Zimbabwe court overturns protest ban in Harare

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An opposition supporter runs during a protest in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: 26 August 2016

Zimbabwe’s high court has overturned a two-week ban by police on demonstrations in the capital Harare.

The challenge was brought by activists, who are opposed to President Robert Mugabe and his government.

They described the court’s ruling as “a brave judgement”, coming days after President Mugabe, 92, condemned a previous court ruling allowing a demonstration that turned violent.

Zimbabwe has seen a wave of protests recently over the declining economy.

No ‘Arab Spring’

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (03 September 2016)
Mr Mugabe accuses the courts of being too lenient on protesters

On Wednesday, Zimbabwean High Court judge Priscilla Chigumba ruled that the ban on protests was illegal.

She said that the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law was important to democracy,

Stan Zvorwadza, one of the activists who challenged the ban, told the BBC he welcomed the verdict, adding that he and demonstrators wanted to protest peacefully about the mismanagement of the country.

He was represented in court by Tendai Biti, a lawyer and former finance minister, who told the BBC it proved Zimbabwe’s courts were independent.

“My clients can now demonstrate today or tomorrow. This is a brave judgement,” Mr Biti said.

President Mugabe at the weekend criticised a court which had given permission for an anti-government protest at the end of August.

It turned violent when police ignored the court order and tear gassed demonstrators.

Mr Mugabe said the judges had showed a reckless disregard for peace, and warned that they should not dare to be negligent when making future decisions.

The president has recently warned protesters there would be no Zimbabwean uprising similar to the “Arab Spring”.

He has routinely blamed the country’s economic problems on sabotage by Western critics of his policies – which include the seizure of white-owned commercial farms to be given to black people.

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