‘Scrap Bill public hearings’

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CIVIL society organisations have advised government to ditch public hearings of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill (2) despite a High Court ruling allowing them to go ahead.

In a just-released report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum argued that the public hearings would expose people to Covid-19 (coronavirus) because national lockdown regulations are not being adhered to.

The fears by the Forum come after the highest number of positive Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases in a single day, 62, was recorded on Thursday.

“Since public hearings started on June 15, 2020, the Forum has observed a worrying trend of disregard of Covid-19 regulations. In all the public hearings conducted to date, social distancing is not maintained during the period before public hearings commence.

“Reports indicate that community members take time to socialise. The Forum reiterates its call for Parliament to postpone the public hearings until after the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report said.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum emphasised that at the meetings most of the participants only wore their face masks to be allowed entry into the venue and once inside would remove them.

They also noted that regardless of police presence at the venues, they did not enforce the mandatory social distancing and proper use of face masks. They added that temperature checks were also not being done.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Justice Misheck Mataranyika told the Daily News on Sunday recently that meetings will go ahead because the courts had already ruled on the issue.

“The two separate applications to stop the meetings were dismissed in our favour, so we do not see any need to listen to anyone who says otherwise. Had the courts ruled to stop them we would have complied. In a democratic society when parties are in dispute they seek an arbitrator to resolve the problem and in our case the arbitrators were the courts and they made their judgement,” Mataranyika said.

He added that, in any case, the hearings were almost done, so there was no need for alarm.
On Monday High Court judge Justice Joseph Mangota dismissed a bid to stop the on-going public hearings on the Constitution amendments by rights lawyers who had argued that they were being conducted in manner not consistent with constitutional provisions of equality.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) representing Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (Camera) and a resident Alice Kuvheya filed the application for declaratory relief for the hearings to be suspended until the lockdown is over and adequate measures are imposed to safeguard people’s health.

Mangota dismissed their application and advised the parties to submit their comments on the issues raised to Parliament in writing.

Camera director Marvellous Kumalo had argued in the application that the public hearings would only benefit those considered essential services as they would be able to attend the meetings at the expense of the rest of the population.

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