HomePoliticsRebellious Zanu PF MPs whipped into line

Rebellious Zanu PF MPs whipped into line

Gift Phiri

The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill sailed through the House yesterday after rebellious Zanu PF MPs were whipped into line.

s-serif”>Parliament passed the anti-graft laws with three major amendments. The new regulations will allow Zimbabwean police to hold suspects accused of economic crimes including corruption, money laundering and illegal dealing in foreign exchange and gold, for up to 21 days without bail. No court has the jurisdiction to grant such accused persons bail.

Presidential Powers were initially used to amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which enabled the police to hold suspects for a up to 28 days without bail.

On Tuesday Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament after a mini-revolt by MPs that concessions had been made.

“The consolidated text actually incorporates three suggestions from the Parliamentary Legal Committee in order to improve the text and these were the reduction of the period of detention from 28 days to 21 days and that we insist that at the time the accused person is brought to court that there is at that time a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed an offence,” Chinamasa told parliament on Tuesday.

“We also incorporated a further suggestion that after the expiry of the period, the accused person be brought to the court for remand within 48 hours or 96 hours as the circumstances may warrant.”

Ruling party sources told the Independent that the issue was supposed to be discussed at a special Zanu PF caucus on Tuesday morning. But the meeting did not take place as Zanu PF legislators boycotted the gathering.

The Independent was told that the issue took centre stage at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday where President Mugabe issued a stern warning that anyone who opposed the Bill risked facing disciplinary action.

“The president stated that he was not amused with the behaviour of some of the MPs who were working against party policy,” said a cabinet minister who attended the Tuesday meeting. “He highlighted the importance of passing this Bill into law before August.”

The presidential decree which amended the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act expires in August. The presidential regulations came into force in February.

The Bill sailed through parliament during the third reading yesterday without further hurdles.

The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act largely reenacts, with modifications, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) Regulations.

Opposition legislators had rejected the legislation on the basis that it violated fundamental rights such as the presumption of innocence, which is the supporting tenet of the justice delivery system.

MDC legal secretary David Coltart told parliament the new detention laws for a wide range of political offences were reminiscent of those in force during apartheid in South Africa.

“The laws are the most repressive of any nation in the Sadc (Southern African Development Community) and would widely affect freedom of political activity in the run up to parliamentary elections in eight months,” said Coltart.

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