MEMBERS of Parliament yesterday said the decision to introduce an omnibus General Laws Amendment Bill was likely to cause the smuggling-in of contestable clauses that would have far-reaching impacts to both legislators and society at large.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
While introducing the Second Reading Stage of the Bill in the National Assembly yesterday, the Leader of the House, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act was one of the 126 laws that would be amended by the omnibus law, adding it would restrict the sentence of imprisonment of MPs under contempt, but would allow a fine to be charged.
But chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Jessie Majome said MPs were concerned that the amendments to the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act sought to impose imprisonment of MPs in contempt of the House.
MDC Proportional Representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the amendment sought to bring back criminal punishment through the back door, and double punishment for MPs in terms of a fine.
“We have seen at many Parliaments MPs throwing chairs at each other, and I am not sure that if I clap an MP here in Parliament, I will necessarily get a $20 fine and then later on get imprisoned during the time of the session,” she said, citing the case of former MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Bennett who was jailed in 2004 for beating up Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in Parliament.
Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) proposed that some laws such as amendments to the Public Order and Security Act, and Access to Information and Protection to Privacy Act should have been treated as stand-alone pieces of legislation.
He described proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Privileges and Immunity Act as “satanic” and “diabolical” as the reforms sought to criminalise debate in Parliament.
Mabvuku-Tafara MP James Maridadi (MDC-T) said the amendments were loaded with political mischief.
Mnangagwa said the balance of Bills to be aligned with the Constitution out of the 400 would either be repealed or extensively amended later.
“At the moment, we are only aligning things that we are required to align now,” Mnangagwa said.
But MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese warned that at the rate at which laws were being aligned, it would take four years to get the balance of laws in tune with the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa assured Parliament that he would soon allow MPs to debate on the age of sexual consent after some legislators proposed that 18 years be adopted as the country’s age of consent.