Durban activist and academic Patrick Bond has been barred from delivering an address as part of a series of lectures in Harare.
Bond, who returns to SA on Friday, described on Thursday how riot police chased people away from the event, organised by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), on Wednesday.
Bond would have spoken on the “global financial crisis, the discrediting of the neo-liberal ideology, and the failure of global climate governance at the COP17 (climate change conference in Durban last year)”, he said.
He said the New Zimbabwe lecture series also faced bans in 2011 and was only saved when the MDC threatened to withdraw from the unity government.
Bond was to deliver the first lecture of the 2012 series.
“It is a sickening feeling to have simple rights of expression so blatantly repressed, but my experience is trivial when compared to the majority of Zimbabweans’ suffering. It is heartening that sufficient interest in the global financial meltdown and ecological crises exists to risk attempting the lecture again, hopefully next week. Another request for permission was supplied to the police,” Bond said.
Charles Mangongera, the MDC’s director of policy and research, said he was “embarrassed” that Bond had travelled from Durban “only for him to be denied an opportunity to share his ideas”.
According to Mangongera, the lecture series was a platform for critical thinking and debate on issues Zimbabweans were faced with daily.
Mangongera said the police had been told of the seminar “more than a week ago” to satisfy the Public Order and Security Act.
“Ideally we were not even supposed to notify them, as the act only refers to political gatherings and, clearly, an event of this nature is not a political gathering.”
Mangongera said members of the organising team were called to the Harare Central police station on Wednesday and told that permission to hold the event had been denied because a “false address” had been provided.
The Mercury phoned the police station on Thursday and spoke to a man who identified himself only as the station commander.
When the incident, as told by Bond and Mangongera, was relayed to him, he responded: “Yes, so what do you want?”
Asked why the lecture series was prevented from taking place, he laughed and put the phone down. - The Mercury