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Parliament’s unfinished business

Godfrey Marawanyika

DESPITE parliament last year passing a record 22 Bills that were subsequently signed into law, there were still four outstanding reports when the House adjourned for business in January.

Among measures passed, the NGO Bill and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill are still to be gazetted.

The outstanding reports are from the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communication on broadcasting licences, the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the half-year budget performance, and from the Phillip Chiyangwa-chaired Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade on the influx of foreign goods.

The Fidelis Mhashu-chaired portfolio committee on Education, Sport and Culture failed to submit its report on the review of the Education Act.

The NGO Bill has attracted fierce criticism from both local and international human rights groups as it will make it illegal for NGOs engaged in human rights and governance issues to receive foreign funding for their activities.

There have been concerns that if the Bill is promulgated into law, it will result in 10 000 people losing their jobs.

Local NGO groups, led by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, have even lobbied Mugabe not assent to the Bill.

Under the Criminal Law amendment, any person who makes a statement which may cause ridicule, hatred or contempt of the head of state, faces a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $400 000.

Under the law, if a person recruits or trains insurgents, bandits, saboteurs or terrorists, he shall be guilty and liable to imprisonment for life or any shorter period.

The failure by the previous legislators to submit the reports effectively means the new members of parliament will have to either adopt the reports or start their own fact-finding investigations.

Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said both the NGO Bill and Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill could still be gazetted.

“The Bills can still be gazetted after the elections, it will still be permissible,” Madhuku said.

“Mugabe probably signed both Bills a long time ago, but did not want them to be part of the debate during the election campaign. I suspect that they will soon be gazetted.”

Some of the Bills passed between 2004 and 2005 include the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill, Balance of Payments reporting Bill, Acquisition of Farm Equipment Material Bill, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Debt Assumption Bill, Asset Management Bill, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Bill and the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill.

Also passed during the 2004-2005 session was the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act and the Electoral Act.

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