Members of the public and civil society should report incidents of violence and disturbances at Bill public hearings as it violates people’s constitutional rights to contribute to issues of national interest, Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda has said.
By VENERANDA LANGA/STEPHEN CHADENGA
Mudenda said the public consultations on Bills should not be disrupted by rogue elements who disturb people from freely airing their views when contributing to the debates.
“I urge members of the public and civil society to watch out for rogue hooligans at the public hearings,” Mudenda said in his keynote address during a Parliament of Zimbabwe stakeholders meeting in Gweru yesterday.
“These public hearings are not for physical hooliganism, there are there to invite mental and intellectual debates and not physical fights. We do not want anyone to scupper these public hearings as doing so would be violating the Constitution.”
He said people were entitled to their views and that freedom of expression and conscience should be exercised during nationwide consultations on Bills.
Mudenda said the people of Zimbabwe were free to take Parliament and the President to the Constitutional Court if they have not acted correctly in the legislative process.
“For example, Parliament of Zimbabwe was taken to court over the Local Government Bill after people in Bulawayo raised the issue that the Bill was already being crafted in Parliament without consulting members of the public for their views on the law in terms of section 141 of the Constitution,” he said.
He said in South Africa the Speaker of Parliament was taken to court by South African Doctors for Life International (2006) after Parliament failed to conduct sufficient public hearings on four Acts concerning health.
“We expect people to take Parliament to the Constitutional Court if there was not enough consultation of the people on Bills. Section 167 (ii) of the Constitution allows that. You can also take the President to the Constitutional Court whenever you feel he has not acted correctly in the legislative process,” Mudenda said.
The Speaker said Parliament was now working on having their website revamped to ensure live streaming of Parliament and live broadcast of sittings so that people can watch the legislative process. He said civic society and the media should critique Bills, and petition Parliament in order to trigger parliamentary committees to act on different issues affecting people.
Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust director John Makamure said the public should take advantage of public hearings to make their voices heard so that pieces of legislation are crafted with peoples’ views included