The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) has noted with concern that the government is pushing ahead to conduct public hearings from 15- 19 June 2020 on the Constitutional Amendment Number 2 Bill despite the lockdown which prohibits public gatherings. In order to deepen our country’s democratic practices, the Government’s Legislature should not push through a process that curtails full citizen participation owing to the prevailing lockdown conditions.
The Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary affairs is currently conducting public hearings on Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 2 Bill across Zimbabwe gathering views of people. While the ruling party has an unassailable two thirds majority which gives the privilege to amend the Constitution irrespective of the widespread objections by civil society.
The Covid-19 control measures put in place by the government include a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people. This measure definitely limits citizens’ participation in the meetings. Participation for much of the citizenry who would want to be part of the proceedingsis also curtailed due to restrictions on movement of the informally employed, unemployed and any other non-essential services providers. At the same time, allowing the public to access the meetings will result in the breaching of guidelines on social distancing. Citizens will be exposed to Covid-19. The choice of who then attends and participates in the public hearings become a major source of inequality in our society. Therefore, the HRT adopts the dominant view within the civil society, that there is no need for the government to hurry to amend the constitution especially during a period when the nation is fighting Covid-19.
The HRT calls on the Parliament of Zimbabwe to postpone the hearings to a later date which guarantees maximum participation of every interested citizen and ensures health safety and security for all participants.
Source: Harare Residents Trust (HRT)