State urged to amend laws to safeguard rights

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The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has called for more substantive amendments to the General Laws Amendment Bill to ensure enjoyment of social rights and children’s rights as stipulated in the Constitution.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa last week introduced the omnibus Bill that will incorporate amendments to 126 statutes in Parliament to enable both Houses to scrutinise them when they resume sitting next month.

ZLHR said there was need for more amendments to statutes such as the Children’s Act to incorporate the rights of the child to equal treatment, to be heard, to a name, to national documents, to parental care, protection from exploitation, education, health care and not to be detained.

“The Births and Deaths Registration Act requires amendment to provide for the issuing of birth certificates to foundlings to protect against statelessness,” the ZLHR said.

“The Citizenship Act must incorporate the new constitutional provisions on citizenship, for example that citizens by birth now hold citizenship as an absolute birthright and may therefore hold multiple citizenships and that citizenship is now granted to foundlings to protect against statelessness,” they said.

Other Acts that impacted on the protection of socio-economic rights which were said to require urgent amendment included the Housing and Building Act, and Housing Standards Control Act which undermined property rights and freedom from arbitrary eviction.

“The Urban Councils Act, Rural District Councils Act and Water Act do not currently clearly set out State obligations to deliver services to citizens like the right to water or shelter. They must also provide for devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to local councils, providing improved accountability in service provision.”

The Education Act was said to have been inadequately dealt with in the General Laws Amendment Bill as it failed to clearly define basic education, the nature and extent of State-funded education and the use of official languages, while the Public Health Act was said to need amendments as it violated on the right to privacy and health.

“The constitutional rights of persons with disabilities must be incorporated in the Disabled Persons Act. The Prisons Act and the Police Act must ensure the rights of persons in detention and police custody are protected, for example the right to food and water,” the ZLHR said.