We can’t breathe: No to premature resumption of public hearings on Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 2 Bill

The Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs) takes this opportunity to register its displeasure at the decision by the parliament to blindly resume public hearings on Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 2 Bill-H.B 23 2019, in the midst of a global pandemic, Covid-19, whose safety and precautionary measures severely limits participation of communities.

In a move which militates against on-going efforts to curb Covid-19, the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs issued a notice to the effect that, public hearings, which were initially scheduled to run from March 29 to April 4 2020 and were however suspended as part of the parliament’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, are now set to run from Monday 15 June to Friday 20 June 2020.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases increased by 330, from the 24th of March, when parliament suspended the public hearings to a cumulative of 332 as at 11 June 2020. Cases have now spread to all the country’s 10 provinces. In the absence of concrete measures put forward by the current administration, outside the lockdown, and at a time when such numbers are consistently on an upward trend, the communities face greater risk of contracting and transmitting the corona virus.

Therefore, the timing of the public hearings in the prevailing context defies any logic and instead serves to stifle the pertinent voices of citizens by effectively limiting their participation in a process that has a direct bearing on how the country is governed and thus impacts on livelihoods, especially the marginalised, youth and women.

Furthermore, the duration and venues at which the public hearings are set to be held, evidence a deliberate move aimed at excluding citizens thus curtailing their civil and political rights. The meetings, set to last for a 2-hour period are in places which many will not be able to access given the persistent transport woes being faced by citizens, especially for the rural parts of Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland, Matabeleland South and North, Mashonaland Central, East and West provinces.

We are aware that there are attempts to fast-track the process and ensure the Constitutional Amendment Bill ascends into law at all costs hence the premature resumption of the public hearings.

As ACBOs, our position remains clear, we unequivocally reject the proposed Constitutional of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 2 Bill of 2019 in its entirety and totality. Current efforts to secure amendments are an assault on constitutional legitimacy and an intentional undermining of the rule of law, which state institutions should uphold.

Communities remain confronted with a governance crisis, which has been further compounded by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to include rising cases of Violence Against Women (VAW), state sponsored violence and abductions, transport woes, a dysfunctional social services delivery system, food insecurity, partisan distribution of aid and corruption among others. The country urgently needs a broad-based and inclusive dialogue that ensures Stabilisation of the economy; Unity and consensus, Political tolerance and Respect and Community healing.

We therefore call upon the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, President of the Senate Mabel Chinomona and all parliamentarians to respect the voices of the communities by further postponing the public hearings to a period and time which allows participation and guarantees health of citizens. All focus should be on the aforementioned issues affecting the citizenry daily.

Source: Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs)