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Court reserves judgment on Parly constitutional challenge

by Staff reporter
17 Jun 2020 at 19:18hrs | Views
BULAWAYO High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo has reserved judgment in the matter in which a local non-governmental organisation is seeking an order to stop Parliament from conducting public hearings across the country on the proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 Bill.

Habakkuk Trust,  through its lawyers, Job Sibanda and Associates,  filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking an order directing Parliament to postpone the public hearings until Covid-19 is over, arguing that discussions may not bring a desired outcome as only 50 people or less would be allowed to partake due to the national lockdown regulations.

Parliament announced that the public hearings on the Constitutional Amendment No.2 Bill would run from June 15 to 19 across the country. In Bulawayo, the hearings are scheduled for today.

Last year, the Government gazetted the Constitutional Amendment No.2 Bill, which seeks to introduce at least 27 amendments to the constitution.

The public hearings were initially scheduled to take place from March 29, to April 3, 2020 but were suspended together with all Parliamentary activities from March 18, to May 5, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In papers before the court, Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and the Parliament of Zimbabwe are respondents.

In his founding affidavit, Habakkuk Trust chief executive Officer, Mr Dumisani Nkomo, wants the respondents to be interdicted from holding public hearing until measures have been put in place to contain and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

"The basis of the application is that the respondents have invited members of the public to attend such meetings at venues throughout the country beginning on 15 June until 19 June 2020 when Zimbabwe is currently under lockdown and public gatherings of more than 50 people is prohibited," he said.

Mr Nkomo said the fact that public hearings are important and a constitutional requirement, it is unreasonable for them to be held in the middle of a pandemic and during a national lockdown.

Section 328 of the Constitution provides that a Constitutional Bill must, before it is presented in the Senate or National Assembly, be advertised in the Gazette by the Speaker of Parliament for a period of at least 90 days.

Immediately after such notice has been given, Parliament must invite members of the public to express their views on the proposed Bill through public hearings and written submissions.

"This application, filed on an urgent basis, is to interdict the respondents from holding the proposed public meetings on the basis that Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, is currently facing a health crisis in the form of Covid-19," said Mr Nkomo.

He said the respondents are risking the lives of the public by holding the meetings, arguing that their conduct is unfair and unreasonable.

"While the process of amending the Constitution in terms of Constitutional Amendment No. 2 cannot be stopped forever, I submit that because of its importance it must await the normalisation of the situation in the country," said Mr Nkomo.

He said Covid-19 restrictions would make it almost impossible for citizens to effectively participate in the public hearings.

Source - chronicle