The Bulawayo High Court yesterday thwarted a police bid to stop a demonstration called by opposition parties in the city to protest the delays in implementing electoral reforms.
Judge Nicholas Mathonsi ruled that police were wrong in refusing to sanction the protest which was organised by 18 opposition political parties coalescing under the banner of National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera).
Police came out in full force and flooded the main streets as the political parties held their demonstration.
As early as 6:00am hordes of riot police with water cannons and armoured vehicles swamped the Lunar Park which was the meeting point of the protesters.
Defiant protesters refused to leave the venue — insisting they stand guided by the High Court ruling whose verdict sprang them into action and they flooded the streets.
“Through this march all we are demanding is that we want a free, fair and credible election,” MDC deputy president Thokozani Khupe who was among the protesters
“We don’t want a repeat of the 2013 elections where Zanu PF rigged because they were riding on a flawed voters’ roll, so the message to Mugabe and his party is clear; an independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), a commission that is professional and not partisan.
“As democratic forces, we are saying we are drawing a line in the sand and we are saying never again will we allow an election to he held where elections will be rigged and where there will be violence,” added Khupe.
Yesterday, police blocked Nera from holding demos in most of the cities it had mobilised its supporters to press for the electoral reforms.
There was a heavy police presence and skirmishes in some of the provinces where demonstrators had gathered to march.
Police on Friday banned demonstrations in central Harare for a month but both political parties and pro-democracy groups said it had stopped demos in other provinces in violation of the Constitution.
Last month, a mega demo organised by Nera in Harare was ruthlessly crushed by police despite having been allowed by the courts.
Even after the High Court had ruled then that the protest march could go ahead, riot police — backed by armoured trucks and water cannons — indiscriminately fired volleys of teargas at all and sundry, battering and chasing groups of determined opposition supporters.
Yesterday, Ellen Shiriyedenga, a member of Welshman Ncube’s MDC said electoral reforms were overdue and they would do everything to have them instituted.
“We have a Constitution that was adopted about three years ago but electoral reforms are yet to be implemented, what does Mugabe and his government take us for? This should be the end of a voters’ roll flooded with dead bodies,” said Shiriyedenga.
Opposition political parties accuse Zec of being controlled by Zanu PF and are demanding the restructuring of its secretariat which they say is ‘‘packed’’ with the party’s ‘‘functionaries’’.
In 2008, the national election management body withheld results for six weeks in an election won by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who defeated President Robert Mugabe but failed to get an outright win required for the presidency.
This forced a run off in which Tsvangirai pulled out days before polling citing massive violence against his supporters.
Mugabe went on to hold a one-man election which was roundly condemned by the international community which said it was a sham