This is to ensure that citizens are not exposed to COVID-19 and that citizens’ voices are heard and respected during the Public Hearings on the proposed but absolutely unnecessary Constitutional Amendment No. 2.
The Public Hearings on Constitutional Amendment Bill No2 were initially scheduled to take place from 29 March to 3 April but were suspended together with all parliamentary activities from 18 March to 5 May 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe must ensure that Covid-19 preventative measures are in place before any public hearings commence. It is strange that the public hearings are resuming at a time when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has suspended all electoral activities citing Covid-19 regulations.
Some of the key Covid-19 measures announced by the government which have a huge effect on citizens’ contributions to this process include maintaining social distance at all times, wearing face masks outdoors, limiting unnecessary travel and travel restrictions locally and between towns and cities, except for those providing essential services, and a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.
The Coalition takes this opportunity to highlight that the civil society and other pro-democracy forces have said NO to Constitutional Amendment Bill No2 for what it is, a mockery to democracy, a recipe for disaster and a violation of the principle of separation of powers.
The Coalition notes that even after civil society and other pro-democracy forces have urged the government to stop the Constitutional Amendment Bill No2 and build consensus among the people of Zimbabwe, the government is hell-bent on using the COVID19 for autocratic overreach.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill No2 seeks to amend 28 provisions of which 20 of them are election-related. The next general election is in 2023, why is the government in such a hurry to amend the constitution to the extent of doing it under the cover of devastating pandemic?. The amendment does not in any way make our democracy better. Why are we in a race back to our past? This act by parliament is a recipe for disaster and a mockery to democracy even by Zimbabwe’s standards.
We, therefore, reiterate our call that no amendments should take place without implementing fully the 2013 Constitution. In light of the proposed Public Hearings and the objections by the CiZC and other pro-democracy forces and citizens, we urge Parliament to review the proposed public hearings dates until the following is addressed and or guaranteed:-
- Ensure that citizens participation is guaranteed considering the current lockdown measures which limit movement especially those not providing essential services.
- Clearly outline safety measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 during all outreach activities
- Ensure that all key stakeholders including civil society organisations are considered providers of essential services to allow them to conduct outreach activities to educate citizens on the proposed constitutional amendments before the proposed public hearings