THE Senate has passed the Criminal Law Amendment (Protection of Power, Communication and Water Infrastructure) Bill that will among other things allow police detention of accused persons up to 21 days before they are brought before the courts for a hearing.
The act that sailed through the National Assembly in December last year was passed on Tuesday without any amendments by the upper house.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who steered the Bill through Senate, said the law was intended to curtail acts of vandalism of power, broadcasting and water installations across the country.
“This law is principled on trying to curtail acts of vandalism perpetrated on public utilities such as National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ),” Chinamasa said. “No bail should be granted to suspects facing charges of vandalism of these essential installations and police will have powers to detain accused persons for 21 days before bringing them to court.”
Equipment covered in the act against vandalism include electricity cables, transformers, broadcasting equipment and water pumps and other associated installations.
“Vandalism of these installations has a negative effect on the economy,” the minister said, “In the past there was no penalty for vandalising broadcasting equipment. Convicted persons will be sentenced to prison for up to five years or fined up to level 14.”
Most of the vandalised equipment was trafficked to neighbouring countries as scrap metal and sold cheaply. The law would allow the state to confiscate and forfeit any equipment that is found in possession of the accused.
“People will need special police clearance certificates to transport equipment such as water pumps, transformers, aluminum electricity cables and broadcasting equipment,” the minister said. “Transport used to ferry the stolen equipment will also be confiscated and forfeited to the state.”
The Senate also passed three other Bills during the same sitting. These are the Attorney-General’s Office Bill, Zimbabwe National Security Council Amendment Bill and Energy Regulatory Authority Amendment Bill.
These acts will see the Attorney-General’s Office becoming more independent as it will now have its own board and separate financial allocation from the national budget. National Security Council Amendment Bill was meant to include the minister of Justice into the council and remove minister of State Security in the President’s Office into the political category of the act from technocratic category and the Energy Regulatory Bill sought to create a single energy regulatory framework instead of the present two, the Electricity Regulation Commission and the Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
The Bills now await the President’s assent before they become law.
Meanwhile, Senate did not deal with the Posa amendment Bill amid indications that Zanu PF senators were ready to shoot down the Bill after they received party instructions to that effect.
“We will not pass that Posa Bill. It’s as good as dead,” confirmed one senior Zanu PF senator, “We cannot be seen to pass that law to allow the MDC to cause anarchy in the country.”