MUTARE– Government’s failure to harmonise hundreds of pieces of legislation to match constitutional provisions means the nation’s supreme law will largely remain a paper tiger, legal experts have claimed.
A total of 443 laws still need to be synchronized with the new constitution signed into law two years ago.
This process needs is a prerequisite if the bill of rights is to be fully enjoyed by citizens, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights projects lawyer Peggy Tavagadza says.
Tavagadza said this at a consultative meeting held for community based organisations on issue of alignment and harmonisation of acts and the constitution.
She called on government to speed up the process of harmonising laws out of sync with the new constitution as government agencies continued to apply these acts arbitrarily in violation of the nation’s supreme law.
“We have 400 plus acts which are not in sync with the constitution two years after the constitution was signed into law by the head of state. Some of these acts continue to be arbitrary used by government against the new constitution,” she said.
Tavagadza warned that the constitutional court will continue being inundated by challenges if government doesn’t speed up the harmonization process.
Civil society should collaborate to push government, which as duty bearers cannot be circumvented, to speed up this process by engaging relevant government ministries says Legal Resource Foundation, Mutare Centre Manager Valerie Zviuya.
She called on CSOs to compliment each other, by subdividing issues of priority, in their varied contributions towards the alignment of laws.
”Although we are independent from government we still need them to push the agenda of realignment as such we should engage government, judges who pass judgments and lawyers to speed up this process.
”As CSO’s we are extremely varied but despite this proliferation let’s be complimentary on the issue of alignment of laws.
“We can achieve so much more if we subdivide issues,” she said.
Zviuya however said government’s reluctance to speed up harmonisation as well as educating the public on the bill of rights, was a drawback to a largely progressive constitution, considered among the best in the region.
To date government has only harmonised two acts, The National Prosecuting Authority Act and The Electoral Ammendment Act, for obvious reasons claims Zviuya.
She said resultantly gaps created by this disconnect meant constitutional provisions and institutional practices would remain parallel as government’s failure to harmonise laws was perpetuating cycles of human rights abuse.
”Governement has not been forthcoming in educating the public on the new constitution. In practice the bill of rights is virtually non-existant just because of the lack of political will from government.
”They have failed to prioritise this issue because as we speak only 2 acts have been aligned for obvious reasons.
”This situation is quite sad because despite the constitution giving opportunity to fully enforce the bill of rights government is silent, ‘she said.
ZLHR also said government should start with general laws amendment of over 300 pieces of legislation as a starting point for realignment while issues of citizenship as the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act particularly sections dealing with the death penalty, were identified as some laws at disparity with constitutional provisions.
Civil society represented in the consultative meeting identified issues of freedom of expression, association and speech, tenure rights, detained persons’ rights as well as the death penalty as their areas of concern.