HARARE – This week Parliament debates were confined in the Senate which was in session as the National Assembly was not sitting.
The National Assembly will resume sitting next Tuesday.
Zanu PF Senators snub debate Zanu PF MPs in the Senate this week declined to debate the motion on alignment of existing legislation to the new constitution.
MDC Senators Misheck Marava and Jameson Makore moved the motion on Tuesday in the Senate demanding that members of the executive led by President Robert Mugabe move with speed to bring the bills to Parliament.
However, on Wednesday, deputy minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Fortune Chasi told senators that his ministry was not ready to respond to the motion as it was facing manpower shortages in the legal drafting department.
“We are working to respond to the motion as we are treating it urgently,” he said.
“However, because of the job freeze in the civil service, we have manpower shortages. However, we shall be coming back soon with the response and we ask to defer this motion.”
This caused Marava and other MDC senators to object to the deferment of the matter arguing that Senators were ready to contribute to the motion.
Chief Fortune Charumbira had to come to the rescue of Chasi, saying that motion was important but the legislators needed to understand the minister was still new in his portfolio hence needed time to reply to it.
“We must not shout at each other as we are the respectable senators,” Charumbira said.
“We have started to argue among ourselves before the motion has been replied by the minister and already this is turning out to be a war.
“I appeal to the Senators to give chance to the minister so that he can prepare the answers.”
Zimbabwe voted overwhelmingly in a March 16 referendum to adopt a new constitution which Mugabe assented to on May 22.
Parliament will align the Declaration of Rights, the changes to the death penalty which will now only apply in more limited circumstances, such that it can be imposed only for murder committed in aggravating circumstances, and be imposed on men between the ages of 21 and 70.
This means the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act will have to be amended to give effect to the restrictions.
There is also freedom of expression and freedom of the media (section 61) provisions, rights of women, Citizenship Act, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Act which have to be realigned to the new constitution.
In terms of the NPA, the new act implies that the current attorney-general Johannes Tomana becomes the prosecutor general, with the post of AG becoming vacant.
The Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Act must spell out in clear terms the roles and functions of the provincial councils so as to avoid duplication and conflict with the newly-appointed ministers of State for Provincial Affairs.
Marava said there was also need for Acts enabling the new commissions pointedly the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and Zimbabwe Land Commission to function fully.
Marava said the legislators were concerned by “commissions and omissions” by the executive which are likely to breach provisions of the constitution and the absence of bills that seek to harmonise existing legislation with the new constitution.
The debate was deferred to November 22.
Chiefs demand CDF
Chief Dandawa from Mashonaland West demanded that chiefs be given the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Debating the presidential speech, the chief said CDF must be shared between chiefs and MPs, who are currently exclusively receiving the money from treasury.
“The issue of CDF needs to be relooked at,” he said.
“We campaigned for the MPs to be voted but when they are given the money by government, they are not consulting us as chiefs on how to use the money.
“We are receiving a lot of complaints from people in the constituencies about this issue. Most of the MPs are not being seen and we are only seeing their children driving motorbikes, and we suspect they could have converted the money for personal use.”
Chief Dandawa was supported by all the Senators.
The Chiefs also demanded judicial powers being enjoyed by magistrates’ courts. However, legislators said the chiefs needed to be educated on constitutional law before they can be conferred with such powers.
Disabled senators want NGOs probed
Senators representing people with disabilities have come out guns blazing, demanding that government enacts laws to protect them from non-governmental organisations purporting to be representing them.
Senator Nyamayabo Mashavakure, who is visually impaired, moved the motion when he was debating the presidential speech.
He argued that Zimbabwe needed laws that were friendly to the disabled.
“We have the Disability Act which is supposed to protect people and we hope it is going to be followed to the full by all stakeholders,” Mashavakure said.
“One of our concerns is that we need to have people with disability being represented in the composition of councils, as the case in Parliament where we have two MPs.
“We don’t have any representatives for the disabled in the metropolitan councils and this should be corrected and we also appeal to our chiefs as custodians of laws in our communities to help us to protect the disabled and advance their cause,” said Mashavakure.
He said government should intervene and look into the affairs of NG0s purporting to represent the disabled.
He called for a probe into their financial operations saying a majority of them were receiving money claiming to be working on projects to empower the disabled in the country.
“We also have NGOs who are registered to be representing the disabled but we are not seeing anything that they are doing to advance the causes of people living with disabilities,” he said.
“Government should probe on how they are using the money they are getting from donors.”
Mashavakure received applause from the Senators when he was debating the motion.
People living with diabilities are represented by two special Senators namely Mashavakure and Anna Shiri.
Guti hosts dinner for female Senators
Women legislators this week attended a dinner celebration hosted by Archbishop Eunor Guti of Zimbabwe Assembly of God Africa (ZAOGA).
Among the female legislators in attendance were Ednah Madzongwe, Flora Buka, Sthembiso Nyoni, Tabitha Kanengoni, Petronella Kagonye and Abigail Damasane.
They encouraged women to participate in politics after seeking God’s guidance.