An attempt by the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi, to pilot the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MoPO) Bill past Senate hit a snag on Monday, after opposition senators opposed the move.
Ziyambi had told Senate President Mabel Chinomona, that the Bill should be fast tracked as it was long overdue, and should be done before the end of the current parliamentary session this month. This saw all Standing Orders being suspended in order to fast track the Bill.
The second session of the 9th Parliament will commence this September, and Ziyambi said MoPO Bill has been on government’s agenda for long, hence the need to railroad it, but opposition senators said certain provisions of the bill were not in sync with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and opposed the move.
After intense grilling from opposition senators, Ziyambi conceded, to only one amendment clause 7(5). Which reads; “Any person who knowingly fails to give notice of a gathering in terms of subsection (1) or of postponement or delay of a gathering in terms of subsection (3) shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both.”
But Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance, chief whip Lilian Timveos said her party considers the Bill to be inconsistent with the Supreme Law, and eventually the Bill was referred back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) for report on amendments.
Apparently, this is not the first time the ZANU-PF government had tried to fast track the Bill, ignoring all the recommendations. Few months ago PLC found some provisions of the Bill, unconstitutional and sent it back to the Parliament of Zimbabwe for considerations.
The Committee found more than ten clauses of the Bill to be in conflict with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Among the contentious clauses include (Clause 10) that prohibits public gatherings in the vicinity of Parliament, courts and other protected areas. But PLC said the clause was unconstitutional, as it would undermine the citizens’ right to petition parliament, as provided for in the Constitution.
The Committee added that parliament is a public institution open to members of public, though the clause allows demonstrations near parliament if the Speaker of Parliament gives written permission, PLC argued that the constitutional right to petition parliament should not be at the discretion of the Speaker or a senior police officer.
Meanwhile, the ZANU-PF government had previously been able to bulldoze a number of Bills, despite stiff resistance from opposition members of parliament or senate due to their numerical advantage in both houses.
Be that as it may, one of the main functions of Parliament is to make laws for the good governance of the country, and the Constitution gives powers to Parliament to reject Bills.
Section 130 of the Constitution reads: “(1) Except as provided in the Fifth Schedule, in the exercise of their legislative authority both the Senate and the National Assembly have the power to initiate, prepare, consider and reject any legislation.
Opposition MPs have over the years failed to reject bad Bills. They are always whipped into line to adopt Bills even if they disagree with some clauses, because of their limited numbers and they cannot prevent any Bill from passing even if they had valid objections.