MEMBERS of the public have condemned the Maintenance of Order and Peace Bill (MOPA) for its oppressive clauses, one of which will compel conveners of public demonstrations or gatherings to give their addresses to the police in their applications to hold the gatherings.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Last Friday, Parliament through its Portfolio Committee on Justice and the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security held public hearings on MOPA in Harare and Chitungwiza, where the majority of people rejected the Bill which is going to replace the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA).
A member of the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security, Douglas Mwonzora, explained some of the clauses in MOPA, where he said section 5 of the Bill stipulates appointment of conveners and deputy conveners of the gathering or demonstration.

“Any organisation which wants to carry out a demonstration or public gathering has to appoint a convener to sign for the notice himself and he has to be present during the demonstration,” he said.

“The name and address of the convener and deputy convener must be given, and the police must be given details of the structure of the organisation and who will attend the gathering.”

But Harare residents who attended the public hearing said the clause made MOPA worse than POSA because giving the law enforcement agents the address of the convener might result in victimisation and increased cases of some people being abducted, beaten and left for dead.

A latest incident was that of Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) leader Obert Masaraure, who was allegedly abducted from his place of residence in front of his wife and children and severely tortured and beaten.

Zimbabwe Centre for Equal Opportunities president Paddington Japajapa described the clause as very intimidatory.

“Usually, demonstrations are done by organisations or political parties and we do not see why the names of the convener and his deputy must be given to the police. It is intimidatory because the moment anything goes wrong, the person will be victimised. Only the address of the organisation which will hold the public gathering or demonstration must be given,” he said.

Another clause in MOPA which people said would render it more oppressive than POSA is the one which gives magistrates powers to give sentences of up to 20 years for contravening MOPA. People said it was tantamount to a death sentence, given the conditions of Zimbabwe’s prisons.

Mwonzora said section 12 of MOPA would stipulate that if a convener fails to give notice, they are liable for death or injury, or destruction of property during the demonstration and besides imprisonment of even up to 20 years, the convener might be required to compensate.

Public lawyer Veronica Zano said the civil liabilities imposed by MOPA were oppressive and meant to deter people from demonstrating.

“This is meant to deter people from demonstrating and these are criminal war liabilities in a way. The limitations in MOPA are more than what is required in a democratic society because it curtails freedoms enshrined in the Constitution,” she said.

One of the participants, Gift Dzorai, said if MOPA stipulates that conveners must compensate for damages, then it should also stipulate that protesters that are killed by law enforcement agents during demonstrations must be compensated as well and the law enforcement agents responsible must be charged.