High Court hears Habbakuk and CAMERA’s bid on Constitutional amendments hearings

THE High Court on Monday 15 June 2020 and on Tuesday 16 June 2020
was set to preside over the hearing and determination of two urgent chamber
applications filed by two advocacy groups seeking to stop Parliament
from conducting public hearings across the country to discuss some
proposed amendments to the Constitution at a time of the outbreak of
the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

In Bulawayo, High Court Judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo  on Monday 15
June 2020 at 10:AM was scheduled to hear an urgent chamber application filed by
Habakkuk Trust seeking an interdict barring Parliament, Clerk of
Parliament Kennedy Chokuda and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary
Affairs Minister Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi from holding public meetings in
Bulawayo or anywhere in Zimbabwe scheduled to begin on Monday 15 June
2020 and ending on Friday 19 June 2020 to discuss amendments to the
Constitution until the health pandemic and resultant national lockdown
caused by coronavirus currently afflicting Zimbabwe is over.

In an urgent chamber application filed on Thursday 11 June 2020 by Job
Sibanda of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Habakkuk Trust
represented by its Chief Executive Officer Dumisani Nkomo, argued that
Zimbabwe is currently facing a health pandemic which had necessitated
the imposition of a national lockdown, where public gatherings were
virtually banned to try and curb the spread of coronavirus.

Habakkuk Trust argued that by conducting public hearings to discuss
some proposed amendments to the Constitution, Parliament, Chokuda and
Ziyambi were putting the health of the public at risk at a time of the
coronavirus pandemic.

The conduct of Parliament, Chokuda and Ziyambi, Habakkuk Trust said,
is grossly unreasonable and holding public hearings at a time of the
outbreak of coronavirus would defeat the very noble purpose of
inviting the input of the public to any proposed constitutional
amendments.

Habakkuk Trust said while the process of soliciting for input into the
proposed constitutional amendments cannot be stopped, it must await
normalisation of the situation in the country and no prejudice will be
suffered by the respondents namely Parliament, Chokuda and Ziyambi.
The process of soliciting for people’s input into the proposed
constitutional amendments, Habakkuk Trust said, should be stopped and
only proceeded with after the country shifts to Level 1 stage of the
national lockdown, which is the period which prevailed before the
outbreak of coronavirus and before a State of Disaster was declared by
government in March.

Alternatively, Habakkuk argued that if Parliament, Chokuda and Ziyambi
intend to proceed with the public hearings in the midst of the current
health pandemic, they must ensure that all precautions are taken to
prevent and contain the disease at such public gatherings.

In Harare, High Court Judge Justice David Mangota will on Tuesday 16
June 2020 at 8:30 AM hear and a make a determination on an urgent
chamber application filed by Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents
Association (CAMERA) and Alice Kuvheya, a resident of Chitungwiza
seeking an order to stop Parliament, Speaker of Parliament Jacob
Mudenda, Senate President Mabel Chinomona and Attorney-General
Advocate Prince Machaya from conducting public hearings on some
proposed amendments to the Constitution.

In the application, which was filed on Wednesday 10 June 2020 by
Tonderai Bhatasara of ZLHR, CAMERA and Kuvheya argued that conducting
public hearings at a time when the country is reporting increased
numbers of people testing positive to coronavirus is a negation of the
efforts being done by those committed to arresting the spread of the
pandemic and is also an abrogation of the purpose and spirit of
provisions contained in section 141 and 328 of the Constitution.

CAMERA and Kuvheya argued that Parliament, Mudenda, Chinomona and
Advocate Machaya have not indicated any measures that they have put in
place in order not to breach the coronavirus regulations and citizens’
constitutional rights.

The residents association and Kuvheya said there is a real danger of
the accelerated spread of coronavirus if the public hearings are held
at a time of the outbreak of the pandemic.

CAMERA and Kuvheya want the proposed public hearings to be declared
to be in contravention of section 56, 67, 141 and 328 of the
Constitution as well as Statutory Instrument 83/2020 as read with
Statutory 199/2020 as further read with Statutory 110/2020.

The proposed public hearings, CAMERA and Kuvheya said, should be
postponed until such a time when the national lockdown has been lifted
and when there is no longer a health threat of coronavirus.