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New Peace And Order Bill Divides MPs

Tensions are growing among Legislators from both Houses over improvements to the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill (MPOB) ahead of public hearings to be held later in the year before it sails through Parliament, 263Chat can reveal.

The Bill which seeks to replace the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), widely deemed to be repressive, has come under scrutiny as it is believed to be yet another manifestation of repression.

At a breakfast meeting held in Harare this morning, a tense atmosphere was witnessed as legal experts and members of the legislature were unpacking the newly proposed peace bill.

Despite a few notable changes to the Bill, lawmakers from the opposition and civil society organisations are adamant that there is little change as long as police are still given powers to authorize public gatherings.

“Police as the authorities responsible for these things can give or not give permission. I personally think that if the situation is maintained, then there will be no difference between the old POSA and this new Bill.

“I believe that the authority of the police is excessive. They should not be the ones to say yes or no to the demonstration, It should just be a notification and nothing more than that,” opposition party MDC legislator Theresa Makoni said.

This was much to the chagrin of a few ruling party members, notably Joseph Chinotimba who accused opposition parties and civil society groups of “complicating” things, describing the bill as perfect.

Zanupf Deputy Chief Whip and Mangwe legislator, Obedingwa Mguni said there was nothing wrong with police authorizing demonstration as this in his view, ensures law and order in the manner in which public gatherings are conducted.

“The clause in this Bill is very welcome, the one which states that for those who seek to hold a meeting publicly, be it a political rally, a wedding, a church gathering and so forth with people exceeding 15 they should notify the police.

“This helps in the sense that the police are able to plan ahead, for example, if there is an equally big gathering within that same area with a potential threat to violence if these meetings are held at the same time, the police can actually exercise their powers to stop one of the meetings from taking place,” said Mguni.

The gazetting of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill is one such development government has taken in trying to align some of the country’s archaic laws to the new Constitution.

However, critics have often castigated Government’ snail-paced approach to the alignment exercise citing that some of these laws are actually working towards its favour.

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