Zimbabwe: Demo Rights Not Absolute, Says Govt

Riot cops chase MDC-T supporters in Harare (file photo).
15 August 2019

People's right to hold a demonstration is not the only factor that should be considered when a gathering has a potential to turn violent because third parties ought to be equally protected by the law, a Cabinet minister has said.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said it was pertinent to consider other people's rights like the need to protect their lives and property should a public gathering become violent.

Minister Ziyambi said this in Senate yesterday during the Second Reading of the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPA) Bill which seeks to repeal the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) .

The Bill was expected to sail though last night after Senate suspended automatic adjournment rules to allow extensive debate on the Bill as well as the Finance and Appropriation Bill.

"Government objects strongly to the characterisation of the Bill as undemocratic without specifying in what respect the Bill is undemocratic or how it violates the charter of freedoms of rights in any way not contemplated in a democratic society," said Minister Ziyambi.

Government had made several concessions to accommodate concerns raised by Parliament's Legal Committee and the National Assembly which had expressed reservations over some of the clauses, he said. One of the amendments is to restrict to three months a ban by the regulatory authority the carrying of weapons in a given police district.

"In Clause Four, the reference to traditional weapons as a special category for dangerous weapons was removed as this only caused confusion. A dangerous weapon is dangerous regardless of whether it is traditional or not, so why single out traditional weapon. Furthermore, the ban on such weapons within any police district is limited to three months within a period of 12 months unless the regulatory authority seeks leave from a magistrate to renew or extend the ban," said Minister Ziyambi.

Minister Ziyambi also agreed to limit the circumstances in which a police officer could ask for an identity card.

"In Clause 14, we have conceded that no police officers ought to demand the production of an identity document from anyone except upon reasonable suspicion that person has committed some offence. Very often the mere production of such an ID will dissolve suspicion of criminality and make an arrest unnecessary. Clause 16, the establishment of a checkpoint, is permitted only where three or more police officers are present instead of only one," he said

"Clause 18 specifies the circumstances under the Zimbabwe Defence Forces can be summoned to assist the police. This provision is included in compliance with Government's obligation under Section 213 of the Constitution."

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