Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The Freedom of Information Bill and International Treaties Bill sailed through the National Assembly yesterday with amendments and now await to be transferred to Senate.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Marriages Bill went through their second reading stage in the National Assembly and debate on the two Bills is expected to continue today. The second reading stage and the committee stage that follows are when the main outline of the proposed law and the detailed look at each clause are debated.
The Freedom of Information Bill is one of the three laws that Government came up with to replace the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which the Second Republic wants repealed to reform the media landscape.
The Marriages Bill seeks to consolidate all laws to do with matrimonial union, both civil and customary into a single law.
All the four Bills were steered through Parliament by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is also Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly.
Minister Ziyambi steered the Freedom of Information Bill and ZMC Bill while standing in for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
Amendments to the Freedom of Information Bill were adopted by the National Assembly before it was read for the third time, signalling the passage of the law, which will now be tabled before Senate. The Bill and its amendments had wide support from both sides of the House, with the initial drafting involving the relevant portfolio committee.
The Bill spells out procedures on how media practitioners and other citizens could access information held by public institutions where such information is necessary for the exercise or protection of a right.
In his Second Reading stage speech for the ZMC Bill, Minister Ziyambi said the new law sought to regulate the media in a manner that enhanced freedom of expression as set out by the Constitution.
“The importance of the media laws cannot be overstated,” he said.
“Let us support the law because it is progressive in our democracy.”
Presenting its report, Parliament’s portfolio committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services represented by Mbizo MP Mr Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) said there was need for co-regulation where Government would regulate the media in terms of accreditation and other administrative issues, while there is a media professional body that dealt with the conduct of journalists.
He said people who were appointed to sit on the ZMC board should have some media background.
Makonde MP Cde Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) said there was need to decriminalise journalistic work.
The Data Information Protection Bill is the other law that seeks to replace AIPPA.
The International Treaties Bill will establish a uniform procedure for the consideration and approval of international treaties by the Cabinet and Parliament before their ratification by the President.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda gave an ultimatum to 33 legislators who had not yet declared their assets in terms of the Constitution and Parliamentary rules to do so by next week.
Adv Mudenda said at least 244 members of the National Assembly and 73 Senators who included Cabinet Ministers and their deputies had declared their assets.
He said the 26 Members of the National Assembly and seven Senators who were yet to declare their assets should do so or else a privileges committee would be constituted to determine a penalty for them.
In an unrelated matter, there was drama in the National Assembly when Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) walked into the Chamber carrying three bags of 10kg roller meal which he wanted to give to Adv Mudenda, Minister Ziyambi, as Leader of the House, and Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda.
Cde Chinotimba said the mealie meal bags branded Buruwayo Milling Company were being milled in his constituency.