Long-awaited public consultations on the revision of Zimbabwe's constitution were set to begin this week despite fears by some in the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change that police may bar meetings for public comment by inappropriately applying the Public Order and Security Act, a minister said Monday.
The MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has accused ZANU-PF officials in some areas of banning public meetings on the constitutional rewrite. There are fears police may frustrate outreach gatherings in areas where the MDC is politically dominant by invoking POSA, considered a draconian piece of legislation.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga last week suggested to the Cabinet that it suspend POSA in its entirety for the duration of the constitutional outreach process, but no action was taken on the proposal.
A report by the independent daily Newsday quoted Co-minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa as saying police officers who block public meetings will be breaking the law and should be sued as individuals. He was referring to a ban on all public meetings during the ongoing World Cup of soccer unfolding in South Africa.
Matinenga, a member of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that fears the police might use POSA to block outreach meetings are unfounded.
However, ZANU-PF activists in the Maramba Pfungwe constituency in Mashonaland East province have banned MDC and opposition parties from holding public meetings related to the constitutional revision process in the area without the approval of village heads. VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Mutawatawa.