By Staff Reporter
AMNESTY International Zimbabwe executive director, Jessica Pwiti says the striking down of Section 27 of the repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA) by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) recently, was a welcome development in the quest for the full enjoyment of total freedoms by Zimbabweans.
The law grants police some discretionary powers to block public gatherings by political parties, civic groups or individuals if they so believed such meetings compromised public security.
But ConCourt said in its ruling that the law was “not fair, reasonable or necessary”.
It further observed that the law has no timeframe or limitation as to the number of times the regulating authority can invoke the powers granted to him or her.
“Thus, a despotic regulating authority, could lawfully invoke these powers without end,” read the judgement put together by Justice Rita Makarau and agreed by eight other judges.
Responding to the ruling, Pwiti said in a statement, “This landmark decision by the Supreme Court is a welcome step which we hope opens a new chapter for human rights in the country.”
The landmark ruling by the country’s apex court on constitutional matters comes as police continue to block opposition demonstrations citing lack of manpower to cover the events.
Lately, the state imposed a blanket and indefinite ban on public gatherings in the ostensible bid to avoid the further spread of a cholera outbreak that has killed atleast 54 locals.
Seven Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) leaders were arrested over a week ago for defying a police ban on planned demonstrations against government’s 2 percent tax on all electronic transfers and rising poverty levels.
In the past, police have invoked the tough security law to block church gatherings in which some top opposition leaders were set to address.
In her comments, Pwiti said the law has been used to harass opposition supporters.
“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. The fact it is no longer on the statute books is cause for celebration.
“But it’s now the responsibility of the police and other relevant authorities to ensure that the court’s decision is adequately implemented. This means facilitating an environment in which the right to peaceful assembly is ensured without undue restrictions – as guaranteed by both national and international law.”
POSA was enacted 2002 by the then Robert Mugabe led government, replacing the colonial Rhodesian Law and Order Act (LOMA), which was used to suppress human rights.
It has been selectively used by the Zimbabwean authorities to ban peaceful opposition events while Zanu PF demonstrations have often been spared.
The ConCourt ruling came as a result of a court challenge by vendors, the opposition and civic groups who have been most affected by the draconian legislation.