Yesterday, there was reports that the marathon sessions in Parliament, which was summoned by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa was for pushing for several new laws. One of these is the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPO Act), which is clearly made to ensure less demonstrations, less activity of the industrial actions of the Unions and even activists in general.
Veritas did in their Bill Watch Number 24, show parts of the Constitutional rights of the Citizens. Which will be compromised by the MOPO Act.
Veritas stated this: “ Section 58(1) guarantees to everyone the freedoms of assembly and association:
“Every person has the right to freedom of assembly and association, and the right not to assemble or associate with others.”
Section 59, more specifically, gives a right to demonstrate:
“Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully.” (Veritas – ‘The Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill : Is it Constitutional?’ 02.05.2019).
When seeing that, you know that the Rights are supposed to upheld by the state and the authorities, however, the state will in regard of the new act. Certainly, stop the public from having a right assemble or demonstrate. The new dispensation is clearly old wine in new skins. Since, it is more oppressive behaviour from the ZANU-PF. They are afraid of the voice of the people, therefore, they have to make laws, that outlaws more of the supposed freedoms they are supposed to have.
In MOPO Act Part II Section 5 (1) any organization has to appoint one man in-charge of the demonstration and also a deputy. These has to negotiate and consult with the authorities, the local police to get allowed to demonstrate. As long as they not breaching the peace.
In Section 7 (1) the organizers have to write and notify the authorities within 7 days ahead for a demonstration, where it will happen and at what time. Also, the organizers have to notify the authorities 5 days ahead of a public meeting too.
To continue the control of the state, Section 7 (2):
“The convening notice shall contain at least the following information—
(a) the name, address and telephone or cellphone and electronic mail numbers,
if any, of the convener and his or her deputy;
(b) the name of the organisation on whose behalf the gathering is convened
or, if it is not so convened, a statement that it is convened by the convener;
(c) the purpose of the gathering;
(d) the time, duration and date of the gathering;
(e) the place where the gathering is to be held;
(f) the anticipated number of participants” (MOPO Act, 2019).
Let’s be clear about this, for any organization, any political party or any CSO to know all of this in advance is hard. That they can know the time, ask for a favourable route in any town, city or municipality is fine. But, to ask and know the anticipated participants, that’s really too much to ask for. Since, the state cannot even know how the inflation is running, how can they anticipate the amount of people showing up to a public meeting, rally and a demonstration.
The state also limits the rights of gatherings/demonstrations at public spaces, as done in Section 10:
“Gatherings in vicinity of Parliament, courts and protected places
(1) Subject to subsection (2), all gatherings within a radius of—
(a) twenty metres of the vicinity of the Parliament;
(b) one hundred metres of the vicinity of the Supreme Court, the High Court, a Magistrates Court or any other court;
(c) one hundred metres of any protected place or area declared as such in terms of the Protected Areas and Places Act [Chapter 11:12]; are prohibited” (MOPO Act, 2019).
They are clearly afraid of the previous years of demonstrations for political prisoners at the Rotten Row and elsewhere. As the state has used ways of arresting opposition activists and leaders. Since that is happening, the state now want them to be further away to not disturb the peace.
What is really a police state part of this act. Isn’t really about the limitations on the demonstrations, public gatherings or the public meetings. However, the extensions of the opportunity for police search is that. There is no-one that cannot be stopped or checked by the police. That is initiating a Police state, whether you like it or not.
As it is stated in the Section 16:
“Powers of stopping and searching
(1) A police officer may stop and, without warrant—
(a) search any person, vehicle or vessel entering or leaving Zimbabwe and
any person in or upon such vehicle or vessel; and
(b) seize any thing;
in circumstances where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the search or
seizure is necessary in the interests of public safety, public order or public health or
for the prevention, investigation or detection of a criminal offence.” (MOPO Act, 2019).
This is really a proof of what their aim is, to give more power to the local police. They can now accept any public gatherings or say that an organizer didn’t follow the needed instructions before they were notified. If not, they didn’t deliver the needed estimates or ensure that the roads for demonstrations to be safe enough. They can clearly do this and this laws make this possible, because of the rate of information and time. Shows, that sudden will to demonstrate isn’t allowed. Than, your automatically breaching the peace, by doing your civic duty and what is constitutional right actually.
Now, as people are crossing, driving or entering Zimbabwe, the Police can now also stop you without warrants. Your a suspect until your proven guilty. The state can search any person and their belongings without any court order. That is a police state. The Zanu-PF have given all power to the Police force, by entering the Republic.
This is clearly not a joke, this an act the President wanted to enact and got fixed during this week. Surely, he got his will. He given more power to his authorities and less to his citizens. This is the new dispensation. Peace.