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NERA demo aborted

03 Sep 2016 at 07:53hrs | Views
The National Electoral Reform  Agenda  (NERA) had planned to lead demonstrations in various provincial capitals on 2nd of September 2016. Following the temporary banning of public demonstration in the nation's capital, Harare, focus had shifted to the Bulawayo demos. Bulawayo being the second largest city was likely to draw a sizeable crowd.

The local political heavy weights, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa and Professor Welshman Ncube, from ZAPU and MDC respectively, were ready to lead the march. However, this was not to be as heavily armed anti-riot police officers besieged the gathering point at Lunar Park,  sending a clear message that this was a no-go zone. The would-be demonstrators were thus dispersed but not before they were intimidated and harassed.  

The organisers were planning to meet later at the ZAPU offices to hold a joint press statement of all political formations involved but the state apparatus got wind of it and sent its anti-riot police squad to surround the area. After securing the area, the police then invaded the ZAPU offices and harassed innocent party officials and party supporters who were gathered there. For effect, they were fully clad in combat gear, guns and all. The planned demo fizzled out as expected.  Events took a new turn as the organisers challenged the legality of this siege in court and they won the permission to go ahead with the planned peaceful protest. As there was no time left to re-organise the event, this had to be postponed to another day.
A pattern is emerging where the courts grant permission to hold peaceful demonstrations while the police continue to stop the meetings taking place. Since both institutions are controlled by Zanu-pf , one wonders why the courts seem to be making some decent decisions supporting  planned demonstrations. This is a new development.

Could it be that the courts have suddenly freed themselves from political control from the ruling party?

Are these the actions of a few stubborn court officials defying orders from Mugabe's government?

It is also possible that this is a deliberate ploy to hoodwink the nation and the international community by giving a semblance of respecting the rights of peaceful demonstrators as enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution and as recognised internationally.

If that is the case, then it is working because the courts say yes verbally and in writing while state machinery say no physically by use of excessive force to stop the activities. Mugabe must be laughing his head off as he dupes everyone involved. Still one wonders whether there is now a new beginning of separating the executive from the judiciary. Separation of powers which is unheard of under Mugabe rule could be upon us.

Another interesting development is the change in strategy that had been adopted by the organisers by switching to organising demos in multiple cities simultaneously. This was road-tested on the second of September on a small scale. By so doing, it stretches the national resources for managing demonstrations.

The police have to make quick decisions where to deploy the bulk of their forces. Both material and human resources currently available cannot deal with multiple national demonstrations done at the same time.

This approach is vastly superior to the drip-drip demos of one city one demo at a time. A valuable lesson was learnt as a result of these foiled demos.  From now on let us have multiple demos everywhere.  

NERA has managed to bring political rivals to act together in demanding our constitutional rights and the need to implement agreed electoral reforms in order to ensure free and fair elections come 2018. This approach need to be repeated too. A word of warning to the demonstrators and organisers: this horse is dying and it's kicking. Box clever and we will prevail. Zimbabwe will be free soon.

Sibusisiwe Tshuma is a Zimbabwean human rights activist and MDC-T member based in the UK. She can be reached at

Source - Sibusisiwe Tshuma
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