By Wisdom Mumera
The recently gazetted Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPO) Bill aptly captures President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s now-usual cosmetic and PR-heavy approach to issues whilst seriously lacking the much-needed change traction to effectively entrench the supposed Second Republic dispensation.
The final product as with many of his false dawns is the celebration of a mirage, delicately trying and failing to fit the seams of real change.
The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Access to Information Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) repealing conundrum is a classic example of the Zimbabwean case and ED’s task to bring reform to the very gangster factors upon which the rickety Zanu PF jalopy is carried.
The new government has been essentially tasked with removing, reforming and changing these very mafia systems which have allowed it to hold onto power 20 years after it lost relevance.
Thus far they have utterly and dismally failed.
Effectively repealing POSA, brought in by former President Robert Mugabe as a smart way to deal with public uprisings, is one classic case from which ED could have expressed his sincerity in bringing openness and increasing the democratic space in the country.
As MOPO stands today ED has again lost another chance to stamp his ground as the Southern Africa Abiy Ahmed.
Instead, he has entrenched his image as the sly crocodile gaping and falsely dead on the river banks ready to pounce on unsuspecting visitors by changing nothing and adding his own personal touch.
MOPO is a scarfed POSA.
It has retained all the ugliness of the past but has brought along a smokescreen of change, introducing new normative terms, glossing the archaic and waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting and gullible.
According to legal watchdog, Veritas, “In all other respects the clause (Clause 7) is virtually identical to section 26 of POSA, so it retains the existing anomaly that convenors of a demonstration must give at least seven days’ notice to the regulating authority and, if the regulating authority has problems about possible disruption or disorder, he or she must invite the convenors to a consultative meeting at least seven days before the demonstration – which means there cannot be a consultative meeting if the convenors have given the minimum seven days’ notice”.
Another law expert Doug Coltart dismissed the changes as non-existent.
“That POSA replacement bill is a sad joke. It basically just re-enacts POSA under a different name”.
Other small changes in the MOPO include an allowance of seven days to produce an identity card instead of being arrested on the spot as under POSA.
However knowing what the law is really concerned about, the issue of identity cards is a small itch we could have ignored as we focus on the cancerous corrosion that is over-arching authority involvement and control of public demonstrations.
Among some of the maintained evils are; allowing summary trials, searching of people’s houses without a warrant and all this seems in contravention of Section 59 of the Constitution.
The main gist upon which state media has based its celebration of the change in relation to repealing POSA has been the removal of a section that allows authorities to prohibit demos.
However, the new law still requires that police be given lists of members or office-bearers attending committee meetings or other structures.
Public gatherings are still not allowed without giving police written notice: seven days in the case of processions and demonstrations; five days in the case of public meetings.
As in section 25 of Posa, the notice would have to specify details such as “the exact and complete route” of a procession or demonstration and “the number and types of vehicles, if any” that were to take part.
Failure to do this can result in one being found guilty of a criminal offence and imprisoned for up to a year.
Veritas has concluded that “the provisions of POSA have been copied slavishly in the bill so that all POSA’s undemocratic features have been retained”.
At the end of the day, ED has replicated his pattern of creating facades of change whilst actually maintaining the old.