and place where participants in the procession or public demonstration are to assemble.

Police and convenors must also agree on the time and place where the demonstration is to end, and the manner in which the participants would be transported to the place of assembly and from the assembly of dispersal.

The number and types of cars, if any, which are to form part of the procession and if any petition or other document is to be handed over to someone, the place thereof, are others details that should be agreed on.

"It is abundantly clear the above parameters set by Parliament are not meant to hinder, but to smoothen the policing of public gatherings and processions," said Minister Mutsekwa.

"Only those with ulterior motives would want to circumvent the requirement to give notice to the police."

He said the law "frowns" on those who want to hold public gatherings and processions without notifying the police.

Any person who knowingly failed to give notice of a gathering or procession shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment.

The Minister said where the situation got out of hand and people were killed or injured and property destroyed, as a result of the demonstration, police were empowered to use firearms to disperse the gathering.

"We must underline here that it is never the intention of police to use minimum force willy-nilly. Only in rare circumstances will police resort to the use of minimum force to deal with unlawful public gatherings and processions," said Minister Mutsekwa.

He said it was clear that the law was necessary and the force would continue to enforce its provisions without fear or favour.

His co-Minister Kembo Mohadi said the role of the police was to protect lives and property and anyone who wanted to carry out a demonstration should notify the police.

He said police would then escort them when there was need.

"We are all required to observe the laws of Zimbabwe. As for the international community, whatever they heard about the laws, it is not true," said Minister Mohadi.

He said they had a meeting yesterday with Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and advised him that they should not "unnecessarily impede" people who would want to express their views.

"Even if the police say they do not have adequate resources, they would have assisted the situation, but you need to give them time and they will organise for a day for you.

"It’s a question of logistics," said Minister Mohadi.

There have been reports in local and international media that the ZRP will not tolerate any demonstrations.

Some civil society groups have in the past carried out illegal demonstrations.

Other groups that have been notifying the force have been provided with escorts so as to avoid mayhem and anarchy.

Mutambara’s baptism of fire

Herald Reporter

DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara drew the ire of African leaders yesterday when he suggested that no African leader had a brand worth selling where national visions are concerned, and that to be acceptable, the leaders and their countries needed Western endorsement.

Sources said DPM Mutambara, who was presenting a paper on "Strategies for integrating innovations in public service’’, had to leave the conference hall in a huff after the leaders, one after the other, wished Zimbabwe well should he ever assume the presidency.

The sources said the DPM’s presentation appeared to be going well, up to the point he appeared to suggest that Africa should be a chattel of the West.

‘‘What is Mugabe’s brand, what is Museveni’s brand, what is Kikwete’s brand? If a brand is to succeed it should be endorsed by the outsiders. Africa cannot endorse her own brand, Mugabe cannot endorse his own brand, Museveni can- not endorse his own brand, Kikwete cannot endorse his own brand. We need BBC, you need CNN, you need SkyNews to do it,’’ Ugandan sources who attended the plenary quoted DPM Mutambara as saying.

The sources said DPM Mutambara then said Zimbabwe had no capacity to develop its resources without input from the West.

‘‘On mining we do not have capacity, we are workers, our capacity is Chiadzwa. We need people with technology, from England, from America,’’ he charged as he concluded his speech.

The sources said host President Yoweri Museveni promptly stood up and challenged the presentation.

‘‘Young man, your presentation smacks of a serious inferiority complex,’’ the Ugandan leader was quoted as saying. ‘‘You say you need endorsement from the West yet there is a whole world ranged against us. If you think there will come a time when Africa will get the support of the Western world, you are mistaken.

"Think of China, how it was demonised until they made money on their own effort, now they are a big brand not because the West said yes, but because China said no.’’

The Ugandan leader then cited the example of Malaysia that followed the Chinese development model.

He drew the Deputy Prime Minister’s attention to the situation in India saying: ‘‘Now the West, Europe cannot ignore India, not because India was their darling in the past, but because India stood by its own principles.

‘‘Look at Venezuela right now, they are being demonised, but they are working with a clear sense of self-conviction and confidence, and things will come right. So, we have a saying that when you winnow, you remove seed from chaff, you do not take everything. If ever you become a president with these kinds of ideas, then God help Zimbabwe.’’

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete then took the floor and echoed his Ugandan counterpart’s words saying he did not know whether to attribute Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara’s presentation to youthfulness or some unknown condition.

‘‘I don’t know whether its youthfulness or what, but this young man does not seem to know that there is no good story that comes out of Africa to CNN, BBC, SkyNews. When you want a good story to come out of Africa, you pay for it. Tanzania had to pay 40 million shillings to simply get a good story out of Africa to BBC, they simply don’t want a good story out of us. If one day you become a president, we wish you well with these ideas,’’ the Tanzanian leader said.

Zambian leader Rupiah Banda then drew the Deputy Prime Minister’s attention to the history of Zimbabwe saying: ‘‘I want to be historic, I want to be direct, the basis of the demonisation of Zimbabwe is not failure to rebrand, it is rooted in the land question. Let’s not humour each other here. We are talking about a culture of land use, not inability to present a pretty picture of Zimbabwe.’’

DPM Mutambara laughed off the exchange last night saying everything was done in a spirit of debate, and the exchange had been taken out of context.

‘‘The debate we had was a healthy debate, you know this was a dialogue. I was saying we need to have a product worth branding, you need success stories as you can’t endorse yourself. The tourists who come to our countries do not watch Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, they do not watch ZBC, the tourists watch international media channels like CNN and BBC. Where is Africa’s international channel?

‘‘The second issue was on our challenges, what is the problem in Africa? Why does Africa appear stagnant?

"We agree that there are endogenous and exogenous factors, we spend too much time on the external, what about the internal? But my presentation covered quite a lot of things,’’ he said.

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