POLITICAL tempers have started running high again three months after the country went through a gruelling election period, with the MDC Alliance accusing police of taking sides and blocking the opposition party’s 19th anniversary celebrations scheduled for Saturday last week while Zanu PF was allowed to host its own rally in Mbare on the same day.
The anniversary celebrations were banned for the second time in as many weeks by police, with officer commanding Harare South District Chief Superintendent Winston Muzah citing the cholera outbreak in Harare where the medieval disease has claimed 49 lives.
“May I take this opportunity to advise you that the government ban on public gatherings following the outbreak of cholera in Harare is still standing. In the interest of public safety and total containment of the cholera epidemic, we direct that the intended celebrations be postponed until the epidemic is declared over. Meanwhile, the intended celebration is not sanctioned,” he said.
Police, however, allowed Zanu PF to host its victory celebration rally addressed by its secretary for administration Patrick Chinamasa in Mbare, drawing fire from the opposition.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume condemned police’s “selective application of the law”.
“It would appear that we have a strange cholera which only affects MDC gatherings. The Zanu PF meetings are being held in stadiums across the country and in Harare. This is selective application of the law and violation of the Constitution,” he said.
“But we are told every time we want to gather, there is cholera. The police are back to their shameless behaviour.”
The opposition party’s organising secretary Amos Chibaya said Zanu PF believed in abuse of State institutions to entrench its stranglehold on power.
“Our anniversary rally at Gwanzura today [Saturday] was cancelled by the ZRP because of cholera, but the police were happy to sanction a Zanu PF inter-district rally in Mbare.
The capture of State institutions by Zanu PF must be investigated. If you take notice, this is the same area where we wanted to conduct our celebrations. It’s the Southerton area which we went and applied for permission to have our celebrations, but it’s funny that ours was not sanctioned, but Zanu PF’s was sanctioned,” he said.
Chibaya said the MDC, angered by the police stance, were now going to hold their celebrations and would not respect the ban because it was now clear that the bans were political.
“We have plans to go ahead with the anniversary and nothing will stop us this time. We have other avenues to go on about gathering people. As you know, we had a clean-up campaign in which we were able to get a huge crowd,” Chibaya said.
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, said:“Let the police respond to that. Zanu PF does not give out rally permissions. Ask the police. They will give you the reasons why they did that.”
Police recently pledged to discharge their duties in a non-partisan manner following the ushering in of the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“The police are no longer doing business as before, but in this new trajectory, police officers have given guidelines. Some of them were not doing their work properly and they are now doing it properly,” national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said then.
Charamba could not be reached for comment yesterday as her mobile phone went unanswered.
However, MDC Alliance youth leader Happymore Chidziva said actions by the police this weekend put paid to any illusion that there was a new dispensation or that the police had turned a new leaf.
“Any illusion that could have been there has been eroded, what we have is the same old people doing the same old things, using the police and the army to ensure they remain in power. They have no respect for the will of the people. How do they justify banning our celebrations, but allowing those of Zanu PF? The will of the people will, however, not be arrested in the prisons of the political junta,” he said.