By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, April 27, 2016 – THE government was not cherry-picking laws for realignment with the new Constitution, Attorney General Prince Machaya has said, adding that 150 out of 206 laws have since been realigned amid concerns lack of funding was slowing the process down.
Machaya made the revelations at the just ended meeting in the resort town’s Elephant Hills hotel organised by the Civil Society Consortium made up of 44 civil society groups.
These included organisations that work in gender, media, elections, children’s rights and human rights in a bid to be part of the government in the realignment of laws process.
The revelations come amid criticism directed at government by civil society and human rights organisations over delays by government in re-aligning the country’s laws with the new national charter.
“Since the inception of the new constitution, the Inter-Ministerial Technical committee (IMT) has amended a total of 154 laws out of the 206 laws that were identified for re-alignment with the new constitution,” Machaya said.
“Initial research in our statutes has revealed that out of the 396 statutes in our statute books, there are 206 laws that need to be re-aligned with the constitution and out of these, 154 of the laws have been realigned through the General Laws Amendment Bill, Public Debt Management Act and the National Prosecution Authority Act.
“This is due to different circumstances beyond our control to include lack of resources like funding and parliamentary delays among others.”
Machaya denied the government was cherry picking certain laws for realignment at the expense of others seen as unbeneficial to the Zanu PF led government’s interests.
He said responsible line ministries were the ones that initiated the laws that fall within their respective ministries for realignment.
“We have not applied any criteria to prioritise, our priority has been to get as much legislation as possible to parliament.
“All we have been doing basically is to say whatever is ready should go, we have not preferred other legislation or other acts over others. As soon as changes to a particular Act are finished, we push them,” Machaya said.
He added: “Initially, there has been a delay because we wanted to put as many amendments as possible under the General Amendment Act and when we felt that it was not enough as time was not on our side that is when we referred the GLA to parliament and it is unfortunate that it took so much time in parliament and the delay was mainly through the satisfaction of the Parliamentary Legal Committee.”
Zimbabwe Institute Executive Director, Isaac Maposa, said it was important for civil society and the government to work together in the constitutional re-alignment process.
“Our goal is to make this consortium stand on its legs to form a living and breathing constitution that you and l can be proud of and that protects our interests and our nation,” he said.
“Part of why we are here is because of that constitutional journey. We believe that it is not enough to have the document but we need to live it in our day to day systems. Since the new constitution does not come into a vacuum, it requires that all other laws that maybe in existence may conform to the constitution itself.
“If we are going to have conformity and make sure that everything is working out without what we call legal lacunas, we need to have alignment of laws and change some certain laws that have become inconsistent with the legend constitution and make sure that it is implemented.
“We have different roles as civil society, however we have to be part of the process of constitutionalism and we felt strongly that we needed to be much more objective and practical and work for nation building and as civil society, we felt we need to be the watchdog of what government does but we also felt that we do not need to bark from the sideline but to be involved in the process and help the government with the constitutional process.”
The meeting in Victoria Falls was a formal get together between the government, represented by the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and members of the civil society.
Some members of the Civil Society Consortium included Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe), National Youth Development Trust, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Women in Politics Support Network, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), Zimbabwe Community Radio Stations (Zacras) and the Zimbabwe Institute among others.