Rights Body Sets Agenda For Zim Law Reform

Harare, May 26, 2015 – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has challenged the government to urgently expedite the harmonisation of several pieces of legislation with the new constitution as the delay in aligning them is contributing to serious violation of citizens’ rights.

ZLHR on Tuesday released its Priority List for Legislation for Harmonisation with the Constitution of Zimbabwe which set the agenda for government’s law reform programme.

The 36-paged analysis sets out the laws that the country’s leading legal defence group identified as requiring prioritisation for reform to ensure the promotion of human rights, equality and respect for the rule of law for a just and democratic society in Zimbabwe.

According to the ZLHR’s Priority List, about 53 Acts urgently need to be aligned with the new constitution that Zimbabweans voted to adopt in 2013.

Some of the laws identified by ZLHR include the Public Order and Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Access to Information and Protection Act, the Police Act, the Defence Act among other pieces of legislation.

ZLHR said its priority list is comprised of laws that are aimed at increasing access to civil, social and economic justice, strengthening the efficiency and effectiveness of state institutions in delivering on their mandate and accounting to the public, increasing rights literacy and public participation in the country’s governance issues and protecting the rights and safety of human rights defenders.

“The constitution is the supreme national legal document. The moment that it came into effect, the rights, freedoms and responsibilities contained in it became valid and enforceable by the holders of such rights and freedoms. It must be made clear that any legislation or regulations that are not in line with the contents of the constitution are immediately null and void. There is no need to wait for alignment of legislation before asserting such constitutional rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Delay in alignment is not a valid excuse to be used by authorities, but it has certainly contributed to the continued disregard of constitutional provisions by certain arms of government and their officials,” reads part of the ZLHR analysis.

The human rights organisation which has offered legal assistance to several tormented human and political rights activists for the past two decades said its priority list is not exhaustive as many other laws identified by other stakeholders will still need to be aligned with the constitution.

The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has already indicated that it has identified 400 laws for alignment with the new governance charter and the government recently gazetted the General Laws Amendment Bill which seeks to make amendments and align 126 statutes to bring them into conformity with the constitution.

But ZLHR recently condemned the gazetting of the General Laws Amendment Bill as the Bill mostly introduces only minor changes to Acts, such as re-referencing, changing titles of offices, officials, institutions and the inclusion of new preambles.

“While many Acts require such cosmetic amendments, for many Acts the changes are piecemeal and fail to align the most crucial and substantive provisions required to comply with the Constitution,” ZLHR said.