There was chaos in Senate yesterday during the second reading of the Public Order and Security Amendment Bill (Posa) which seeks to limit the powers of the police while making them more accountable, amid indications Zanu PF might seek to stop the Bill in the Upper House.
The Bill was introduced by the MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese in 2009 and has sailed through the House of Assembly with amendments.
Yesterday, Gonese explained the Bill in the Upper House, telling Senators apart from limiting the powers of the police, it was also meant to ensure Zimbabweans enjoyed freedoms of association, speech and assembly which are enshrined in the Constitution.
He said he was prompted to seek amendments to Posa after realising the police had failed to apply the law correctly, resulting in them denying people the right to assemble, whereas the Act only required police to be notified of public gatherings.
The Bill seeks to make it clear the police do not have power to stop public gatherings, but compelled them to apply to a magistrate to present their case if they felt there were reasonable grounds to stop a gathering.
Gonese said police had also abused Posa by disrupting meetings of party organs in private places, although they did not have the power to do so.
He said over the years the police had arrested numerous people, but had failed to secure a single prosecution, meaning they were using the Act to infringe on people’s rights.
“In 2003, we had 55 cases where 812 individuals were arrested, 274 charged under Posa, but there was no successful prosecution,” Gonese said.
“In 2004 we had 155 charged under the same Act, but at the end, there was no successful prosecution.”
He said in 2005, 547 people were arrested, but the State failed to secure a conviction while in 2006, 577 people were arrested, 166 of whom were released without charge and 55 were charged, but there was no conviction.
Several people were arrested in 2007, while in 2008, 1 446 people were arrested and 271 of them were charged, but again there was no conviction.
He said by the time he proposed the amendments, 125 people had been charged under Posa with the State failing to secure a conviction. Gonese buttressed his argument by saying the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and defence had conducted public hearings throughout the country where people expressed their disgust over Posa with some suggesting it be totally repealed.
Zanu PF senators however openly showed disgust when Gonese was presenting his case.
Oriah Kabayanjiri (Zanu PF) said there was need to do more research on the proposed amendments given the police were doing a wonderful job and were respected the world over.
He suggested Gonese wanted the amendments to achieve certain political objectives and said it was not feasible to rely on magistrates to be involved in security matters.
The leader of the House Martin Dinha then moved a motion to adjourn the debate until today, although Senators were itching for debate.
This resulted in a free for all in the House after which Zanu PF Senators decided to support Dinha’s motion.
Senators from the MDC formations wanted the Bill to be debated, but Senate acting President, Fortune Charumbira, declared the debate will be held today amid cheers from Zanu PF legislators.