Don’t interfere with civilian protests, govt told

GLOBAL human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) has urged governments not to interfere with civilian protests because it undermined civic rights.

In a statement yesterday, the international civic body said governments were unlawfully restricting people from engaging in peaceful protests.

“Governments around the world are unlawfully restricting people’s right to protest because too many people in power fear change. A world without protest, is a world without human rights,” the AI statement read in part.

The human rights watchdog said the latest protests in South Africa could be regarded as a necessary tool for the advocacy of change.

“The Salt March in India in 1930 against British colonial rule; the Arab Spring uprisings, the anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, mark key historical moments of change driven by people who refused to give up, who spoke truth to power, people who protested. Protest is a powerful force for change, and it is because of the bravery of those who speak out that a more just and equal world is possible.”

Zimbabwe is averse to protests by civil servants who are clamouring for United States dollar salaries because goods and services are now being priced in that currency.

Zimbabweans, who dare to protest against price increases, increasing levels of poverty, the poor state of the economy and declining standards of living, usually face a co-ordinated crackdown by police and the army that results in arrests and possible deaths.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) chairperson Peter Mutasa said: “The Zimbabwean government lost legitimacy a long time ago and it fears that one day people will express themselves and protest. That is why it is restricting all constitutional rights and crafting draconian laws that were last seen in colonial Rhodesia. Government is resorting to force to quash uprisings.”

Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko said:  “The sad bit is that the right which is provided in section 59 of the Constitution is continually violated. The ability of citizens to demonstrate and petition adds to the manner in which citizens are free. Recently, CiZC was blocked from holding a protest. In the past, we have also seen how protests are allowed to go on selectively. If it is ruling party members, they can protest with no hindrance, which is not the same thing for opposition activists and civil society organisations.” Newsday

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