Lawyer seeks suspension of public hearings

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A HARARE lawyer has approached the High Court seeking an order to suspend public hearings of the Constitutional Amendment Bill No.2 because of the deadly coronavirus, which has killed thousands of people across the globe.

In the urgent chamber application, Sikhumbuzo Mpofu cited National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda, Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Health minister Obadiah Moyo, as respondents.

The public hearings are set to commence on March 29 and at least 21 sites have been earmarked for the meetings. Some of the areas that are set to be visited include Kadoma, Chegutu, Mhondoro Ngezi, Gweru, Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Lower Gwelo, Norton, Chitungwiza, Mazowe, Banket and Harare.

“What is clear is that large crowds are expected to turn up for these hearings and they cover wide catchments. Despite my anticipated participation, I am now palpably suffering under the threat of the coronavirus (Covid-19) infection in a public gathering,” Mpofu said.

He said this has hampered his prospects of taking part in the event.

“I have been made aware by study and notices from several governments, including our government, that the virus spreads by contact and sharing similar space. Coughing and sneezing have also been indicated as catalysts to spread from an infected person. Touching has accordingly been advised against,” Mpofu said.

He said a number of governments across the globe were suspending gatherings, meetings and conferences in a bid to promote social distancing, which has positively worked towards reducing the spread of the disease.

“Some governments have gone to the extent of promoting self-quarantining. In Wuhan (China), the place where the virus is believed to have started, social distancing was used as a means to curb the spread and allow those infected and affected to heal,” he said.

He said the decision to go ahead with the public hearings would be “reckless and inconsiderate”.

“In my view, the health industry is dead. General hospitals have no resources and are incapacitated. Private hospitals have become more expensive and few can afford. Government doctors have been on a strike which no one talks of anymore. The standard of life has degenerated. Income has become elusive,” he said.

Mpofu said amendments to the Constitution were not important compared to life. He said the hearings must be suspended for 60 days, while the government assessed the situation, adding that the process to amend can only resume after dealing with the threat.

The application, however, coincided with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people for the next 60 days.

The respondents have not yet replied to the application.

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