JUSTICE minister Patrick Chinamasa is set to railroad the Electoral Act Amendment Bill (EAAB) and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill (ZHRCB) through parliament next week after cabinet agreed on Monday that the proposed laws should be passed as part of Global Political Agreement (GPA) reforms.The cabinet meeting, which was brought forward by a day to accommodate President Robert Mugabe’s medical check-up trip to Singapore, decided to bring finality to legislative reforms as stipulated by the GPA before Sadc facilitator South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team jets in next week.
The cabinet decision comes hot on the heels of the Luanda Sadc summit which exhorted the coalition government to urgently complete the draft constitution, legislative reforms and elections roadmap before the holding of new polls. The summit also urged GPA parties to fully implement agreed issues.
Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube confirmed this in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, saying his party would support both bills when Chinamasa steers them through parliament next week since they have never had any objections to them.
“We have no problem with both bills because they were negotiated and agreed to at the negotiators’ forum,” Ncube said. “Our position has always been consistent that we should stick to the deal we signed during negotiations.”
Ncube, who is also MDC president, last week said elections were likely to be held by September next year, a position he has been insisting on since last year.
While Ncube says parties agreed on electoral reforms, the MDC-T – which initially agreed to the electoral amendments, has raised an objection demanding that the proposed laws should not contain a clause calling for the creation of a polling station-based voters’ roll and a cut-off date on investigations of rights abuses by the Human Rights Commission.
The EAAB proposes to establish a polling- station-specific voters’ roll while the ZHRCB bars the commission from investigating atrocities committed before February 13, 2008.
This exonerates President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF from liability for atrocities committed during the 1982 – 1987 Gukurahundi era, and bloody elections held in 2000, 2002 and 2008, among others.
United Nations human rights commissioner Navi Pillay, who was recently in Zimbabwe, urged the parties to finalise these issues, mainly the Human Rights Commission. She said it was better for the commission not to work in retrospect, but also noted past human rights violations could be investigated differently.
However, on polling station-based voters’ register the MDC-T argues the clause could further increase election-related violence as it becomes easier for Zanu PF and its militias to follow up on how people voted at a particular polling station.
But MDC-T national executive committee member said this week the party would now support the bills, albeit with reservations. “Since Sadc insisted that the two bills should be dealt with urgently, we will participate in their passing,” the member said. “However, legislators from Matabeleland are bitter.”
The climb down by the MDC-T comes after Sadc and Pillay urged the GPA parties to set aside their endless disputes and move ahead to pass the bills.
The polls roadmap, including the two bills and draft constitution, are the three main outstanding GPA issues which would pave way for elections once implemented.