Constitution Watch 7/2019 ID Checks at Roadblocks – Are they Legal? 5th October 2019 CONSTITUTION WATCH 7/2019 [5th October 2019] ID Checks at Roadblocks – Are they Legal? For several days after the MDC-A attempted to hold a demonstration in Harare last month, the police mounted roadblocks along routes leading into the city centre [the CBD]. They stopped and searched commuter omnibuses and other vehicles and forced passengers without identity documents to disembark, leaving them to walk the rest of their journey. A Member of Parliament raised the issue in the National Assembly, calling the conduct of the Police “unlawful”, and received the following response from the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs: “Where there is a threat to the peaceful co-existence of members of the society, the police will use every necessary means that they have to ensure that there is peace, and that includes having roadblocks, ensuring that everyone who is in a commuter omnibus gets out and they search to ensure that there are no dangerous weapons that will get into the city centre. So that is standard practice.” Perhaps emboldened by the Minister’s support, the Police adopted the same tactics late last month when the MDC-A celebrated their 20th anniversary in Harare. Again, they set up roadblocks, searched vehicles and demanded IDs from passengers. The Minister was correct in saying that the Police are entitled to use “every necessary means that they have” to preserve peace, i.e. to prevent violent disorder. But the “necessary means that they have” are those the law gives them: the Police must not act unlawfully, and when the Minister went on to suggest that their conduct was lawful, he was with respect wrong. In fact, the conduct of the Police violated the Constitution and the law in several respects. Freedom of Movement Section 66(2)(a) of the Constitution provides that: “Every Zimbabwean citizen and everyone else who is legally in Zimbabwe has the right to … move freely within Zimbabwe.” As long ago as 1997 our Supreme Court ruled that arbitrarily stopping either people or vehicles infringes the constitutional right to freedom of movement, though the court held that the random stopping of vehicles to check for vehicle defects could be regarded as a justifiable limitation if it was done for the purpose of ensuring safety on the roads. Section 72(1)(a)(i) of the Road Traffic Act authorises the Police to stop vehicles, but they may do so only for the purposes specified in the Act, namely to check the vehicles and their equipment for compliance with the law and to ensure the vehicles are not overloaded. This provision is probably

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