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Chief Whip Innocent Gonese on POSA amendments
Guma, SW Radio Africa
Order and Security Amendment Bill, brought to Parliament by
MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese, went through its second reading
stage on Tuesday. On Behind the Headlines SW Radio Africa journalist
Lance Guma speaks to the Mutare Central legislator and finds out
what his proposed Bill is seeking to change in the draconian POSA.
broadcast 07 October 2010
Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and welcome to Behind the Headlines.
Now this week the Public Order and Security Amendment Bill brought
to parliament by MDC Chief Whip Innocent Gonese went through its
second reading stage on Tuesday. Now for more on this story and
what the Amendment Bill is meant to achieve we have the MDC-T Chief
Whip, Mr Innocent Gonese joining us on the programme. Va Gonese
thank you for joining us.
Gonese: Good afternoon Lance, how are
Right, first things - this is classed as a Private Member's
Bill - clarify that for our listeners - why is it called
Well what happens is that in terms of our system under the usual
circumstances, Bills are introduced by cabinet ministers and they
will be emanating from the executive but in terms of the procedures
and systems under which parliament operates it is permissible for
a member who is not a member of the executive, a back bencher like
myself to introduce a Bill.
What I realised
was that there was that gap in the sense that although the GPA
made it quite clear that we must democratise our laws and that laws
such as POSA
needed to be improved and nothing was happening, I did feel that
it was important to introduce the Bill as a Private Member because
it is something that is allowed in terms of the standing rules and
orders of parliament and also in terms of the constitution.
what it actually means it's a Bill which is not emanating
from the executive arm of the government.
Guma: OK. Can
we draw any conclusions from the fact that ordinarily we would have
expected maybe the Justice minister or someone from Home Affairs
to have pushed this through do we draw any conclusions from the
fact that it's a private member who's actually sought
Well definitely. What it means is that the government was a bit
slow in terms of introducing this kind of legislation. In terms
of the nature and spirit of the Global Political Agreement it was
made quite clear that we need to have such laws to be introduced
but because it was taking rather long, it was quite clear that some
initiative had to be done in order to ensure that I know the freedoms
of the people of Zimbabwe which are sacrosanct and which are guaranteed
by the constitution can be enhanced and that was the main motivation
in bringing this Bill to parliament.
Guma: OK so
we are told the Bill went through its second reading stage on Tuesday.
Explain the process for us, from the second reading stage, what
Yah first of all let me clarify what second reading entails. The
second reading is actually the stage where you discuss or debate
the objective, the principles underlining the Bill and at that stage
that is when all members of parliament who wish to contribute to
the general principles, so in other words a general debate without
necessarily going into the specifics, that is the stage that we
dealt with on Tuesday although that stage actually commenced in
the last session of parliament to be precise on the 18th of March
2010 when I introduced the second reading debate.
I debated together
with and we also received a report from the portfolio committee
on Defence and Home Affairs. After that we adjourned parliament
for the outreach programme and it is only now that we are able to
review the debate on the Bill.
So that stage
was completed on Tuesday and whilst that is being done we're
now going into the committee stage and at the committee stage that's
when we then go into the Bill clause by clause to discuss the various
clauses and at that stage some indications have been made that members
from ZANU PF might wish to have some amendments and I've not
yet heard what particular changes they might like to have.
As long as those
amendments do not change the primary objective of the Amendment
Bill, they would be welcome. So up to now I haven't had a
discussion with Honourable Paul Mangwana who I understand would
like to make some suggestions.
So at that stage,
when we are at the committee stage, that's when we can then
discuss the various clauses and if there are any minor changes to
be made, and I want to emphasise that those changes have to be minor
otherwise it will really destroy the whole essence of bringing an
Amendment Bill to parliament if you are going to make drastic changes.
Guma: OK, now
before we get to the actual clauses that you are putting forward
as amendments, there was some rather surprising support for the
Bill from several ZANU PF MPs. Did you think that support was genuine?
Well actually I had a very pleasant surprise and sometimes I would
think like this happens one wants to take them positively. The basic
point obviously is that the members who contributed are private
members and I think that if they also listened to the report of
the portfolio committee, on Defence and Home Affairs, it was quite
clear that the majority of Zimbabweans would actually want the Bill
to be repealed, to be expunged from our statute books.
So I want to
think that that kind of support came from a realisation that the
majority of Zimbabweans would like to see an improvement to this
particular piece of legislation. Obviously the mood that was in
the House it was quite clear that generally speaking people were
in favour of the Bill and I found that a bit surprising but it was
a pleasant surprise all the same and I want to hope that this is
the beginning of better things to come in future and that our attitude
as legislators would be more informed by what is in the best interests
of the people of Zimbabwe.
Guma: Now it
has been suggested by some commentators that it's only recently
that the US and EU governments refused to remove targeted sanctions
on members of the Mugabe regime so do you think maybe ZANU PF MPs
supporting your Bill are making the right noises out of convenience?
Well it's difficult to draw conclusions of this nature at
this particular point in time. I think in the fullness of time we
will be able to tell exactly what is motivating (inaudible) But
at the same time I would also want to say that obviously members
of parliament do have the right sometimes to think independently
and I think at the fullness of time if we are able to steer this
Bill through both Houses of parliament then that will be a better
indication of the attitude, whether there has been a genuine change
Guma: OK, now
we know the Public Order and Security Act, otherwise known as POSA
has been used countless times to suppress freedom of expression
and movement, what are you suggesting as amendments? Without going
into too much details, what is the essence of what you are trying
to change via this Bill?
The essence of this Bill really is to try to ensure that the police
have a better understanding of their role. That is why for instance
in the definition section we actually want to have a clause which
actually emphasises that our freedom of association, freedom of
assembly, and all other freedoms are enshrined in our constitution,
and that our legislation must be in accordance with that spirit
which is enshrined in the constitution.
And the Bill
also emphasises that the police have to undergo some kind of training
and these are actually in furthering the objectives stated in the
Global Political Agreement that it is actually necessary to have
our police having a better understanding of human rights and so
on and so forth so that they have a better understanding and then
they can apply the law in a way which is different from what they
have been doing in the past.
Guma: Is it
likely then that this Amendment Bill will be pushed through before
the next elections because everyone is talking about the forthcoming
elections, whether they will be in 2011 . . .
Yah in terms of the timeframe there shouldn't be any difficulty
because right now next week parliament sits if we are able to get
through the clauses, the committee stage then next step will be
to go to the Senate. The question really is even if the Bill is
passed by both houses it still awaits Presidential assent.
changes will make it easier for people to express themselves. We
are proposing for example that the notice periods required for public
demonstrations be reduced from 7 to 4 (days). That will make it
easier for people who want to organise public demonstrations.
We are also
envisaging a situation where if the Amendment Bill is passed people
will be able to express themselves before their elected representative,
because currently people cannot demonstrate outside the buildings
of parliament, that will be removed.
If people want
to express themselves and make their views known to the courts for
instance then that can also be done but obviously there will still
be the requirements that they notify the police so that the police
are aware that this is the intention of that particular group of
But you see
the current law is too restrictive and that is why I moved for these
changes which will actually improve the current Act.
Now from the countless interviews that we've done with pressure
groups like WOZA,
a dominant theme that has always come out is the interpretation
of the police is always that demonstrators need their permission
and human rights activists have stated that they don't need
police permission under POSA. Is this something your Amendment Bill
will seek to clarify and make sure there are no grey areas?
Well that is exactly, that is precisely the point. This is also
the reason why the Amendment Bill if it is passed would then make
it clearer that the police themselves actually need reorientation.
Also their powers have been reduced because where for instance directions
need to be given this time it's not the police who have that
power if they want to give any directions for public demonstrations
so if they want to impose any measures, they will then have to appeal
to the judicial authority, to the magistrate.
So in other
words (inaudible) we'll also be taking away some of these
powers from the police and give them to a judicial officer like
a magistrate and the police would then not have the power like now
where they can simply say that as far as they are concerned they
refuse permission for a demonstration.
they don't believe, some of them believe, some don't,
some actually know the true state of affairs but the problem that
you have is that they will be following superior orders but to avoid
any doubt it will be necessary to have the law legislated in such
a way that everyone is getting a common understanding of what the
provision actually entails.
Guma: OK, so
apart from the Public Order and Security Amendment Bill which you
are pushing through as a private member, what else is on the legislative
agenda? Which other draconian pieces of legislation are set to be
tackled by this parliament?
Well unfortunately when we had the opening of the first session
of parliament among the bills which the President indicated would
be coming to parliament, we don't find some of those which
we (inaudible) for example, the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA. We would
have expected that should be one which would be amended.
that is not happening. Most of the other bills really are not the
ones we were expecting but be that as it may, we still have other
bills like the Electoral Amendment which might be coming to parliament
shortly, I has not yet been gazetted but hopefully that one will
make our elections easier to manage if we've got an improvement
to the current electoral law.
Guma: Well that's
the MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese joining us on Behind the Headlines.
Va Gonese thank you so much for your time.
OK thank you very much Lance.
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