When will AIPPA and POSA be abolished?

The report that the Public Order and Security (POSA) Amendment Bill was shot down yesterday in the Senate by Zanu-pf Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa (Newsday, 04/08/11) made very sad reading. It sets a very bad precedent.

After wasting parliament’s time debating a bill for months in the House of Assembly until it reached the Senate, and raising people’s hopes of change in the notorious law, only to declare it “smuggled” and “unprocedural”, is an insult to public intelligence.

POSA and its evil twin, the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) were supposed to have been repealed before the end of last year, based on the Government Work Programme (GWP) 2010 (Zimbabwemetro.com, 21/03/10).

AIPPA or the media hangman’s bible has no place in a decent and democratic society like the one envisaged in Zimbabwe in a post-Mugabe era. Although Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba recently emotionally defended AIPPA, that draconian law must be repealed.

AIPPA is blocking the opening of the airwaves. It is being used to abuse foreign journalists and correspondents of foreign media through exorbitant accreditation fees. It must be repealed and replaced by some civilised law.

As for POSA, Amnesty International noted that it was enacted in January 2002 as part of an overall strategy by the government authorities to hinder the campaigning activities of the MDC in the run-up to the presidential elections in March 2002 . It also sought to tighten restrictions on the independent media and gave police sweeping powers (Solidarity Peace Trust, ‘Disturbing the peace’, July 2004:2).

AI adds that since its enactment, POSA has been used by the authorities to target opposition supporters, independent media and human rights activists and specifically to restrict their rights to: freely assemble; criticise the government and President; and engage in, advocate or organise acts of peaceful civil disobedience.

Following is a ‘snapshot’ from SPT, of what makes POSA anathema to human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression based on activities disrupted in the name of POSA in 2003:

• Arrests of people singing and wearing protest t-shirts at World Cricket Cup matches in Bulawayo;

• Arrests of women singing and handing out roses on Valentine’s Day (my birthday);

• Arrests of women sweeping the streets on Women’s Day

• Arrests linked to stay-aways in March and June (arrested for going on strike!);

• Arrests linked to by-election campaigns in Highfields and Kuwadzana;

• Arrests linked to peaceful Trade Union demonstrations;

• Arrests linked to the Combined Harare Ratepayers Association attempting to meet with the Harare City Council on council business (civic matters);

• Arrests linked to the national Constitutional Assembly that was advocating for a new constitution.

A recent act of the abuse of POSA’s other notorious sibling – the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA) was when a law officer in the Attorney General’s Office invoked Section 121 of the CPEA in March 2011to suspend the bail order which had been granted to Energy Minister Hon Mangoma of MDC before his acquittal.

Unless the two MDC parties take the issue of these two notorious laws to next week’s SADC summit in Angola, there would be no point in discussing a roadmap for elections which will simply be a repeat of 2002 and 2008 state sponsored violence.

However, we feel vindicated with the forced withdrawal of the POSA Amendment Bill as we have argued for the nasty piece of legislation to be repealed as soon as the coalition government took office rather than appease Zanu-pf through amendments which later also fail to become law. When will AIPPA and POSA be abolished?

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