BY VENERANDA LANGA
OPPOSITION MDC Alliance legislators have threatened to launch a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) challenge against provisions in the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill (Mopa) which the party and other legal think-tanks have described as unconstitutional.
MDC Senators said they would soon take the legal route after the Bill sailed through Parliament last week and now only awaits Presidential assent.
Mopa seeks to replace the equally controversial and oppressive Public Order and Security Act (Posa) which denied citizens the right to assemble and demonstrate.
The Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) once gave an adverse report on the Bill, prompting it to be taken back for further amendments to make it fall in line with the Constitution.
However, legal think-tank Veritas says the Bill in its present form still contains some unconstitutional clauses which need to be struck off.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi last week told the Senate that some of the clauses that were deemed unconstitutional had been removed from the Bill.
Ziyambi said this included clause 4 which referred to “traditional weapons” as a special category of “dangerous weapons”.
He said dangerous weapons were dangerous regardless of what type of weapon and so traditional weapons could not be singled out as dangerous.
The Justice minister also said clauses 13 (IV) and 13 (VI) of Mopa have also been rephrased to make it clear what “degree of force” is appropriate when the police must use to disperse an unruly gathering.
“Government objects strongly to the characterisation of the Bill as ‘undemocratic’ without specifying in what specific respects the Bill is undemocratic or how it violates the charter of rights and freedoms in any way not contemplated in a democratic society. The rights and freedoms of demonstrators are not the only rights and freedoms to be considered when a gathering has the potential to become disorderly; other human beings have rights and freedoms too, in particular those who may be victimised in their persons and property by unruly demonstrators,” Ziyambi said.
But Veritas, in its latest Bill Watch Bulletin, said the new amendments to the Bill still do not meet the PLC’s objections to clause 5 to 8 of Mopa which still unduly limit citizens’ constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.
“Clause 12 is equally repressive by imposing excessive civil liability on conveners who fail to notify the police of forthcoming demonstrations. The Bill still prohibits demonstrations near Parliament which, as the PLC said, unduly inhibits citizens from petitioning Parliament,” Veritas said.
While Zanu PF Senators have applauded the Bill, their MDC Alliance counterparts have quashed it with Bulawayo Metropolitan senator Gideon Shoko saying it has three sections borrowed from Posa, including trying to ban demonstrations and holding conveners liable to damages.
Midlands senator Lillian Timveous (MDC Alliance) said: “You (Zanu PF) might pass this Bill, but this Bill is going to the Constitutional Court if you force its passage because it is not aligned to the Constitution.”
Manicaland senator Douglas Mwonzora (MDC Alliance) said the fact that a few criminals committed despicable acts during past demonstrations in Zimbabwe did not justify the removal of democratic rights from the people.
“Of the 23 sections in Posa, 20 are then duplicated in Mopa word for word and then scattered around Mopa so that people may not identify them,” Mwonzora said.
Once President Emmerson Mnangagwa signs the Bill, it automatically becomes an enforceable law.