POLICE in Bulawayo have denied opposition Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) permission to hold its rally in a city high-density suburb claiming there was an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in a neighbouring suburb.
The party’s national organising secretary, Partone Xaba told NewZimbabwe.com that on Thursday last week, he notified the police about the party’s intention to hold a rally at Tshabalala Hall on the 29th of February 2020.
Xaba said since then, the party has been following up on its application but could not get any response as the regulatory authority was said to be attending a funeral in Buhera.
“When we finally met the regulatory authority yesterday (Thursday), he told us that we cannot proceed with our rally because there is an outbreak of coronavirus in Emganwini suburb which is close to Tshabalala.
“We were shocked by this response because as far as we know, there is only one case of suspected coronavirus in the country which was reported in Harare.
“We view this just as a silly excuse to deny us our constitutional right to freedom of association and assembly.”
Xaba vowed his party was going ahead with the rally despite the ban.
“We are going ahead with our rally as planned. If there is coronavirus outbreak in Bulawayo as police claim, why is it that schools and church gatherings have not been banned?” he said.
Coronavirus, also known as 2019 –nCoV was first discovered in Wuhan, central China on December 31, 2019.
It has killed many and has also spread to several other world countries.
China has put up a spirited attempt to combat the disease while world countries have also put up measures to try and block the disease from spreading into their territories.
Zimbabwe has not yet recorded a single coronavirus case.
Meanwhile, in a related development, police in Bulawayo have also denied MRP permission to pitch a tent in the city centre.
On 17 February, the party applied to the police seeking permission to pitch a tent between Leopold Takawira Avenue and Herbert Chitepo.
“A number of people may converge at your tent with the intention to cause public disorder and this may result in malicious damage to property, looting of shops and injuries to innocent souls.
“Be advised that as a result of the abovementioned reasons, your application is not in accordance with the Maintenance of the Peace and Order Act (MOPA), thus you cannot pitch the tent. Be guided accordingly,” reads a letter from the regulatory authority for Bulawayo Central District, one Superintend S. Dube.