The Public Order and Security Act (Posa) should be immediately repealed because it is a threat to the concept of free and fair elections, Crisis Coalition has said.
Macdonald Lewanika, the director of Crisis Coalition, told NewsDay in an interview on Friday that Posa had no place in any country that considered itself normal and was only a tool to suppress
“We believe that a law like Posa has no place in a normal country and belongs to the colonial era to ensure that people do not gather,” said Lewanika.
“That was expected then under oppressive rule by the Rhodesian Ian Smith regime, but in an independent country whose struggle was about freedom of expression, such a law has no place and needs to be repealed.”
Lewanika said the danger of Posa was that it could be used as a tool to ensure certain political parties were unable to converse and address supporters during election campaigns.
“We want people to be free to engage in political activities and Posa is a threat to the concept of free and fair elections. It can be used to unlawfully detain people and obstruct their gatherings and so it should be removed before elections,” said Lewanika.
The chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, who is also the Mazowe Central MP and executive member of the MDC-T legal committee, Shepherd Mushonga, said the history of Posa revealed it was a law abused by politicians with the help of the police.
He said it was selectively applied to opposition political parties yet one political party (Zanu PF) was not affected by the law. He said Posa seriously stifled freedom of association because prior to a gathering the police demanded that notice be given and they also make it a requirement that they are present, taking notes, during public gatherings.
“Under Posa, the police have a right to turn down requests by people to gather, but amendments proposed by Gonese (Innocent, Mutare Central MP) are good because if amended, the police would only be notified of an intention to gather, not asked for their permission to do so,” said Mushonga.
Gonese, who is also the MDC-T Chief Whip in Parliament, introduced amendments to Posa as a private member’s Bill.
Initially, Zanu PF MPs supported Gonese’s amendments to Posa before they made a sudden U-Turn last week, allegedly following “advice” from the Zanu PF presidium.
He said the amendments were good because if the police had qualms about a gathering, they would get a chance under Section 18 of the Constitution to be heard by the High Court or an impartial arbitrator.
Mushonga said any MP who did not want to support Gonese’s amendments wanted to use the unamended Posa to obstruct other political parties from campaigning freely for elections.
“Only people from one political party have been arrested for violating Posa and so we need those amendments,” Mushonga said.
He said although he was sure that the two MDC parties would join hands to ensure the amendments by Gonese sailed through, the only stumbling block might be the Senate, which has a Zanu PF majority.