Reuters International

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's High Court on Tuesday upheld a month-long police ban on protests in the capital on the grounds that this was necessary to preserve peace, a lawyer representing opposition activists said.

Political tension is rising in the southern African nation after protests in the last three months against the rule of 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has held power since independence from Britain in 1980.

Police in the southern African nation banned public demonstrations until Oct. 15 following anti-government protests that led to violent clashes with police.

Tendai Biti, a former finance minister and prominent lawyer, said Judge President George Chiweshe had in his ruling dismissed the application to overturn the police ban.

Biti said the judge, while accepting that the law used by the police violated individual rights allowing peaceful demonstrations, it was nonetheless justified in order to protect property and ensure public peace.

"The court's rationale is that while the section of the law that allows police to ban protests was in breach of fundamental rights, it was justifiable in a democratic society," Biti said.

On Sept. 7, another High Court judge struck down a previous ban on public protests, saying police did not follow procedure and had violated the constitution.

Biti said he would meet other human rights lawyers on Wednesday to decide whether to appeal Chiweshe's ruling at the Supreme Court or launch a challenge at the Constitutional Court.

Angered by a jobless rate above 80 percent, corruption and the worst fiscal crunch and cash shortages since the adoption of the U.S. dollar in 2009, many Zimbabweans have taken to social media to organise anti-government activities.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Mark Heinrich)


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