Parly Legal Committee overworked

HARARE - In another country — or in a different Zimbabwe — the admission by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) that it okayed the Special Economic Zones Bill that was ultra vires the new Zimbabwe Constitution might have cost the entire committee its job.

An alert executive had to send the Bill back to the house after noting that Section 56 of the Special Economic Zones Bill was inconsistent with Section 65 of the Constitution.

The PLC’s job is to examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the Constitution and it seems in this instance, it was sleeping on the job.

The PLC’s bungling on the Special Economic Zones Bill has met with sympathy both inside and outside the Zimbabwe Parliament.

Critics say the frantic new pace, which sees laws go from committee stage to enactment in record time, set by President Robert Mugabe himself, is putting Parliament under withering pressure.

The PLC, made up of eminent lawyers-cum-legislators Fortune Chasi (Zanu PF), Jonathan Samkange (Zanu PF), Jessie Majome (MDC), Innocent Gonese (MDC) and Ziyambi Ziyambi (Zanu PF) erroneously issued a non-adverse report on the constitutionality of the proposed Special Economic Zones Bill.

Clause 18 of the proposed labour law amendments would have the effect of revoking the rights of employers to terminate job contracts on notice, as upheld by a July 17, 2015  Supreme Court ruling.

Labour unions claim at least 20 000 people were fired since the ruling and there was pressure on government to extend protection to those affected.

Chasi and Gonese have both admitted they bungled as the PLC in the scrutiny of the Bill.

“I would want to reiterate that on reflection when you look at the provision of section 65, as PLC, we should have ruled that the Bill infringed on the rights of the workers in the sense that those companies in the Special Economic Zones were going to be allowed to disregard the provisions of the Labour Act,” Gonese said.

“When you look at the provisions of the Labour Act, yes it is an Act of Parliament, but you must read it in conjunction with the provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution. I believe that the Bill should not have been given a clean bill of health. I am happy we are going to have a second bite of the cherry.”

Mugabe presided over the official opening of the Fourth Session of the present Parliament on October 6 and again outlined an impossible government legislative agenda for the new session, which runs for only 12 months, and includes a slew of legislation — a sign of government disdain for scrutiny and the political process.

As if Mugabe’s “wishlist” legislative agenda is not enough, it also includes international agreements, including loan agreements, that would be brought to Parliament for its approval prior to ratification or accession on behalf of Zimbabwe.

And the already overworked PLC will have to go through all this work.

There is also the alignment process which Mugabe admitted was still “work-in-progress” — with the PLC currently seized with the Constitutional Court Bill, the Rural District Councils Bill, the Traditional Leaders Bill, the Prisons Bill and Marriages Bill.

The PLC must be given time to subject all bills

to rigorous scrutiny. It is one of its essential responsibilities if bad law is to be avoided.

There has been recognition in recent years that the legislative scrutiny undertaken by Parliament has not been as effective as it could and should be.

The PLC has become an overworked legislation factory.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.