New parliament faces arduous task

via New parliament faces arduous task – The Zimbabwe Independent by Paidamoyo Muzulu September 13, 2013

MANY Zimbabweans will re-ignite their love-hate relationship with the state broadcaster, ZBC, on Tuesday to listen to President Robert Mugabe spell out his legislative and policy agenda in his crucial opening of parliament address.

Zimbabweans are hoping to hear how Mugabe and Zanu PF intend to deliver on their profligate election promises premised on the indigenisation and economic empowerment drive.

Mugabe is under immense pressure to give impetus to the hemorrhaging economy that has missed its economic growth projections at a time industrial capacity utilisation remains low and unemployment rate hovering above 80%.

Mugabe’s work is cut out by the new constitution and the prevailing economic situation which has seen most Zimbabweans continue to wallow in abject poverty.

Despite opposition allegations he stole the election through systematic rigging, Mugabe’s legitimacy received a major boost last week when the Sadc observer mission report described the polls as “free, fair and generally credible”, much to the chagrin of the opposition which insists the polls were stolen.

The new constitution demands that parliament immediately amends or enacts new laws consistent with the governance charter.

There are six amendments that need immediate attention for government to fully implement the new constitution that came into full operation on August 22 when Mugabe was inaugurated.

The laws are meant to give life to new institutions such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Constitutional Court (Concourt), provincial and metropolitan councils, Gender Commission, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Zimbabwe Land Commission.

Constant bickering throughout the tenure of the previous coalition government meant the seventh parliament ended before it could enact laws giving effect to the new institutions.

Veritas, a grouping with interests in parliamentary work, said the absence of enabling legislation for these new institutions will render their existence theoretical.

“In the absence of legislation setting out its structure and organisation, the NPA’s existence remains largely theoretical,” said Veritas.

“Presumably all public prosecutors and members of the criminal division of the Attorney-General (AG)’s Office are continuing to carry out their functions as before, but their authority to do so is doubtful in the absence of a law which states that they are employed by the NPA.”

The new constitution split the AG’s office by forming the NPA to deal with prosecutions while leaving the former as government’s chief legal advisor.

The Concourt still largely uses the Supreme Court Act to conduct its business as it still has no Act that defines its jurisdiction and operations.

“All these, as well as time-limits for instituting proceedings in the court, procedures for the issue of summonses, warrants and other documents, and the conferring of supplementary powers on the court, should be dealt with in a new Constitutional Court Act along the lines of the Supreme Court Act and High Court Act,” Veritas said.

The newly enacted provincial and metropolitan councils, in accordance with Chapter 14 of the new constitution, will remain in limbo until a new enabling bill is passed.

Strictly speaking, Veritas argues, the councils have been established by the new constitution itself, but until legislation is enacted, they will have no venues, no structures, no procedures and no staff. There are currently a large number of newly-elected councillors awaiting their job description.

Clerk of parliament Austin Zvoma has confirmed there was no clarity yet as to what provincial councils will be doing or how they would be aligned to the National Assembly.

“There is urgent need for passing an Act that will define the councils’ operations and more importantly how their work will be aligned and synchronised with the National Assembly,” said Zvoma.

The new government is also expected to finalise the new Mining (Diamond) Bill, liberalisation of the electronic media and promotion of the human rights agenda.

Mining activist Farai Maguwu said although there will be some reforms, he doubts if Mugabe will implement them to their logical conclusion.

Maguwu said: “No doubt mining will be on top of the next government’s agenda. Some form of legislative reform is possible. However, there is no incentive for Mugabe to reform laws and improve transparency.”

Zimbabwe’s mining industry, particularly activities of the diamond sector, lacks transparency amid allegations of corruption and looting. Mugabe this week appointed a new Mines minister and promised a clean up of the sector.

Human rights activist and researcher Dewa Mavhinga said Mugabe was unlikely to focus much on human rights issues during his term, but they would keep piling pressure on him.

“It is doubtful that Mugabe will make human rights protection a priority, but at Human Rights Watch we urge him to prioritise human rights protection and promotion,” Mavhinga said.

He said Mugabe should implement policies that encourage freedom of the press and ensure the rights to freedom of association and assembly are fully realised, and the promotion of free expression and communication.

Zimbabwe is still to heed calls to amend or repeal repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act, and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The wish list is long and on Tuesday Mugabe will lay out his legislative and policy agenda during the first year of what is widely regarded as his final five-year term in office.