By Audience Mutema
THE much celebrated new Bill, Maintenance of Peace and Order (MPO), which is set to replace Public Order and Security Act (Posa) is a regurgitation of the old law, despised by many, constitutional and legal watchdog Veritas has said.
In its analysis of the Bill gazette last week, Veritas said the new Bill has few if any differences with its predecessor a law, that had become a key instrument of repression under former President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
“There are very few differences between the Bill and Posa – depressingly few, in fact. We expected more than this.
“The draft Bill is not new wine in an old bottle: it is the same old wine in the same old bottle with a new label stuck on it,” the think tank said.
Veritas highlighted that the Bill makes slightly updated changes to the provisions of Posa like instead of using “Commissioner of Police” to “Commissioner –General of Police.”
One of the differences between MPO and Posa are according to Veritas, that the title of the Bill is slightly more ‘emollient’ than Posa.
“In terms of appointment of responsible officers for the public meetings, words have been added to subclauses (1) to the effect that persons who are appointed as organisers of public meeting are to be regarded as conveners for the purposes of Part (ii) of the Bill. This makes the clauses a little tidier, but does nothing more.
“Notice of gatherings, a reference in Posa to ‘facsimile numbers’ has been updated to refer to cellphones and email numbers. That is the only change,” said the analysis.
As regards consultations to hold public gathering a source of heckling under Posa, Veritas said the new Bill indicates that the regulating authority has an obligation to “notify the convenor of a public processions or demonstration within three days of receiving the notice that the processions or demonstrations must go ahead.”
“If the regulating authority has no problems about it causing disruption or disorder. Under section 26 of Posa no time –limit is specified, so convenors could be kept in suspense until the last minute before being told about the regulating authority’s attitude.
“The clause also differs from the section 26 of Posa in that a proviso is added to sub clause (3). The proviso is incomprehensible,” Veritas argues.
“However, this clause is just the same as Posa’s section 26, because it retains to the existing anomaly that convenors must give at least seven days notice to the regulating authorities.”
There have also been numerous legal fights over “temporary prohibition of public demonstrations.”
According to the Veritas analysis, this section has been omitted from the draft Bill probably given it had already been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.
While Posa allowed authorities to detain a citizen for failure to produce an identity card, the new Bill gives one a week to do so at a police station but still makes failure to do so an offense.
The new Bill, now shift power to deploy the army to assist police with maintaining law and order to the President rather that the Minister of Defense as was the case under Posa.
Veritas concluded that all new amendments are not new but are just Posa sections that were retained.