Police authorities in Zimbabwe have banned public rallies six weeks before the country’s presidential election, claiming it is a measure to curtail the spread of communicable diseases.
Members of the opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), stood outside the courthouse protesting on Sunday after a court sided with police on the ban in an appeal against the order.
“Dictatorship remains. When will this country be free?” those were the lyrics of opposition members’ chants as they dressed up in yellow and expressed their grievances against the ruling by the Bindura magistrates’ court.
Police said the venue the party had planned to use was a busy area which could pose a high risk of contracting infectious diseases by those planning to attend.
They cited the poor road network within the area, which increases the risk for attendees.
Consequently, the CCC party could not hold the official campaign flag-off as the venue was deemed unsuitable.
The party immediately criticised the court’s decision as part of moves by incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF party to silence opposition using police and courts.
In contrast, a rally held by the 80-year-old ruler who replaced controversial former President Robert Mugabe after a coup in 2017 was allowed to go ahead on Sunday. Thousands of the supporters of the ruling party were packed tightly in a stadium for the rally.
The lawyer of the CCC party, Agency Gumbo, said, “We are getting into a match with both legs tied. They would rather keep the opposition at the courts than on the campaign trail. There was “an uneven playing ground that shows that the democratic process has been corroded.”