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Bill sparks heated debate in House
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
August 24, 2005

THERE was heated debate in Parliament yesterday between Zanu-PF and MDC lawmakers on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill that seeks, among other issues, to provide for the reintroduction of the Senate.

The debate on the proposed law lasted for almost seven hours with Zanu-PF MPs supporting its provisions while those from the MDC opposed it.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Cde Shadreck Chipanga told Parliament that the committee had conducted a public hearing on the Bill and had received mixed feelings from various stakeholders.

He said the committee only managed to conduct a single public hearing in Harare owing to financial constraints.

Cde Chipanga, who is also the Makoni East MP, said after the committee had deliberated on the divergent views given by stakeholders on the proposed Senate, it came to the conclusion that a bicameral legislature should be put in place.

The legislator said those opposed to the provisions of the Bill in relation to the Senate argued that all the 66 senators should be duly elected on the basis of proportional representation to ensure that all sectors of society were adequately represented.

"It was submitted that the fact that the President was empowered to appoint (six) non-elected senators would compromise the democratic process.

"It was argued that the President already has the power to appoint non-elected Members of Parliament in the House of Assembly and this had the effect of increasing the number of parliamentarians without a constituency," Cde Chipanga said.

He said there should be further debate on the issue of proportional representation as opposed to the first-past-the-poll system.

Turning to the amendment seeking to confirm land acquisition that took place from 2000 onwards and for future land acquisition, Cde Chipanga said there were also mixed feelings on the provisions.

He said some supported the amendment, saying it would conclude land question while others opposed it.

"Many noted that the injustices visited upon us by our past colonial history, where our forebears lost their land without compensation and were relocated to barren and inhospitable pieces of land, required such law. It was submitted that, indeed, the consequences might be harsh to some sections, but in the final analysis the end justified the means."

Cde Chipanga said it was also submitted that provisions of the Bill seeking to bar courts from hearing appeals on acquired land violated Section 18 (1) of the Constitution guaranteeing everyone the right to have disputes over civil rights decided after a fair hearing by an independent and impartial court or tribunal.

"Your committee further recommends that it would be in the furtherance of tenets of natural justice that any aggrieved persons be given the right to approach the courts for arbitration where there is a dispute," Cde Chipanga said.

The lawmaker said there was overwhelming consensus on the provisions of the Bill seeking to establish the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as the sole body in charge of elections while abolishing the Electoral Supervisory Commission.

Cde Chipanga, however, said there were some quarters which felt that problems would still remain in the overall administration of elections if the Registrar-General and Elections Directorate remained in place.

Further, he said, the manner in which the appointment of ZEC members was done was also criticised as vesting much power in the hands of the President.

Contributing to the debate, Government Chief Whip Cde Joram Gumbo supported the provisions of the Bill, saying the land issue must be resolved once and for all.

"We cannot be challenged by the courts when we want to resettle our people. This time let us take the bull by the horns," he said. Bulawayo North-East MP Professor Welshman Ncube (MDC) said there was need for a holistic constitutional reform process as opposed to what he termed "piecemeal constitutional reforms".

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Leader of the House Cde Patrick Chinamasa said he would respond to the issues raised by the committee and the parliamentarians today.

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