MOPA Bill outlaws protests

MOPA Bill outlaws protests
Published: 19 August 2019 (200 Views)
In light of the recent ban of the #FreeZimbabweMarch which was supposed to take place in Harare last Friday the 16th and today's protest ban in Bulawayo, the Local Solutions Council would like to warn Zimbabweans and indeed the international community that the original Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPA) Bill that recently sailed through Parliament is not only unconstitutional, but it is worse than the current POSA Act.

The Local Solutions Council cautions Zimbabweans that the MOPA Bill has no place in independent Zimbabwe as it draws inspiration from colonial and apartheid legislation. Thus, the MOPA Bill is simply a replication of the Rhodesian era LOMA Act in today's Zimbabwe under black majority rule and is a blatant manipulation of the freedom of expression and movement.

It is the synopsis of the Local Solutions Council that the MOPA Bill is draconian, inhuman, a shameless facade of repression, open to abuse by security services and a perfect representation of authorities that have no empathy for their people.

Furthermore, the MOPA Bill overreaches and tramples on citizens' rights by enforcing adults to carry identity cards whenever they are in a public place and this form of repression is laid bare by the Zimbabwe Supreme court which ruled more than 20 years ago that this is unconstitutional and contravenes the freedom of movement.

Hence, the Local Solutions Council irrefutable surmises that the MOPA Bill simply outlaws PROTESTS in Zimbabwe by making it virtually impossible to organise and get a protest approved by the authorities.

Infact, VERITAS a local legal think tank has pointed out that the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPA) Bill is nearly identical to the Public Order and Security (POSA) Act. Thus, the MOPA Bill is Old wine in a New Bottle that is change without change. Moreover, Parliament's own Legal Committee issued an adverse report declaring some provisions of the Bill to be unconstitutional.

Accordingly, the Local Solutions Council takes a perusal at the MOPA Bill by covering three of its most controversial and unconstitutional clauses below:

Clause 7
In one of the most controversial parts of the MOPA Bill which almost outlaws protests in Zimbabwe, the Local Solutions Council assimilated that clause 7 makes it a crime, punishable by imprisonment, not to give notice of a gathering.

However, VERITAS evidently showed the unconstitutionality of this clause by pointing out an SA Constitutional Court judgement which emphasised how important it is for citizens to have the right to demonstrate spontaneously and declared that failure to give notice of a demonstration could not be made a crime, no matter what penalty was prescribed.

Consequently, the Local Solutions Council extrapolates that this legal interpretation by the SA Constitutional Court comprehensively reveals that people have a right to impulsively demonstrate at a time and place of their choosing.

Clause 12
The Local Solutions Council deduced that clause 12 states that organisers of gatherings who fail to notify regulating authorities of their gatherings or to follow directives issued by regulating authorities will be liable to compensate persons who suffer injury or loss from public violence or breaches of the peace caused by or arising out of or occurring at" the gatherings.

And on this subsection, Parliament's own Legal Committee criticised clause 12 by stating that it was too broad, and an invasion of freedom of assembly and association guaranteed by section 58 of the Constitution.

VERITAS also criticized this clause by noting that organisers will be liable regardless of whether they incite or permit the violence or disturbance which causes injury or loss, and regardless of any measures they may have taken to prevent it.

Hence, the Local Solutions Council gleans that this clause is designed not just to dissuade organisers of protests but to financially penalize organisers and render future protests leaderless because research has shown that demonstrations without leaders are bound to fail.

Clause 21
Furthermore, the Local Solutions Council also assimilated that clause 21 of the MOPA Bill gives magistrates excessive powers as even junior magistrates will be able to impose sentences of up to ten years' imprisonment and regional magistrates up to twenty years.

More importantly, VERITAS opposed these harsh sentencing powers given to magistrates by pointing out that long jail sentences should only be imposed by judges of the High Court and only in the most serious of cases.

Thus, the Local Solutions Council surmises that these excessive sentences are meant to act as a deterrent so that both protestors and organisers are demotivated to participate or organise a protest or gathering.

Legal Outlook
Consequently; from the above synopsis, the Local Solutions Council conjectures that the MOPA Bill was designed by the authorities to make it almost impossible for organisers to hold protests that are within the confines of the law.

More so, as can be evidently unveiled from the above in clause 7 and 12, the MOPA Bill virtually outlaws PROTESTS in Zimbabwe by preventing people from demonstrating spontaneously, dissuade organisers of protests with financial penalties and thus rendering future protests leaderless.

And more importantly, clause 21 is designed to be a hindrance to protests by imposing excessive sentences on both protesters and organisers.

Thus; in conclusion, the Local Solutions Council is calling for the amendment and realigning to the constitution of the current MOPA Bill before it becomes law in Zimbabwe.

However, if the MOPA Bill is signed into law by President Mnangagwa without far reaching amendments then the Local Solutions Council is appealing to stakeholders to challenge key parts of MOPA in the Constitutional Court.

Issued By
Darlington Nyambiya
LSC President
Local Solutions Council
Email: admin@thesolutionstower.com
Website: www.localsolutionscouncil.com

- Darlington Nyambiya

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