Laws null and void says ZLHR

Any legislation that is not in line with the contents of the Constitution is null and void, says the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

“The Constitution is the supreme national legal document. The moment 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 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,” say the lawyers in a recent statement.

“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.”

The human rights watchdog outlined a set of areas that need to be given priority for the promotion of human rights, equality and respect for the rule of law.

Economic justice

Urgent attention should be given to laws that increase access to civil, social and economic justice, strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of state institutions, increase rights literacy and public participation in governance issues and protect the rights and safety of human rights defenders.

Regarding the first cluster of rights, ZLHR said abolition of dual citizenship must be lifted, a citizenship and immigration board set up while those who have attained the age of 16 must be empowered to acquire citizenship on their own.

Zimbabweans who positively identify themselves as citizens must not be prohibited from entering the country and there must be no expulsion of Zimbabweans, said ZLHR.

Death penalty

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) must repeal Section 47(3), which states that a person convicted of attempted murder or incitement or conspiracy to commit murder shall be liable to be sentenced to death. ZLHR urged lawmakers and the executive to ensure inclusion of provisions that the death penalty can only be imposed on a person convicted of murder in aggravating circumstances as provided in section 48(2) of the Constitution, while persons younger than 21 must be not be given capital sentences.

The watchdog also called for a review of the criminalisation of the occupation of land gazetted as belonging to the state as a way of respecting Zimbabweans’ right to shelter. Excessive powers of the minister responsible for the Urban Councils Act, who is currently Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo, must be reduced and devolution of municipal powers must be ensured, say the lawyers.

Other key issues of concern include: subjection of the CIO , police and prisons to commissions to ensure that they are accountable to the people; non-partisanship in the army; the right to basic state-funded education for all children; free education at primary level and the establishment of a national peace and reconciliation commission to ensure harmony in the country.

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