ZLHR in bid to stop public hearings


Tarisai Machakaire

RIGHTS lawyers have challenged public hearings for amendment of the Constitution set for June 15 arguing that having them during lockdown would limit participation of every Zimbabwean.

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

They cited National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda, pictured, Senate president Mabel Chinomona and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents.

The court heard on June 8, the Clerk of Parliament notified the public that its portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs would conduct nationwide public hearings on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No.2 Bill.

The public hearings are scheduled to take place from June 15 and 19.

“By calling for public hearings during a national lockdown where there are laws restricting movement of the majority of people, they have discriminated against members of Camera on social grounds.

“They are not employed, worse still in the essential services and as a result do not have letters that would justify them travelling from Manyame, Chitungwiza to Harare to attend the public hearing,” Camera director Marvellous Kumalo said.

Kumalo said this would give an advantage to those working in essential services at the expense of the rest of the population.

He argued that if the public hearings are not stopped the public’s rights would be violated as they would not be afforded a chance to challenge or support policies of some of the proposed amendments which relate to devolution and local governance critical to rural residents.

“I aver that such discrimination is not fair, reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom,” he said.

“The amendment of the Constitution is an important aspect which should involve the participation of as many members of the public as possible but owing to the travel restrictions only a few will likely turn up.”

Camera argued that there was no indication of how Covid-19 regulations would be complied with including social distancing, personal hygiene and use of protective clothing.

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