|STATEMENT ON THE GENERAL LAWS AMENDMENT BILL|
|Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) acknowledges the gazetting of the General Laws Amendment Bill (“the Bill”) on 8 May 2015.
This Bill has been introduced two years after the Constitution was adopted and ‘makes amendments to Acts to bring them into conformity
with the Constitution.’ It also provides for other related matters. This Bill seeks to align 126 statutes with the new Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Of concern is the fact that the Bill mostly introduces only minor changes to these Acts, such as re-referencing, changing titles of offices, officials, institutions etc, and the inclusion of new preambles. While many Acts require such cosmetic amendments, for many Acts the changes are piecemeal and fail to align the most crucial and substantive provisions required to comply with the Constitution.
ZLHR welcomes the fact that the Bill does seek to introduce some substantive amendments –notably to the Interpretation Act, the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, the Electoral Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the Trade Marks Act – but is concerned that some of these amendments do not in fact further the protection of constitutional rights.
For example: –
ZLHR is also disappointed that certain laws that directly contravene the Declaration of Rights have not been repealed in the Bill, in spite of extensive campaigning by ZLHR and other legal and human rights experts in this regard over the two years since the introduction of the Constitution. ZLHR has specifically prepared an extensive list of Priorities for the Harmonisation of Legislation with the new Constitution of Zimbabwe. It is a pity that Parliament has not facilitated public involvement in its legislative process nor consulted interested parties about the Bill, as required under the Constitution.
The following Acts in particular require urgent amendment: –
The following Acts impacting on the protection of socio-economic rights also require urgent amendment: –
The following Acts have also not been substantively amended in the Bill, as required: –
In conclusion, the proposed amendments fall far short of bringing all our laws in line with the new Constitution. ZLHR calls on Parliament to urgently implement the outstanding legislative reforms, as set out in more detail in ZLHR’s Harmonisation Priorities List. The Bill must not be seen as an end unto itself: indeed, certain Acts will be more appropriately addressed in independent Bills (the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill, for example). ZLHR therefore calls for Parliament’s work on harmonisation to continue as a matter of urgency but in good faith, allowing for true public participation and parliamentary debate in the process.