POSA under the spotlight

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The on-going public hearings on the Public Order and Security Amendment Bill have attracted mixed reactions from members of the public.

In some areas the hearings, which started earlier this month, have attracted very little interest – in Murewa only three people turned up. Lupane did not fare much better.

The hearings have continued none-the-less as scheduled. Last week people in Gokwe, Lupane, Gwanda and Marondera had the opportunity to air their views.

However, In Bulawayo, the turnout for the hearings was high.

About 300 people turned up to make representations on the Bill.

The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and Defence, Glenview legislator Paul Madzore has attributed low turnouts to communication breakdowns.

He said in rural communities most people have no access to newspapers, which have been used as the means of communicating the messages of the dates and venues of the hearings.

So far ordinary citizens have indicated they would like Posa to be amended to allow them to gather freely just like citizens of neighbouring South Africa.

But there was also support for the police, with some citizens saying the presence of police at such gatherings made if safer.

And yet others complained about being arrested under Posa whenever they were found without identity documents.

Contributions at the hearings suggested the public wanted the police to be better informed about Posa.

Some women complained that they have been arrested by police using Posa whenever they were seen walking in groups at night.

MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese, who wants Posa amended to allow for freedom of expression and association in Zimbabwe, has already appeared before the committee to give his views.

The hearings which are continuing were being sponsored by the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST).