HARARE – Zimbabweans intending to exercise their constitutional right to protest must first pay a security deposit in case they destroy property, Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo suggested.
The Higher and Tertiary Education minister made the suggestion on social networking site, Twitter.
“Since Constitution requires demos to be peaceful and respect rights of others, their organisers must deposit surety!” Moyo said.
“Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that every person has the right to demonstrate and present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully,” he argued.
He added: “Section 86 (1) of the Constitution . . . provides that the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in this Chapter (in the Bill of Rights) must be exercised reasonably and with due regard for the rights and freedoms of other persons”.
Reached for comment on whether he was going to pursue the idea with Cabinet, Moyo could neither confirm nor deny.
“I cannot say whether I will or I will not take to Cabinet my opinion that organisers of demonstrations or protests should (offer) surety because Cabinet deliberations are confidential,” he said.
However, Moyo’s suggestion was viewed as imposition of a “demonstration tax” by Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa.
“Moyo gave a hint of another option which they are probably considering, the absurd measure to impose surety requirement on demonstration,” Magaisa said.
He said if adopted, it would discriminate against the poor who cannot afford to pay security.
“It would result in a situation where constitutional rights would only be reserved for the wealthy who by comparison, probably have less cause to exercise freedoms such as the right to demonstrate,” Magaisa said.
“Even if the idea is to prevent violence, there must be other less drastic and discriminatory remedies to achieve the same objective than imposing financial tax on constitution rights,” he said, adding that “it may be Moyo’s opinion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were considering such a measure. Zanu PF is capable of doing the most absurd measures, even if it is to stretch the limits of the law.”
Moyo’s suggestion comes amid a wave of protests that have rocked Zimbabwe in the past months.
The protesters are demanding that 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe — Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence 36 years ago — resigns immediately due to his failed leadership.
The demonstrators accuse Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF of grossly mismanaging the economy, turning a blind eye to corruption and failing to fulfil his 2013 election campaign promises, particularly to create 2,2 million new jobs.
In repressive reaction to the escalating protests, government imposed a two weeks ban of protests in Harare, which was later lifted by the High Court.