Citizens have right to freedom of expression

The summoning of businessman and cleric, Shingi Munyeza last week indicates the levels of paranoia in this government, where free speech and thought are frowned upon.

Source: Citizens have right to freedom of expression – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 14, 2016

What earned Munyeza an invite from the ever-vigilant police was that he described the impending bond notes as “infamous”, quite an innocuous statement by all accounts, but that still rattled the authorities.

This could be a harbinger for sinister events, where the government and authorities are on the lookout for people who dare express themselves.

With discontent over the way the economy is being run, it will not be surprising to hear more people being summoned to the police for expressing themselves and speaking out about what they figure is misrule.

Freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution and Munyeza had every right to say what he wanted to say about bond notes without the fear of being summoned by the police.

That he eventually was not charged is neither here nor there, the fact that he was summoned has a chilling effect and inculcates a spirit of self-censorship, where others will fear to say anything as they dread being summoned to the police station.

In the growing fear, others will be afraid to criticise the government and this shall sound the death knell to the democracy that this country desperately craves.

Instead of summoning anyone who dares criticise the government, authorities are best advised to engage anyone who proffers a solution to this crisis.

The government does not have a monopoly on ideas and private citizens have the right to criticise and point out shortfalls, instead of this situation where police summon an individual over one of the least offensive words.

Surely, the government should accept and know that not all its decisions are popular hence they will be criticised. Summoning people to the police station will not solve anything, but will only create hostility between society’s thought leaders and the law enforcement agents.

The summoning of Munyeza could be ominous, as we go to the next elections, which somehow are touted as make or break for we believe both the ruling party and the opposition.

Criticisms of this government are inevitably likely to grow and the language used is likely to be stronger, and the police cannot be expected to be summoning everyone who dares speak out.

As alluded to, the Constitution protects any of this criticism, as long as it is not hate speech and does not incite violence and so it is bewildering that the police chose to act in that way.

This could be the genesis of a crackdown on dissenting voices ahead of the elections and Zimbabweans have to be vigilant in protecting their right to freedom of expression.

We believe the police summoning of Munyeza was unwarranted and heavy handed.

This is harassment of citizens and must stop.