September 21, 2020

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Rubber Stamping & Challenges Of Public Hearings

July 11, 2020

By Shingirai Vambe.

Harare – Parliamentary Committees are unleashed to the public to gather views yet the public has no access to the Bills Mbizo legislator Settlement Chikwinya has said.

Post On Sunday gathered views and comments regarding public hearings on bills and amendments of both the law and constitution and a sad outcome showed that most people don’t understand or have no idea of these bills which they are required to respond to and share their opinion on.

Chikwinya told this publication that, at the appropriate time he would propose that the office of the Member of Parliament be established in Constituencies, fully funded by the fiscus, which office then makes the Bills available to the public in the requested format.

“It renders the Consultation process a rubber stamp and the quality of feedback poor. To assume that Bills are accessible to the public on parliament website is burying our heads in the sand. That’s why we have such poor quality feedback” said Chikwinya.
Recently the committee on ICT was on a national tour in consultation on cyber security and data protection bill.

The outcome was that of people failing to understand what the bill is all about and what it seeks to address.

Chikwinya added that Parliament must widen the manner in which the Public hearings were known to public as radio and Newspaper adverts, these have proven ineffective. Parliament must consider even posters which are a more acceptable and efficient manner of calling for meetings.

The issue of unpacking these hearings was said to be more effective in our local native languages before the public hearings commence.

People who gathered for public hearing were on the offensive part to the content at which minors are getting access to through the media which is against our ethical background such as pornography, nude pictures to mention just a few, without looking at a bigger picture.

It was during the amendment bill number 2 that Rusape residents told parliamentarians at Vengere hall on why they go and debate submissions given during these consultation than to just implement what could have been gathered from the public, citing the effect of 2/3s majority in parliament.

“We don’t expect you to go and debate, this has become a tradition and making citizens fail to appreciate these public hearings, we make submissions, and none of them all is taken into account. Once you get to Parliament you change all this, that is unacceptable” Naume a Rusape resident said

It was however noted during the public hearing on cyber and protection bill that most submissions where centered on WhatsApp and not looking at a bigger picture when this bill is taken into law, in some provinces people were left divided over this bill and its importance driven by political connotations.

Earlier Zimbabweans suffered internet black-out during protest, a move which was said to be an infringement of human rights on access to information while the data protection bill is required to protect the flow of sensitive material that may affect state of national security.

On numerous occasions Parliament has been urged to advertise with various media houses as well as communicating in Zimbabwe’s 16 local languages, but the request seems to be a mile away from reality.

It’s however a technical bill whose text is not comprehendable by many, the drafters deliberately fused cyber security issues with Data Management issues in order to sanitize the sinister intention of the government to clamp down on freedom of expression and rights to privacy of individuals analysts have said.

“The Bill is inconsistent to the Constitution in particular sections 57 and 61, the two spheres which the Bill address which are Cyber Security and Data Protection must exist in separate laws as they are a vast space that requires each to stand alone in line with SADC and AU model laws”