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Chinamasa forced to drop ‘retrogressive’ clauses
Paidamoyo Muzulu, Zimbabwean Independent
April 08, 2011

http://www.theindependent.co.zw/local/30592-chinamasa-forced-to-drop-retrogressive-clauses-.html

Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa was on Wednesday forced to drop certain clauses in the General Amendment Bill which threatened media freedom and the smooth operations of local authorities.

The Bill had sought to introduce minor changes to 17 different pieces of legislation, among them the Copyright and Neighbouring Act, Urban Councils Act, Rural District Councils Act, Procurement Act, Parks and Wildlife Act, Police Act and Health Services Act.

The contentious amendments related to copyrighting public documents such as statutes, court judgments and the Government Gazette, among other state publications. Local authorities were to purchase goods and contract services through the State Procurement Board under the proposed amendments.

Chinamasa told parliament that he was withdrawing all amendments cited as retrogressive in a democratic state. He said he would further consult on amendments on local government procurement with the relevant ministers.

Chinamasa said: “I also agree with your comments Honourable (Douglas) Mwonzora on the Copyright Act. This is something that we had already decided in my ministry that we should not amend the Copyright Act. “I am going to withdraw this clause or any reference to procurement so that I allow the two responsible ministers, that is the Minister of Local Government and Urban Development and the Minister of Finance who is responsible for the Procurement Act. I would then ask them to bring in a separate Act of Parliament, a separate Bill to deal with this issue so that it can receive the attention that it deserves.”

Mwonzora, the Justice Portfolio Committee chairman, had attacked the Copyright and Neighbouring Amendment Act as detrimental to freedom of information as enshrined in international conventions and the Zimbabwean constitution.

“The committee heard that in 2000, the BEN Convention in Geneva said every citizen has the right to free access to all the laws and statutes of that country. The committee is concerned that the proposal violates Section 20(1) of the Constitution. Section 20(1) of the Constitution provides as follows: Except with his own consent or by way of parental discipline, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference,” said Mwonzora.

Local Government Portfolio Committee chairperson Lynette Kurenyi said her committee was sceptical of the proposed amendments to procurement of goods by local authorities.

She said her committee believed the changes would bring unnecessary centralisation and corruption in the procurement of goods and services.

Kurenyi said: “To this end, your committee recommends the following: that the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs withdraws the amendments and or proposed repeals relating to local authorities procurement as it is against the spirit of decentralisation and equitable distribution of wealth. The Ministry of Local Government Rural and Urban Development should come up with a model procurement by-law for use by all Local Authorities.”

The Amendment Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee to be further scrutinised if the amendments made were consistent with the Constitution before being brought back for its third reading.

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