Bindura – A Zimbabwe magistrate court on Sunday tossed out an appeal by the largest opposition party after police blocked their much anticipated pre-election campaign rally.
The gathering, where the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) was expected to formally launch its election manifesto, was the sixth to be “banned or unlawfully disrupted” in a week, according to the party.
Magistrate Maria Msika upheld the police ban at an urgent sitting on Sunday ruling that the “CCC failed to notify the police on time”.
Reacting to the court’s decision, opposition lawyer Agency Gumbo told reporters the ruling “showed there is an uneven playing ground in this election” as he slammed the “selective application of the law”.
“It shows that the democratic space has been eroded. We are getting into a match with both legs tied so you cannot score,” said Gumbo.
The CCC party was formally launched in January last year as an offshoot of the Movement for Democratic Change, formed by the late opposition veteran Morgan Tsvangirai.
It has since accused the ruling Zanu-PF, which has been in power since independence from Britain 43 years ago, of “abuse” of state institutions.
The CCC also alleged that Zanu-PF had used political violence, arrests and intimidation to disrupt or thwart 92 of its political meetings.
Police on Friday said the rally – which was scheduled for Sunday in Bindura town, 90 kilometres (56 miles) northeast of the capital Harare – could not take place because the venue was a “bushy” piece of land “without serviceable roads, water and sewer facilities”.
In a Saturday statement, police spokesman Paul Nyathi had urged parties “to be organised and avoid discrediting the police for their own internal failings to follow” the law.
The leader of a small opposition party, the National Constitutional Assembly, Lovemore Madhuku told AFP they were also “experiencing” similar problems, adding he had two meetings banned this weekend.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, who replaced strongman Robert Mugabe in 2017 after a military-led coup, is seeking re-election.
Mnangagwa has been criss-crossing the country in recent days addressing large crowds of supporters.
But he faces a highly disillusioned population that is battling hyperinflation, poverty and high unemployment.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said the persistent banning of opposition rallies “dents the credibility of the elections”.