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Statement regarding the Presidential Powers Regulations published on 13th February 2004
David Coltart MP, Secretary for Legal Affairs, Movement For Democratic Change (MDC)
February 17, 2004

You can email David Coltart at

We have now had an opportunity to read the full text of the Presidential Powers Regulations and note that this is yet another example of the chicanery of the Mugabe regime. In the Government controlled press the propaganda line taken to justify these draconian and unconstitutional regulations is that they are needed to combat economic crimes such as corruption and money laundering. Indeed the "explanatory note" to the regulations establishes this subterfuge as it reads as follows:


(This note does not form part of the regulations, but merely explains their contents)

The amendment to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act effected by these regulations is intended to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of crimes affecting the economic interests of Zimbabwe, such as corruption, the laundering of the proceeds of crime, the externalisation of foreign currency (whether directly or through transfer pricing), the smuggling of gold and precious stones and the illegal export of agricultural products controlled under the Grain Marketing Act [Chapter 18:14]."

The regime clearly thinks they can deceive the public by sweetening the regulations with the explanation that they are designed to combat corruption. There is an understanding within the leadership of the regime that the public is so angry about the flagrant acts of corruption committed by the ZANU (PF) elite and their supporters that the public would tolerate such appalling provisions that violate fundamental constitutional rights if disguised as an attempt to combat corruption. But these regulations are nothing less than a Trojan horse which effectively usher in provisions that give the regime State of Emergency powers without actually declaring a State of Emergency.

This is so because of the effect of section 2 of the regulations as read with section 10 of the Third Schedule of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. These provisions apply these regulations not only to "economic crimes" (as the propaganda would have us believe) but to none other than the Public Order and Security Act (POSA)! Section 10 of the Third Schedule reads as follows:

"Contravening section 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11 of the Public Order and Security Act [Chapter 11:17]."

Section 5 of POSA is the provision used to detain most of the MDC leadership over the last year and indeed today in Bulawayo several MDC members are in court facing spurious allegations of contravening this section which reads:

"5 Subverting constitutional government

(1) In this section-
'coercing' means constraining, compelling or restraining by-
(a)physical force or violence or, if accompanied by physical force or violence or the threat thereof, boycott, civil disobedience or resistance to any law, whether such resistance is active or passive; or
(b)threats to apply or employ any of the means described in paragraph (a);
'unconstitutional means' means any process which is not a process provided for in the Constitution and the law.

(2) Any person who, whether inside or outside Zimbabwe-
(a)organises or sets up or advocates, urges or suggests the organisation or setting up of, any group or body with a view to that group or body-
(i)overthrowing or attempting to overthrow the Government by unconstitutional means; or
(ii)taking over or attempting to take over Government by unconstitutional means or usurping the functions of the Government; or
(iii)coercing or attempting to coerce the Government;
(b)supports or assists any group or body in doing or attempting to do any of the things described in subparagraphs (i), (ii) or (iii) of paragraph (a);
shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twenty years without the option of a fine."

The intention of the regime is clear. They understand that the region and South Africa cannot afford a declaration of a State of Emergency, which the regime desperately needs to facilitate detention-without-trial-provisions last used by the Smith regime and the Mugabe regime during the Gukurahundi period. So now under the guise of combating corruption the regime has introduced 30 day detention provisions which will undoubtedly be used preventatively, and/or punitively, to detain those who promote peaceful and non violent methods of civil disobedience. Furthermore given this regime’s predilection for torturing its opponents whilst they are in police custody there is equally no doubt that these provisions will be used to torture opponents more effectively and, more importantly, to prevent those tortured from receiving timeous medical attention.

All of this begs the question – what does the application of these Presidential Powers Regulations to section 5 of POSA have to do with "prosecuting crimes affecting the economic interests of Zimbabwe such as corruption"? Of course it has nothing whatsoever to do with combating corruption. The irony is that these regulations will be used against the very people who are protesting against corruption which is now endemic within the regime.

This appears to be yet another fruit of "quiet diplomacy".

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