JUSTICE, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa has said demonstrations are permissible if they are done with the blessings of the police.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Mnangagwa was on Wednesday asked by Buhera West MP Oliver Mandipaka (Zanu PF) to explain before Parliament whether street protests were permissible by law.
“We are alive to the fact that demonstrations sometimes start peacefully and end up violent, but I want to have clarity on the management of demonstrations in the country,” Mandipaka, a former police spokesperson said.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, last week announced he was going to lead street protests to force the ruling Zanu PF government to address the country’s economic crisis.
On Tuesday, United Families International Church leader, Emmanuel Makandiwa prophesied bloodshed could take place in Zimbabwe.
Some people, especially in Zanu PF, linked the prophecy to the planned protests, but others said this had to do with possible bloody succession fights in the ruling party.
According to Mnangagwa, it was imperative for organisers to inform the police of the number of demonstrators they would be expecting. He said this would enable the police to know from the onset if they had the manpower to control the crowd.
“If in the opinion of the police the demonstration is proper and would not violate peace, they will allow it,” he said.
“If they think that there are possibilities of the breach of peace, they will inform organisers of the demonstration about those reasons and for those organisers to attend to those concerns before they can proceed to hold such demonstrations.”
Chapter 4, part 2 of the new constitution stipulates that every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully.
In the past opposition legislators have tried to amend provisions in the Public Order and Security Act, which compelled that would-be demonstrators should seek permission to demonstrate from the police, but these were quashed.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa told Senate on Thursday that calls to behead rapists were not proper in a civilised society.
He said Cabinet had made recommendations that there should be amendments to the country’s laws to ensure there were stiff and deterrent sentences for rape offences.
Mnangagwa was responding to a question by senator chief Enos Musarurwa who wanted to know government position on sentencing of perpetrators of rape cases.
Early this year First Lady, Grace Mugabe suggested the beheading of rapists as a deterrent measure.
“Our laws are weak and they need to be strengthened. But I do not agree that the heads of rapists should be cut, but they should be incarcerated for many years, and even given life sentences, but not to cut off their heads,” Mnangagwa said.
“We are also seeking guidance from specialist psychologists. People ask us why the sentencing seems to be very light and they are saying the sentencing should be tightened.
“For us to give a death sentence — it is impossible. Some are saying the problem is that the perpetrators are given bail and they go back to their homes. We are also looking into that issue. At Cabinet level, we were advised to make amendments here and there to tighten the sentencing.”
The minister urged MPs to conscientise people, and work with chiefs, headmen and religious leaders to ensure people desist from rape.