Opposition aligned civic and human rights groups have called on government to respect the Constitutional Court ruling that outlawed Section 27 of Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to ensure citizens enjoy their rights without hindrance.
By Lisa Tazviinga
Section 27 POSA prohibits demonstrations without police clearance.
Justice Rita Makarau outlawed Section 27 (Chapter 11:27) of POSA on the basis that it was unconstitutional and subject to abuse by the State.
This is a robust piece of legislation civil groups have been battling with over the past decade as it was being used by the police to thwart demonstrations deemed anti-establishment.
The Constitutional Court ruling has been hailed by some Zimbabweans, nonetheless, civil society groups and human rights activists said more still needs to be done to guarantee their right to demonstrate in the country.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Secretary General Japhet Moyo said the main concern lies in the implementation of the Constitutional Court ruling.
“It is not about seeking for permission from the police but whether you will still not be arrested if you are found demonstrating under Criminal Law, Codification and Reform Act (CLCA) because some POSA sections are also in the CLCA,” said Moyo.
Moyo said trade unions have always been exempted from seeking permission from police; however, this did not stop the police from stopping their recent attempt to demonstrate against government’s new tax measures.
“The police have used this piece of legislation to thwart our activities, they have been breaking the law all along, while POSA exempted us from seeking permission they insisted that we apply anyway,” said Moyo.
He added that they are not optimistic about the judgment as the state has never protected their rights in the past.
“The State has defied the court before and this judgment might be academic because we have maintained that trade unions are exempted and the courts have agreed with our position and the law in general, the problem has been the practice,” he said.
Social and Economic Justice Activist Nqobile Mlambo said while they celebrate the Con Court ruling outlawing Section 27, it was important to repeal the whole Act as it is against the constitution.
“POSA in its entity must be repealed for it is not only ultra vires to the constitution of Zimbabwe but a constant reminder of the brutal Ian Smith’s Regime- Law Order and Maintenance Act (LOMA),” said Mlambo.
He expressed hope that government will abide by the ruling.
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) Secretary General, Ashleigh Pfunye called for tough action against law enforcement agents who violate the constitution and deprive people of their rights.
“Repealing a section of POSA is not enough when there is a police force that has captured the cities and an army that shoots at civilians.
“As long as the system of governance and a culture of violence is not dealt with, then we are still miles away from realising our genuine democracy,” said Pfunye.
He said the judgement had opened new doors for civil society groups and human rights activists.
“The democratic space which was formerly closed is being opened because POSA was not in line with the constitution,” said Pfunye.
In a press statement, Amnesty International Zimbabwe Executive Director Jessica Pwiti said the judgment by the Supreme Court is a welcome step for human rights in the country.
“For far too long, this repressive piece of legislation has been used to systematically harass, arbitrarily detain and torture people seen as opposition supporters or those trying to expose human rights violations,” said Pfunye.
She said it was now the responsibility of the police and other relevant authorities to ensure that the court’s decision was adequately implemented thus facilitating an environment in which the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by both national and international law.
POSA was introduced in Zimbabwe in 2002 as a law to criminalize any political gatherings held without police clearance and has resulted in the arrest of thousands of opposition and pro-democracy civil society activists.
Most of its sections were borrowed from LOMA a robust law which was used by Ian Smith regime to suppress and oppress black majority people.