MANICALAND Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene has denied reports that she was the province’s new “Iron Lady”, but admitted that she does not trust most of her subordinates.
by VENERANDA LANGA
THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have blasted the proposed omnibus General Laws Amendment Bill which will soon be crafted in Parliament, saying it will only bring in minor changes to the 126 statutes that were set to be aligned with the new Constitution.
The ZLHR said the omnibus Bill would bring in minor changes such as re-referencing, changing titles of offices, official, institutions, inclusion of preambles and other cosmetic changes.
“The amendments to the many Acts are piecemeal and fail to align the most crucial and substantive provisions required to comply with the new Constitution,” the ZLHR said in their critique.
“We welcome that the Bill does seek to introduce some substantive amendments — notably to the Interpretation Act, the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, the Electoral Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the Trade Marks Act, but we are concerned that some of these amendments do not, in fact, further the protection of constitutional rights,” ZLHR said.
The amendments to the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act were said to have provisions which would impose harsher fine penalties, imprisonment for non-payment of fines and administrative imprisonment for contempt, whereas the new Constitution provided for greater freedom of speech in Parliament.
The legal experts said it was a pity that Parliament failed to facilitate public involvement in its legislative process and did not consult interested parties about the General Laws Amendment Bill, as required under the Constitution.
They said the General Laws Amendment Bill failed to adequately deal with the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act, as they were not in tandem with the provisions of the new Constitution.
The Election Resource Centre added that the raft of changes in the General Laws Amendment Bill pertaining to electoral reforms failed to address fundamental changes that had effects on the credibility of elections.
“The reforms maintain the old electoral regime, albeit under a new electoral Act, and it is difficult to consider these changes as electoral reforms. It retains the Registrar-General (RG) as a significant player in voter registration through insistence on the need for co-operation between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the RG.”
They said the Bill retained the continued use of voter registration slips despite their wide condemnation and marginalised civic groups, and other independent voter educators from complementing ZEC in offering voter education.
“The Bill perpetuates the uncomfortable role played by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in controlling ZEC administrative decisions and reinstates the postal voting system to those on election duty on voting days,” ERC said.
Chimene, whose recent appointment as resident minister has already been littered with controversy after she made some controversial decisions, has earned herself the “Iron Lady” tag following her hardline stance.
Addressing guests at the launch of the 13th edition of the National Youth Games in Mutare last Friday, Chimene refused to be addressed as the province’s “Iron Lady
“This is my first time to hold such a high post, so there is no one I can trust. I hear some of you calling me ‘Iron Lady’. I am not like that. It is just (that) I don’t trust you because I fear people who lie to me,” Chimene said.
“Remember I was appointed five months ago to this post, so chances of trusting you are still low. Please, I am urging my subordinates to give me time.”
The politician has made controversial statements that have caused a stir both at the provincial and national levels.
Recently, she threatened to set up a parallel structure to run Mutare City Council, accusing the MDC-T-led local authority of providing poor service delivery.
She stunned diamond mining executives in Chiadzwa after demanding that they should only employ ruling Zanu PF members, claiming opposition supporters were a security threat.
Chimene was alleged to have crossed swords with Higher and Tertiary Education minister Oppah Muchinguri over control of party structures in the eastern province, with both claiming to be the most senior Zanu PF politicians in Manicaland after the dismissal of former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa from the ruling party.
Before his unceremonious fall from grace, Mutasa, who served as Presidential Affairs minister and Headlands MP, used to be regarded as “provincial godfather”.