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Parliament defends Bill public hearings

by Staff reporter
16 Jun 2020 at 09:35hrs | Views
PARLIAMENT of Zimbabwe yesterday challenged the urgent chamber application filed by Habakkuk Trust seeking an interdict to stop the august House from conducting public hearings on Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 2 Bill at a time the country is under COVID-19-induced lockdown.

Habakkuk Trust represented by Job Sibanda of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Thursday last week filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking to stop the public hearings which began yesterday.

The group cited Parliament, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, Senate president Mabel Chinomona and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents.

Yesterday the parties argued their case before Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo, who indicated that she would pass judgment on the matter soon. In its submissions, Habakkuk Trust indicated that the conduct of Parliament, Chokuda and Ziyambi was grossly unreasonable and holding public hearings during lockdown which restricted citizens' movement would defeat the very noble purpose of inviting the input of the public to any proposed constitutional amendments.

"While the process of soliciting for input into the proposed constitutional amendments cannot be stopped, it must await normalisation of the situation in the country and no prejudice will be suffered by the respondents namely Parliament, Chokuda and Ziyambi," the trust submitted.

"The process of soliciting for people's input into the proposed constitutional amendments should be stopped and only proceeded with after the country shifts to level one stage of the national lockdown, which is the situation which prevailed before the outbreak of coronavirus and before a state of disaster was declared by the government in March. If Parliament, Chokuda and Ziyambi intend to proceed with the public hearings in the midst of the current health pandemic, they must ensure that all precautions are taken to prevent and contain the disease at such public gatherings."

Parliament, represented by Chokuda, opposed the application, saying they could not abdicate their mandate.

"Parliament has a mandate entrusted to it which it must not abdicate on. On public hearings during COVID-19, there is a new law which was passed that stipulates our conduct during such meetings, that we observe social distancing, wear masks and sanitise during meetings," Parliament submitted.

Parliament said based on this law, there was no point in stopping the public hearings.

As the court hearing was going on, public hearings on the Bill had already started in Lupane, Matabeleland North province.

Source - newsday