'ConCourt ruling to open floodgates of demos'

'ConCourt ruling to open floodgates of demos'
Published: 19 October 2018 (198 Views)
The landmark Constitutional Court (Con-Court) ruling declaring unconstitutional the draconian Public Order and Security Act (Posa) is likely to open floodgates of protests, as agitated Zimbabweans are itching to get into the streets to express their discontent over the increasingly failing economy, analysts, unions and opposition groups have said.

Under Posa, public gatherings and protests had to be first cleared by the police and thousands of Zimbabweans were victims of this provision, which was instrumental during former president Robert Mugabe's era to foil dissent and peaceful demonstrations.

The piece of legislation introduced in Zimbabwe in 2002, gave police power to sanction or ban public gatherings and peaceful demonstrations and they often used excessive force in dealing with members of the public who "crossed the line".

The MDC Alliance, whose members suffered the most from the law, which effectively replaced the equally detested Law and Order Maintenance Act (Loma) enacted by the Rhodesians before the country's independence in 1980, welcomed the court ruling.

Through its spokesperson Jacob Mafume, MDC Alliance told the Daily News yesterday that the government no longer has excuses to stop public gatherings, even though it recently proscribed public gatherings citing the cholera health emergency that has claimed over 50 lives.

"We have always maintained that Posa is illegal, we have always maintained that what the government is doing is wrong," Mafume told the Daily News.

"We have always maintained that we have rights in our Constitution, which we were born with and one of those rights is to demonstrate when the government is failing to live up to its tasks.

"We hope that the police and the security agencies will obey the law. We have a problem currently with a government that operates outside the law, a government that does not like the law, a government that has gotten into power by breaking the law and continued to ignore and continue as if the law does not exist, so we are happy that it has come that way and we have been the victims, whereby cholera has been used to deny us from meeting."

The MDC has been previously denied authority to conduct public gatherings together with other pressure groups.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) members were recently arrested after organising a protest against government's two percent tax regime for every dollar used in electronic transactions.

Government claimed that ZCTU, which is the country's largest labour group, could not hold its protest because of the cholera epidemic, even though other programmes went ahead, including a graduation ceremony at the University of Zimbabwe.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa yesterday said the court ruling enabled people to demonstrate freely and has since said more demonstrations are going to be witnessed as pressure piles on government to improve the economic situation.

"We are now free to demonstrate considering the ruling that was handed down by the Constitutional Court," Mutasa said.

Top Harare lawyer Tendai Biti, who argued the case at the Con-Court said people now have the right to freely move and express themselves, owing to the ruling.

"We were in court because the police were banning public processions for a month, for three months, so we went to court to say the police can't do that in a democracy.
The court agreed with us and said we can't ban.

"So the question is not what we can do, it's what the authorities can do, the authorities can no longer ban public processions as if they are gods at all. That's the essence of the judgment. The people went to assert their right of freedom of movement and freedom of expression which is proscribed when there is a ban. So, in that regard it's a very very important judgment," he said.

- dailynews

Tags: Court, Demos, Zimbabwe,
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