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Representations made to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 17) Bill, 2005 (HB , 2005)
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
August 04, 2005

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The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is a coalition of Zimbabwean human-rights organisations. It is particularly concerned with providing assistance to victims of organised violence and torture, but its activities extend to upholding all aspects of human rights as set out in the international conventions to which Zimbabwe is a party.

Because it is a human-rights organisation, the Forum will confine its comments to those provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 17) Bill which are likely to affect those rights. The political and economic implications of the Bill, important though they are, will not be dealt with in this document, therefore, except peripherally.

The Billís Memorandum
Before dealing with the individual provisions of the Bill, the Forum feels it necessary to comment on the Billís memorandum. The purpose of such a memorandum is to explain the various clauses of the Bill in clear and objective terms so that Members of Parliament and the public, after reading the memorandum, understand the effect of the Bill and can assess its implications. With that understanding, interested members of the public are able to lobby their Members of Parliament, and Members of Parliament are sufficiently well informed to debate the Bill adequately when it is presented in the House.

The memorandum of this Bill is woefully inadequate. It dismisses clause 2 of the Bill, which will allow land to be expropriated by notice in the Gazette, with the words:

"A new provision will confirm the acquisition of land for resettlement purposes which took place pursuant to the Land Reform Programme beginning in 2000, and provide for the acquisition in the future of agricultural land for resettlement and other purposes."

In regard to the composition of the new House of Assembly, it suggests that the number of presidential appointees will be reduced from the current 12 to 10. In fact there will be no such reduction. The memorandum goes on to say that clause 1 of the Bill sets out dates of commencement of the Billís provisions. The clause does no such thing. In regard to clause 3, which will seriously restrict freedom of movement, the memorandum does not state what the restrictions will be but simply gives a specious example of "the type of mischief that may justify the imposition of [such] restrictions" (the reason why the example is specious will be explained later). Clause 20 of the Bill, which will disenfranchise large numbers of people, is not mentioned at all.

In short, the memorandum is skimpy and inaccurate, if not downright misleading.

The Forum respectfully urges the Portfolio Committee to make strong representations to the responsible Ministry to ensure that such a memorandum is never produced again.

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