via Cabinet headache! by Kuda Bwititi for Sunday Mail 15 September 2013
Newly sworn-in Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians face a mammoth task soon after the Official Opening of Parliament this Tuesday as it has emerged that several legal statutes should be quickly aligned with the new Constitution for the Government to avoid operating in breach of the supreme law.
The Government could attract lawsuits if it fails to bring the identified laws into line with the Constitution.
Among the laws that need to be enacted urgently are provisions for the operationalisation of the provincial council, regularisation of new commissions, alignment of terms of citizenship rights, new statutes on the death penalty, procurement and broadcasting services.
New laws also need to be ratified to articulate the functions of the Attorney-General and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which is a new feature birthed through the new Constitution.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Deputy Minister Cde Fortune Chasi told The Sunday Mail last week that Government would immediately institute a process for comprehensive legal realignments.
He said authorities would work expeditiously to avoid appearing before the Constitutional Court for breaching provisions of the Constitution.
“We are going to institute a process, in earnest, to carry out a study of all the statutes in order to make sure that they are aligned to the Constitution. As it stands, there are dozens of statutes that are not in line with the very high standards. These have been set out in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
“The ministry will have to tackle this issue. It is one of its key deliverables that will be put on the table to make sure that every Act is in line with the Constitution. The Constitution is the Supreme law of the country, which means all laws must be in sync with it. The idea is to avoid a litany of cases being brought forward to the Constitutional Court.”
Former Constitutional Select Committee (Copac) co-chair Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana likened the situation to 1980 when the incoming majority Government had to deal with numerous Acts. He said Government should not fail to adhere to Constitutionalism.
“If you look at the Constitution, there are several sections, which propose that an Act of Parliament should be put in place to make sure that the Constitution is implemented.
“This Parliament has an unprecedented workload that is almost similar to 1980, when the Lancaster House Constitution was put into effect,” he said.
“We have now reached a stage where we need a legal revolution. If we do not implement the provisions of the new Constitution, we will fail to provide for the governance of the country. Ministries should be made aware of these provisions.
“Government would have failed to adhere to the fundamentality of Constitutionalism. If it does not implement these provisions, people may sue the State for not complying with the Constitution.
“This Parliament has an unprecedented workload because it requires so many changes.
“Every piece of law in the country must be in total conformity with the Constitution because if this is not so, it can be challenged in the Constitutional Court.”
Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma said Parliament should immediately address the legal processes so that it executes its oversight role efficiently.
“You should realise that according to the new Constitution, Parliament is now required to increase its oversight functions on the Executive. As such, there is need for the requisite laws to be passed so that Parliament executes its functions without any legal hurdles.
“In general, if any law is inconsistent with the Constitution, then it is invalid. All laws must conform to the Constitution.”
The new Constitution was signed into law by President Mugabe on May 22, 2013 following the March 16 referendum, which overwhelmingly endorsed the document.
Among the new features of the charter include the exemption of women from the death penalty; the setting up of a land commission as well as a peace commission; and the introduction of the National Prosecuting Authority.