Stakeholders in Masvingo snub Judicial Laws Amendment Bill hearings

Stakeholders in Masvingo snub Judicial Laws Amendment Bill hearings
Stakeholders in Masvingo snub Judicial Laws Amendment Bill hearings

Stakeholders in Masvingo snub Judicial Laws Amendment Bill hearings

By Hazvinei Mwanaka

MASVINGO –Only three people attended the public hearing on the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill held in Masvingo last Friday with, one person contributing. 

Some of the amendments in the Bill seek among other things to introduce virtual court hearings and align seven acts with the constitution.

Parliament is required by the Section 141 of the Constitution to engage the citizens in its legislative processes and consult them on any Bills that will be before it.

This saw the parliamentary committee on Justice, Parliamentary, and Legal Affairs being divided into two teams and deployed across the country to consult the public.

Team A hosted hearings in Harare, Mutare, and Masvingo, while Team B hosted hearings in Chinhoyi, Gweru, Bulawayo, and Hwange from August 10 to August 12, 2022.

However, there was poor attendance in Masvingo where three people attended the meeting with only one person making contributions to the Bill.

Mutare Central legislator Innocent Gonese who was leading Team A, however, indicated that he anticipated the low turnout due to the technical nature of the Bill.

“We had similar experiences with the Companies Amendment Bill and the Intellectual Property Amendment Bill; they do not generate much excitement among members of the public, they are not controversial, or political in nature, so low turnout is something we have come to expect,” he added.

Gonese added that they had a nearly similar experience in Mutare with only four participants, though in this case, they all contributed.

Furthermore, despite the low turnout in Harare, Gonese stated that they received comprehensive submissions from Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights.

He went on to say that there was a need to foster a culture that encourages participation in public hearings.

“I think that generally, we must have a culture….because the provisions of Section 141 were primarily inserted in order for the people of Zimbabwe to participate in the law-making process, so it is very important that people take this seriously,” he said.

Gonese expressed disappointment at the absence of legal practitioners from the public hearings.

“The people who should be most interested in these bills are stakeholders like legal practitioners, and I am disappointed that not a single lawyer turned up,” he said.

Gonese also stated that the majority of stakeholders had been informed and were aware of the hearings.

“We would have expected at least some of the representatives of legal practitioners to come and air their views on this very important bill,” he added.

The Mutare Central legislator stated that he expected people who would be affected by the bill to attend the public hearings because Parliament had done its part by advertising diligently. According to Gonese, some of the concerns expressed by contributors have to do with the cost of data and connectivity, which will impact the virtual court hearings that the bill will introduce.

Stakeholders in Masvingo snub Judicial Laws Amendment Bill hearings