COPAC meetings delay POSA debate in Senate

May 18, 2011 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

By Tichaona Sibanda
Senate debate on the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Amendment Bill
will only commence in July, after completion of thematic committee meetings
of the constitution making process.

MDC-T chief whip in the Senate, Gladys Gombami-Dube, told SW Radio Africa on
Tuesday that business in the Senate has been seriously affected by the slow
pace of the constitutional reform process.

Most lawmakers from all three parties have been heavily involved in efforts
to draw up a new constitution for Zimbabwe, since the process began two
years ago.

The proposed amendments to POSA were introduced as a private member’s Bill
by Mutare Central MP and MDC-T Chief Whip in Parliament, Innocent Gonese, in
November 2009.
It sailed through Parliament in December 2010 where the MDC-T holds a slight
majority in the Lower House, while ZANU PF has a huge majority in the Upper
House which it uses to block legislation.

‘ZANU PF has a majority because of traditional chiefs and provincial
governors who always toe the party line. If there are progressive forces in
ZANU PF we will ask them to help us make the Bill sail through.

‘But they’re (ZANU PF) unpredictable and remember they are advocating for
elections this year and I know it’s one way they’ll try to close us down as
a party and civil society organisations from meeting with the people,’
Gombani-Dube said.

POSA was made a much more restrictive law by a ZANU PF dominated parliament
in 2002. The draconian legislation gives untold powers to the police and the
Ministry of Home Affairs and the police are responsible for the
administration of the Act.

‘Its an open secret that the partisan police uses the Act to harass, arrest
and detain ZANU PF opponents and pro-democracy activists wanting to have
public meetings or participate in demonstrations,’ the Senator added.

The police, headed by fierce ZANU PF loyalist Commissioner-General Augustine
Chihuri, has used POSA over the years to arrest and detain hundreds of
people but has so far never successfully prosecuted anyone. Not
surprisingly, the Act has never been used to arrest any ZANU PF officials or
supporters.

Amendments to the Bill therefore aim to ensure that public gatherings are
regulated in a manner that will allow Zimbabweans to fully exercise their
democratic right to express themselves through peaceful assembly and
association.

Speaking in Parliament last December Gonese, the originator of the amendment
to POSA, explained that other amendments would seek a reduction in police
powers and give magistrates the power to prohibit meetings instead.

For now, the MDC can only work towards amending POSA because the party does
not have the required two thirds majority in Parliament to repeal the Bill
altogether.

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