In an unexpected turn of events, Provincial police commanders have been instructed to permit opposition political parties to organise their rallies and, in the case that there are any objections, to check with their superiors before acting.
Provincial police commanders were also told not to use police actions to undermine the fairness, peace, and credibility of the election process or the electoral process itself.
The Bindura police’s decision to deny the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party permission to host their election campaign launch on July 9 in the town prompted this most recent directive.
The police claimed that CCC failed to notify them in a timely manner and that a lack of access to roads and water would put its supporters at risk of contracting contagious diseases.
Police chiefs recently changed their tune by allowing opposition rallies to take place in a memo to officers commanding police provinces and officers commanding the Support Unit, which was copied to the director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the director of police intelligence.
“Commanders are reminded that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has proclaimed August 23 as the date for the harmonised elections. The president has on numerous occasions also preached the gospel of peace and tolerance ahead of the impending elections. It is against this background that commanders are urged to make sure that all processes relating to elections are done peacefully and in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act Chapter 2:13 and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) Chapter 11:23,” read the memo from police headquarters.
Police noted that of late social media has been awash with incidents where some political parties claimed to have been denied the right to hold their rallies by the police resulting in skirmishes.
“These skirmishes are discrediting the electoral processes, as such, commanders are requested to make sure that there are very valid reasons to warrant such rejections. Under such circumstances , regulating authorities are urged to thoroughly consult before coming up with decisions to deny any political player an opportunity to hold a rally or meeting,” said the police chiefs.
“Commanders should note that for elections to be deemed free, fair, peaceful and credible the playing field should be reckoned as level, hence the police actions should not discredit the electoral processes.”
As regulating authorities, provincial police commanders were advised to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Electoral Act and MOPA so as to make informed decisions.
“The purpose of this legal instrument is for police to prepare and take action aimed at making sure that any political activity is done peacefully,” said the police chiefs who said all the recipients copied in that memo should acknowledge receipt of this signal by 10am on Monday, July 10, 2023.