HARARE (Reuters) – A court in Zimbabwe ruled on Thursday that police should not interfere with a march planned by striking doctors to protest against the disappearance of the leader of their union, after law enforcement agents blocked two previous demonstrations.
The doctors had sought to march to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offices and parliament to present petitions after Peter Magombeyi, the leader of the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association, went missing.
The group challenged the police actions and High Court Judge Clement Phiri ruled that the doctors could go ahead with Thursday’s march after lawyers for the police conceded that the actions by law enforcement agents were unlawful.
Association lawyers argued that that doctors wanted to march for a non-political cause, which did not require police authority.
“If they want, they (police) can only provide manpower for security reasons,” Alec Muchadehama, a lawyer representing the doctors, told Reuters after the ruling.
Police spokesman Paul Nyathi could not immediately comment.
Last month, police banned protests planned by the opposition over Mnangagwa’s handling of the economy.
The demonstrations were viewed as a test of Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent in a country tainted by a long history of repression under his predecessor Robert Mugabe, who died on Sept.6 in Singapore.