Confusion over security law as constitutional outreach starts

mohadi_gilesHARARE Zimbabwes unity government this week begins an exercise to consult the public on the drafting of a new constitution amid confusion over whether police will enforce a tough security law that they have previously used to regulate or ban public meetings. (Pictured: CO-MINISTERS . . . Gi

Co-Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa were not immediately available to shed light on the status of Public Order and Security Act (POSA) that some government officials insisted has not been suspended to facilitate the smooth holding of meetings under a constitutional outreach programme scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was also not available for comment on the matter on Sunday.

The police have previously used the law to ban meetings of perceived opponents of Mugabe and his ZANU PF party. There are fears police could use the law to block or disrupt meetings in areas dominated by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais MDC party and were members of the public are likely to recommend new constitutional provisions contrary to those preferred by ZANU PF.

Tsvangirais office earlier last week said Cabinet agreed to suspend sections of POSA that deal with public gatherings to enable public consultations on the new constitution to take place.

Cabinet yesterday agreed that the articles in the Public Order and Security Act relating to the holding of political meetings will not apply to any of the 5 000 gatherings to be held under the constitutional outreach programme, Tsvangirais office said last Wednesday.

It said the resolution came in the aftermath of recent instances of the draconian legislation being used to disrupt constitutional awareness meetings being conducted by members of civil society.

But a top government official, speaking on condition he was not named, told ZimOnline that the law came up for discussion in Cabinet last week but there was no agreement to temporarily to suspend the legislation for the duration of the constitutional outreach exercise.

It is true what has been reported in the papers that Matinenga (Eric, Constitutional Affairs Minister) proposed suspending POSA during the outreach exercise, this was discussed in Cabinet but there was no final agreement, said the official.

Efforts on Sunday to speak to Matinenga over the matter were fruitless. POSA requires Zimbabweans to notify police first before holding public political meetings and demonstrations.

But the police have been accused by human rights groups of using the legislation willy-nilly to bar meetings of any group perceived as unsympathetic to Mugabe and ZANU PF.

Critics say POSA has been frequently used by pro-ZANU PF hardliners in the police and other state institutions to settle political scores against their opponents, citing that fact that while hundreds of MDC and human rights activists have been arrested and charged under POSA no ZANU PF officials or supporters have ever been arrested under the legislation.

The proposed new constitution is part of a September 2008 power-sharing deal between Zimbabwes three main political parties that gave birth to the countrys coalition government in February 2009.

Once a new constitution is in place, the power-sharing government is expected to call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections although there is no specific date when the unity government should call new elections.

Zimbabweans hope a new constitution will strengthen the role of Parliament and curtail the president’s powers, as well as guarantee basic civil, political and media freedoms.

Post published in: Zimbabwe News

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