MDC wants police to act within law

August 8, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

VLADIMIR MZACA

The Zimbabwe Republic Police should operate within the confines of the law
in a way that seeks to serve justice, MDC-T MP for Mutare Central, Innocent
Gonese, has told the Senate.

Gonese was making presentations during the second reading of the Public
Order and Security Act Amendment Bill this week. “We have a serious problem
in that regard where the police have applied or misapplied and
misinterpreted the law,” he said.

The Public Order and Security Act (Posa) was introduced in Zimbabwe in 2002
by a Zanu-PF dominated parliament. The Act was amended in 2007. The chief
architects of this piece of legislation when it was formulated were
Professor Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Chinamasa.

Political activists and civic organisations regard Posa as what helped
President Robert Mugabe consolidate his power. The law gave untold powers to
the ZRP. Through this legal framework, the partisan ZRP members have the
final say when it comes to public gatherings such as rallies.

This year, a series of MDC-T rallies have been banned by the police. In
their defence, the police argued that they did not have the manpower to
monitor the rallies.

Gonese, who introduced the Posa amendment drive in 2009, told the Senate
that freedom of association and expression was vital in a democratic system.

“In Article 12 it reads freedom of assembly and association recognising the
importance of the freedom of association in a multiparty democracy and
noting that public meetings have to be conducted in a peaceful and
democratic manner and in accordance with the law the parties have agreed,”
he said.

Gonese said what frustrated people who tried to apply for public meetings
was how the police interpreted the law.

“The first mistake, is mistaking notification with application. You write to
the police informing them that you intend to hold a public meeting or a
public demonstration. In your letter you clearly indicate that you are
simply notifying them and their response will be ‘permission is refused’ as
if you are applying to them.

“Even in circumstances where they mistakenly think they are giving you
permission, they will say your application has been approved and then they
will continue to give you various conditions,” he added.

But Gonese faced resistance from some Zanu-PF members when its MP from
Uzumba-Marambapfungwe, Senator Oriah Kabayanjiri, said Gonese wanted to
undermine the role of the police in Zimbabwe.

MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwondzora said the police had been unfriendly
towards the MDC-T and there was need to have a ZRP that was not partisan.
“The police have banned many MDC-T rallies with no explanation instead of
supervising them. Everyone should be protected by the police without
favour,” he said.

Parts of Posa are carried over from the Rhodesian law used to counteract the
armed struggle in the 1960s and 1970s.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), a civic group which occasionally has run-ins
with the police, also wants to see change.

Some of its members have been arrested during demonstrations and some beaten
up in the process, and last month the organisation’s offices were raided by
the police.

“The police should guide us and not intimidate us. A lot of us have been
arrested and even tortured. If Posa is amended things will become far better
and we will continue to have peaceful demonstrations against bad governance.
Posa takes away civil rights,” said Jenni Williams from Woza.

The more antidemocratic sections of Posa are those which make it an offence
to “cause disaffection among police force or defence force”, “publish or
communicate false statements prejudicial to the State” and “undermine the
authority of, or insult, the President”.

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