Government has hit back at Western countries’ “intrusive and judgmental attitude” after they issued a statement that appeared to condone violent behaviour by the Zimbabwean opposition while condemning authorities’ hard stance against that lawlessness.
Last Friday, the Zimbabwe Republic Police violently dispersed groups of opposition MDC-Alliance supporters who took to the street to demonstrate against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s poor handling of the economy despite a police Prohibition Order which was upheld by the High Court.
The opposition had applied to hold a demonstration on August 16 in Harare while other demonstrations were slated for other cities and towns but authorities turned the application down.
Yet in a joint statement yesterday, Heads of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and the Heads of Mission of Australia, Canada and the United States of America pinned their colours on the mast of the opposition, criticizing Government.
The missions laid accusations of “intimidation, harrasment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives and opposition politicians…” and human rights abuses.
However, Government shot back at the criticism and urged the West to show some respect.
“The Government of Zimbabwe is taken aback by the intrusive and judgmental attitude displayed by the Missions and the shocking partisanship informing the joint statement with respect to the situation in Zimbabwe,” a spokesperson, the Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangagwa said.
“The statement by the Missions fails to acknowledge that the High Court made a well-considered judgment on the legality of the demonstrations by the opposition MDC-Alliance after the Zimbabwe Republic Police – as the Regulatory Authority – proscribed the intended actions on August 16, through a Prohibition Order. The effect of both the Prohibition Order and the High Court decision that upheld it was to render any and all activities associated with the planned demonstrations by MDC-Alliance on August 16, 2019 illegal,” Mr Mangwana said.
“We, therefore, note with concern that the Missions statement appears not to acknowledge this position of the law. A disturbing suggestion from the statement is that our courts should not have made the judgment and that illegalities were supposed to manifest and left unchecked. We find it quite and bewildering and an offence on the principle of the rule of law that countries represented by the Missions want so much to preach about.”
Government, Mr Mangwana said, expected the decision of the courts to be respected by all.
“It is disappointing that we are presented with a statement that ignores the importance of upholding both the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the rule of law.
“Our Judiciary sits as the arbiter in situations of conflict, and in this case mediating between a Regulatory Authority and constitutional freedoms of citizens in the face of a potentially violent and destabilising demonstration.
“A decision was made, which ought to have been respected by all,” he said.
Mr Mangwana said Government remained committed to re-engagement and dialogue, but only on a platform of mutual respect.
“Government of Zimbabwe expects those countries committed to supporting the freedom of expression, association and assembly – seen as facets for a politically stable, economic stable and prosperous Zimbabwe – to exercise impartiality and not to unduly interfere in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe in a way that promotes unrest and public disorder unless they harbor an ulterior motive.
“Zimbabwe remains committed to carrying out reforms necessary for addressing the political, social and economic challenges in the country. In this vein, Government is open to engaging its partners in the international community on best ways of implementing the reforms.
“However, Government believes that re-engagement and dialogue should be conducted in the spirit of mutual respect and should not be in any way prescriptive, coercive or manipulative,” he said.