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‘Parly democracy under threat’

HUMAN rights activists have slammed parliament’s slow pace in passing legislation that will open up the democratic space as set out in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

The activists gave an example of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) Amendment Bill, which has been on the order paper since February; amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the deregulation of the electronic media, particularly broadcasting.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras said the development was disappointing and called the parties represented in parliament to be more responsible.
“It is disappointing; there have been a limited number of Bills that have been brought before the House,” Petras said. “There has been no movement on laws that improve the democratisation agenda. A lot of work still needs to be done if parliament is to meet its legislative agenda. All parties have to take responsibility.”
According to President Robert Mugabe, the other Bills expected in this session are the Electoral Amendment Bill, which will give effect to the electoral reforms negotiated by the GPA negotiators and approved by the three party principals, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Amendment Bill, Referendums Amendment Bill and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, which spells out the powers and functions of the commission.
The House of  Assembly adjourned this week to next Tuesday without debate while the Senate also adjourned to November 9 after sitting for a record 15 minutes on Tuesday saying they wanted to give the lower house time to deliberate and complete passage of Bills before it.
Besides the customary financial bills, parliament has so far passed legislation that enables the Inclusive government to work.
It passed constitutional amendment 19 that created the office of the Prime-Minister and its two deputies and Constitutional commissions. It also passed the National Security Council Act that created a new security board that was meant to replace the Joint Operations Command.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe programmes manager, said the ushering in of an inclusive government in February 2009 has killed parliamentary democracy in the country.
He said: “There is no parliament in Zimbabwe. The inclusive government destroyed the role of the House. There are no longer any robust debates because of the inclusive government. One can say there is no longer parliamentary democracy, but executive dictatorship.”
On the other hand, Trevor Maisiri, African Reform Institute director, said parliament has become a casualty of political grandstanding by leaders wishing to score political points.
“The legislative agenda has been overtaken by political expediency and grandstanding. Both Zanu PF and MDC-T are posturing for elections,” Maisri said. “It seems they are only keen at dislodging each other from power. These moves are meant to deliberately delay the legislative agenda for democratisation.”
He added that MDC-T was failing to realise Zanu PF’s duplicity by playing along with the foot-dragging of the legislative agenda.
“MDC is failing to read that Zanu PF is delaying parliament from sitting and passing new laws by its deliberate disruptive actions during the constitutional outreach programmes. Zanu PF would want it to drag out and it is unfortunate that MDC is playing along,” Maisiri said.
Ruhanya, however, argues that the elections talk is just imaginary in the political players’ minds.
“GPA is not clear what happens after it expires. We are certain of one thing, that parliament’s term ends in 2013. We have not seen any election preparations from electoral bodies charged with running elections in the country so far about when is the next election. Thus everything else is therefore speculative,” he argued. 
The Prime-minister’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, said Morgan Tsvangirai as the leader of government business in parliament remains committed to the democratisation agenda.
“The prime-minister has always been an advocate and proponent of democracy. It is unfortunate that the pace is slow and he wishes everything could move faster. He remains passionate about the democratisation agenda,” Tamborinyoka said. “Parliament had been slowed down by the constitutional review process and once that is out of the way, pace in passing legislation will be increased.”



Paidamoyo Muzulu

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