Dar es Salaam. Main opposition parties have thrown their weight behind a plea by the Civic United Front (CUF) seeking President John Magufuli to lift the ban on political meetings.
CUF officials held a press conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday during which they repeated complaints that restrictions on political rallies seemed to be targeting opposition parties only.
This comes after the police moved to block the party’s public rally, which was scheduled to take place in Vingunguti in the city.
CUF director of human rights and legal affairs Salvatory Magafu said the Registrar of Political Parties had given the nod for the meeting only for the police to block them Friday evening. “After the Registrar’s response we decided to organise a public rally, but to our surprise we received a letter from the Buguruni Police Station, blocking us,” said Mr Magafu.
He added: “How can the Registrar, who is the custodian of political parties in the country, claim that he is not aware of the ban while the head of state and other leaders have been quoted as confirming the restrictions in the media several time?”
In telephone interviews with The Citizen yesterday, Chadema information officer Tumaini Makene, Chauma president Hashimu Rungwe, ACT-Wazalendo spokesperson Ado Shaibu also said it was time the ban was lifted.
They all cited the elections that now loom large as the more reasson for President Magufuli to intervene, and reverse the ban on rallies.
In 2016, the police banned all public rallies citing the security situation. President Magufuli said rallies would be allowed during the election period.
But the opposition has argued that the ban is being selectively applied in favour of the ruling party. Yesterday, opposition officials also reiterated that the ban was unconstitutional.
Efforts to get a comment from the Registrar of Political Parties were futile as Judge Francis Mutungi (the Registrar)’s phone couldn’t be reached, while that of his deputy, Mr Sisti Nyahoza, wasn’t picked.
Letter ‘did not specify speaker’
Ilala Regional Police Commander Zuberi Chembela said they had blocked CUF’s public rally at the weekend because the letter that was delivered to the security authorities did not specify who the main speaker would be.
“Political rallies haven’t been banned as such, but the issue is that it’s the Member of Parliament for the area, or a ward councillor, who is supposed to be holding it,” he said.
Zitto Kabwe, leader of ACT-Wazalendo, has previously dismissed reasons given by the police for banning rallies as baseless.
Last week, police in Zanzibar also moved to disperse members of his party who had gathered for a rally in the Isles.
“When we air our views in Parliament we are thrown out. Outside Parliament, our rallies are banned,” he tweeted after the police announced the ban three years ago.