The legislators from Zanu PF withdrew their support for the Posa Amendment Bill after they received a tongue lashing from Vice-President Joice Mujuru at a party caucus meeting on November 18 for supporting the proposed legislation.
In an interview, Mwenezi East legislator and Zanu PF politburo member Kudakwashe Bhasikiti said this week the party legislators would not support the proposed Posa amendments because effecting the changes would create room for those who want to cause anarchy in the country in the name of democracy.
“We will not support the Posa amendments because they will cause anarchy. They are proposing that the Act should not make demonstration organisers responsible for the destruction that takes place during the street actions. How can we sanction removal of the burden of responsibility from the organisers?” Bhasikiti queried.
He added that: “The Bill is as good as dead. That is why even the minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs or Justice and Legal Affairs did not steer the Bill. They knew it would create anarchy and mayhem in the country.”
A source within Zanu PF said MPs assumed to be supporting the MDC-T agenda on elections and amendments to Posa were chastised at the meeting.
“The meeting targeted Makhosini Hlongwane for supporting Posa amendments during the Bill’s second reading stage. We were reminded to desist from assisting MDC-T to cause regime change through amendments to laws like Posa.”
The source added that: “The address was not a discussion or an exchange of views. It also targeted Paddy Zhanda for saying that MPs would demand compensation if their term was cut short. There was resistance because MPs did not want to be talked down to but needed an open engagement on the matter.” MDC-T, however, said rejecting the Bill would be fatal to Zanu PF’s legislative agenda as they would also block their moves in retaliation.
Shepherd Mushonga (MDC-T Mazowe Central MP) told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that: “If the Bill dies in the water it will be a disaster for Zanu PF. They will not put anything in the House and sail through. It will be sad.”
Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese (MDC-T) introduced the amendment as a Private Member’s Bill.
Gonese was surprised when the Bill passed through the second reading stage with Zanu PF’s support and believed the process marked a new era of bipartisanship in parliament.
“I see that there is a new spiriti this august House. I do not know whether it has to do with Copac. It is very encouraging and I want to believe that this is going to be that start of good things to come,” Gonese said then.
The amendment is aimed at ensuring that public gatherings are regulated in a manner that will allow Zimbabweans to fully exercise their fundamental democratic right to express themselves through the medium of peaceful assembly and association.
The Bill redefines a “public meeting” in a manner that makes it clear that internal meetings of organisations such as political parties and trade unions will not normally fall within the Act’s provisions. Under the proposed law, political parties may hold meetings in venues that are not open to the public and in public places that are indoors such as public halls.
It also takes away the police’s power to stop organisers from holding demonstrations and gives it to magistrates in addition to reducing notification time from seven days to four days before an event.
Opposition political parties and civil society organisations have complained that their meetings have on several occasions been banned or disrupted by police while they alleged that no Zanu PF meetings had been subjected to the same treatment.