By Mashudu Netsianda
ZAPU leader Dr Dumiso Dabengwa has revealed that he is the brains behind the original Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Bill but former President Mr Robert Mugabe refused to sign it because it was “too liberal.”
In an interview yesterday, Dr Dabengwa said the POSA Bill that eventually sailed through Parliament, was a “grossly edited version” of his brainchild.
POSA repealed the draconian and colonial-era Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA).
It was introduced in Zimbabwe in 2002 and amended in 2007.
Dr Dabengwa, who was then Home Affairs Minister, said he was the mover to replace LOMA and invited the Law Society of Zimbabwe and members of civil society to discuss POSA.
“Indeed, POSA is my baby because I had been tortured and imprisoned by the Rhodesian government under LOMA during the liberation struggle. It really pained me to see the same piece of legislation that was used to imprison us in the early 1960s still in place in Zimbabwe hence I made a move to have it completely repealed and replaced by POSA when I was Home Affairs Minister,” he said.
The former Zanu-PF Politburo member and Cabinet Minister said he consulted President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was then Justice Minister, legal experts and civil society.
“I did lots of consultations, first with (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa who was then Justice Minister and we agreed since he had also been imprisoned under LOMA. We went together and brought a number of legal experts among them the likes of Mr David Coltart and we also extensively consulted civil society and held meetings and discussed issues with people like Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi (Mushonga) who represented civil society,” he said.
“Finally when we agreed on the format that it was supposed to take, I had it drafted by the Parliamentary Legal Committee and it was then brought back to me so that I could be able to steer it through Parliament. It was not easy as there were a number of issues raised by people who opposed certain sections of the Bill, but I managed to get it through almost completely unamended.”
Dr Dabengwa said Mr Mugabe sat on the Bill, arguing that it was too liberal.
“The Bill went through all stages of Parliament and it was passed and went to the President’s Office for a signature but the President would not sign because he had a number of objections. He thought the Bill was too liberal but he didn’t even bother to find out or ask me why I decided to bring certain issues on the Bill.
“All he did was to sit on it and made sure it lapsed because after three months without the President assenting, a Bill automatically lapses and this was about the time we were getting towards the 2000 elections,” he said.
Dr Dabengwa said changes to the Bill were later made by his predecessor, the late Cde John Landa Nkomo.
“The same name was used and during John Nkomo’s time and a number of changes were made which completely diluted the Bill from what it was. There were some repressive sections in LOMA, which we had removed, and one of them is the issue of having to get permission from the police for meetings and that Bill said all that you needed to do was to inform the police of the meeting in case you encounter problems and it also placed the onus on the conveners to first inform police of a demonstration. In the event that any property was damaged, the leaders would then be solely responsible for repairing the damages thereof,” he said.
Dr Dabengwa claimed the current POSA signifies little improvement on LOMA.
“The Bill that I introduced was a liberal POSA which you will find in almost every democratic country and it is completely different from the POSA that we have now. When they came up with the new POSA Bill, I was very angry,” he said.
Opposition parties regard POSA as an Act that helped Mr Mugabe consolidate his power post-2000 during demonstrations and protests.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi recently announced that the Government is set to amend POSA, the Police Act as well as the Citizenship Act as part of an initiative to align legislation with the Constitution.
There has previously been resistance to amend some laws but this reluctance to comply with the Constitution is being addressed in the Second Republic. The Government under President Mnangagwa has since pledged to entrench civil liberties.
Officially opening the 9th Parliament of Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwa pronounced the legislative agenda which is guided by the need to align laws to the new constitution, to further democratise the nation and ensure that the country achieves its 2030 developmental vision. The Chronicle