A clear a pattern of police using draconian laws to block the country’s main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) from effectively campaigning ahead of the March 26 by-elections is emerging and that does not bode well for democracy.
On Friday, police said they were banning a CCC rally that was scheduled for Marondera yesterday because the party had allegedly fallen foul of provisions of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act by seeking to hold a “car rally” ahead of the main event.
The Harare High Court rightfully reversed the police order and said the rally could go ahead provided the opposition party attended to concerns raised by the law enforcement agents.
CCC went on to comply with the court order, but this did not stop the police from disrupting the campaign rally.
On the same day, police in Matabeleland North issued a prohibition order against CCC from holding a rally at Siabuwa in Binga on March 15 that was set to be addressed by party leader Nelson Chamisa.
Their reasons were that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has an event in Hwange two days later and Binga police will deploy for that event starting March 15.
These foul tactics were used by the police last month when they blocked a CCC rally in Gokwe.
Since the campaign season began no other party other than CCC has been stopped from holding events to drum up support ahead of the crucial elections.
As the police banned the CCC rally in Marondera over the “car rally”, Zanu PF was carrying out a similar activity in the town on Friday and there were no attempts to stop it.
The Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T openly advertised its own “car rally” in Harare ahead of a campaign event at Zimbabwe Grounds today.
A free and fair election can only be possible if candidates are allowed to freely canvass for support and are treated equally by law enforcement agencies.
The playing field is already uneven for CCC whose supporters and candidates have also been subjected to alarming levels of political violence by ruling Zanu PF members while police fold their hands.
In an ideal democracy, institutions such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, would have stepped up to whip the police into line.
The integrity of the forthcoming elections already hangs by a thread because of the behaviour of the police and disputed polls will only help perpetuate perceptions that Zimbabwe is a pariah state.