Const court can help now

Some provisions of the new constitution do not necessarily have to become Acts of Parliament before Zimbabweans can enjoy them.

Eric Matinenga: some individuals bigger than the laws.
Eric Matinenga: some individuals bigger than the laws.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, Fortune Chasi, told The Zimbabwean in an interview this week that some laws could protect citizens without having passed through Parliament.

For example, people could seek recourse to the constitutional court if they face arbitrary eviction or are denied access to basics such as water.

“These are some of several laws that citizens can immediately find comfort in without unnecessary delays,” Chasi said, adding that he would love to have all laws aligned to the constitution as a matter of urgency. He blamed delays in aligning the laws to shortage of staff at his ministry and mistrust among stakeholders.

Speaking earlier at a panel discussion on the need to consolidate constitutional reforms, Derek Matyszak of the Research and Advocacy Unit blamed government for slowing down the alignment process.

He said as the ruling party had no overall control over the constitution-making process, it was not comfortable with some of the provisions.

“For example, instead of effecting devolution as required by the constitution, the president appointed provincial ministers of state with similar roles to those of the disbanded offices of provincial governors,” said Matyszak, pointing out that President Robert Mugabe had violated the constitution often in the past.

During the GNU era, Mugabe appointed 42 cabinet ministers in violation of the constitution which clearly stipulated that government should have only 31.

Former Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Eric Matinenga, accused government of dragging its feet regarding alignment of the laws to the constitution.

“It is sad to note that devolution and other provisions were not given priority despite their being so crucial,” he said, adding that foreign investment and international re-engagement were tied to constitutionalism.

“Zimbabweans wrote the constitution to get rid of the big man syndrome which made some individuals bigger than the country’s laws,” he said.

The alignment of the laws took off to a slow start with the Electoral Amendment Bill still at consultation stage. But in a landmark ruling recently, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu stopped all local authorities from disconnecting water supplies to defaulting households “as the practice was unconstitutional.”

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