Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has accused court judges of being reckless in allowing anti-government demonstrations that later turned violent, state media reported on Sunday, a day before a legal challenge to last week’s official ban on protests.
The southern African nation on Thursday outlawed all demonstrations for two weeks in the capital Harare, which has witnessed protests against Mugabe’s handling of the economy, cash shortages and high unemployment.
Some political activists have approached the High Court to challenge the ban which they say is unconstitutional. The hearing is set for Monday.
Mugabe told a conference of the ruling ZANU-PF’s youth wing on Saturday “enough is enough” and he would not allow violent protests to continue, the Sunday Mail newspaper reported.
Violence erupted more than a week ago when police used teargas and water cannon to disperse marchers.
“Our courts, our justice system, our judges should be the ones who understand even better than ordinary citizens. They dare not be negligent in their decisions when requests are made by people who want to demonstrate,” the Sunday Mail quoted Mugabe as saying.
“To give permission again when they are to the full knowledge that it is going to be violent or there is probability that there is going to be violence is to pay reckless disregard to the peace of this country.”
Police routinely cite lack of manpower and a threat to security as a reason for barring opposition protests, but the decisions have often been overturned by the High Court.
Tendai Biti, leader of the People’s Democratic Party and the lawyer behind the legal challenge to the latest ban, accused Mugabe of intimidating the judiciary and violating the constitution.
“What Mugabe is trying to do is breaching the constitution by assaulting the judiciary and by trying to cause direct and indirect fear into judges,” Biti said.