20 February 2019

Zimbabwe: New Law Compels President to Report Army Deployments to Parliament

Photo: Zimbabwe Independent
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda and President Emmerson Mnangagwa (file photo).

New amendments to the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) will compel the President to inform parliament on army deployments to assist police in dealing with civil unrest.

This was said by Information and Publicity Minister Monica Mutsvangwa while briefing the media on Tuesday's cabinet deliberations.

They include the approval of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill, which seeks to repeal the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is under fire for unleashing armed forces on civilians with over 20 deaths linked to direct shootings by the military during two public protest incidents since he took over as the country's number one November 2017.

In her press briefing, Minister Mutsvangwa took time to outline the changes that have been effected on the controversial law including the parts that compel the country's leader to inform parliament in cases of army involvement in public order duties.

"There is also a provision in POSA where the armed forces can be called to assist the police," she said.

"The 2013 Constitution says that once the armed forces is called to assist the police, the President must cause Parliament to be informed.

"So, we are going to insert that provision so that within the maintenance of peace, that provision is captured where the President will be called upon to inform Parliament within seven days of its next sitting after deploying soldiers to assist the police."

President Mnangagwa is at pains to justify the deployment of the army during last month's anti-government protests which left a trail of destruction countrywide as citizens tried to registered their anger towards government's failure to remedy a worsening economic crisis that has seen most goods and services priced beyond the reach of many.

The propensity to deploy the military even on minor duties such as driving illegal vendors outside the city centres has also been condemned by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission which has called for government restraint in handling cases of civil unrest.

The opposition MDC has demanded withdrawal of the military from performing police duties as part of its conditions to take part in the country's dialogue process.

Changes to POSA will also see police stopped from imposing a ban on planned demonstrations by groups and individuals amid claims law enforcement agents were abusing the law to block opposition events.

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