Mugabe yet to gazette electoral, human rights bills

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is yet to gazette a controversial bill giving legal effect to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).

ZHRC is the first body tasked with investigating rights abuses and the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Both bills were steered through Parliament by Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa and passed on August 19.

It was transmitted to President Robert Mugabe for gazetting and his signature.

But seven weeks on, both bills have still not been gazetted by the President as Acts of Parliament.

While Chinamasa was not immediately available for comment yesterday on why the bills are yet to be gazetted, his deputy Obert Gutu said he was not too sure whether or not the President has withheld his assent.

“However, I know of no legitimate and or lawful reason why he would refuse to give his assent,” Gutu said. “Suffice to state that the wheels of government move very, very slowly and thus, may be the President is yet to receive the two bills for his assent. I can only hope and trust that in the fullness of time, the President will duly assent to the two bills.”

There are mounting fears that without institutional reforms, Zimbabwe’s forthcoming election, due by June next year, might be no different from the violent 2008 polls that claimed over 200 lives.

The ZHRC, chaired by Reg Austin, a law professor and former Commonwealth secretariat’s head of Legal and Constitutional Affairs division is still not operational because the requisite legislation is yet to be gazetted.

There has been controversy relating to the emotive issue of the temporal jurisdiction of the ZHRC, which says the commission cannot investigate human rights abuses that took place before February 13 2009.
 
Government has said it will establish a separate national mechanism such as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will deal with issues relating to post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation separately from the ZHRC.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Amendment Bill that also sailed through Parliament last month with nine pages of amendments including proposals for early release of election results, barring police from interfering in voting in future, and setting up special courts to try election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence has also not been gazetted by Mugabe.

The bill retains a ward-based voter’s roll system.

The Bill, which has created an independent electoral commission headed by respected Zimbabwean jurist Simpson Mutambanengwe, is expected to contribute to the creation of a platform that will hopefully foster free and fair elections. - Gift Phiri, Chief Writer


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