‘Posa abused for unmitigated repression’

January 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

By Bridget Mananavire

HARARE – Police barring of more than 80 Anglican Church of the Province of
Central Africa (CPCA) members from holding their annual pastoral prayer
meeting has highlighted the abuse of the harsh Public Order and Security Act
(Posa), human rights lawyers have said.

The law was supposed to make provision for the maintenance of public order
and security in Zimbabwe.

Posa was also meant to annul the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act (Chapter
11:07); and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the
foregoing, has been now used as a repressive tool, says human rights
lawyers.

Legal experts believe the restrictions imposed by Posa on individual rights
to freedom of assembly are unconstitutional and undemocratic.

“Posa has been used by law enforcement agents and rulers of the land for
purposes of unmitigated repression,” said Chris Mhike, a human rights
lawyer.

“The situation has been worsened by rulers who selectively apply the law,
with a clear pattern of heavy application of repressive laws only on those
who are deemed to be enemies of the state,” said Mhike.

A Private Member’s Bill sponsored by MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese suffered
lack of support from Zanu PF members.

The MDC has, as a result, agreed to shelve the Bill, and push the reforms
via ongoing political talks.

One of the arguments on proposing to amend Posa was that the legislation
gave too much power to the police and the ministry of Home Affairs as well
as the fact that the police are responsible for the administration of the
Act.

Police stormed CPCA gathering venue at Peterhouse girls school in Marondera
on Tuesday, forcing church officials and clergymen to vacate the place
without giving a plausible explanation, except that the meeting was illegal
under Posa.

Police say Posa gives them powers to stop meetings held without their
authority.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday near the venue, Diocesan secretary of
Harare Clifford Dzawo blamed the Zanu PF loyalist Nolbert Kunonga for the
ugly turn of events.

Kunonga, whom the CPCA says enjoys police support because of his Zanu PF
links, was expelled from the church in 2008 but is clinging on to property
claiming to be the legitimate head of the church in Zimbabwe.

His drive to own the church has resulted in the arrest, eviction and general
harassment of CPCA officials and clergy.

Mhike said the recent unfortunate disruptions of activities of CPCA are an
example of partisanship in the execution of duties by law enforcement agents
and the abuse of “undemocratic and unjust” laws in Zimbabwe.

“The Anglican saga illustrates the sacrifice of freedom of worship in
Zimbabwe at the altar of political expediency,” he said.

Posa was crafted from the relics of colonial era Law and Oder Maintenance
Act (Loma).

Ironically Loma was considered to be a draconian piece of legislation that
served the interests of the white minority.

Another human rights lawyer Jeremiah Bamu said there was lack of
appreciation of the law from those responsible for administering it.

“It is shocking that Posa is now being used to regulate Church activities,”
he said.

In February last year, two Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) members were
arrested during a Valentine’s Day anti-violence protest that was supported
by up to 1 000 members in different parts of Bulawayo.

“Posa is only used to prevent gatherings that are distinct to be gathering
against Zanu PF.

“I have not heard of Zanu PF being refused to hold gatherings according to
Posa. It is just the MDC and anyone not Zanu PF,” said Bamu, who has
defended dozens of Posa victims.

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