Home » Governance » Electoral Bill Hearings Face Challenges

A public hearing on the Electoral Amendment Bill was aborted on Saturday in Bubi District after some participants protested that the venue was not representative of Matabeleland North province. At Bubi, a leader of a group calling itself Inkosikazi Development Association, Mr Douglas Khoza, refused to enter the auditorium at Inyathi Training Centre when Members of Parliament arrived at around 1600 hours.

Mr Khoza protested saying the meeting could not be held because Bubi District could not be used as a representative of Matabeleland North province.

The province spans over 400 kilometers northwards from Bulawayo to cover Binga, Hwange, Tsholotsho, Victoria Falls and Kazungula, among other areas.

“As MPs, we feel you are not giving us a service in terms of representing us,” said Mr Khoza. “How can you choose Bubi and say you have talked to Matabeleland North, where are other areas like Binga, Tsholotsho, Lupane among others? We cannot endorse corruption.”

Parliament’s Portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, chaired by Harare West MP, Ms Jessie Majome (MDC-T), wanted to conduct a public hearing at Inyathi Training Centre as part of the committee’s countrywide tour to seek the views of the people on the Bill.

The Southern Parliamentary Support Trust has partnered Parliament to seek public participation on the Electoral Amendment Bill as part of the institution’s efforts to strengthen parliaments of Southern Africa.

The Bill, which has since passed in the Senate and is now before the National Assembly, was brought to Parliament as part of Government efforts to align the laws with the new Constitution. Initially, committee members thought that people were unhappy over their late arrival for the meeting that was earmarked to start at around 1530hrs, but owing to communication breakdown most of the people pitched up in the morning.

Ms Majome walked to the crowd and apologised for the inordinate delay before asking them to come into the hall.

Mr Khoza said besides the fact that Bubi was too small to represent the province, many people who had come were from one ward, thereby sidelining other 12 wards in the district.

But Ms Majome explained that securing resources to conduct hearings in all districts in the provinces was not easy.

“This is just an attempt to seek people’s views. We have identified one district in the provinces we have selected. We have even failed to go to other provinces because of limited resources,” she said.

Mr Khoza, who seemed to have adequately mobilised a good number of followers to share his views, stood his ground saying they would not allow the meeting to proceed.

This left Ms Majome with no option but to call off the public hearing.

Other participants told The Herald that they would have wanted to participate, but they feared victimisation from community leaders.

Earlier on, the committee held a meeting in Gweru. On Sunday they held meetings in Plumtree and Bulawayo.

When the team visited Mutasa district centre, Manicaland province, tempers flared as some rowdy elements attempted to derail the proceedings.

Ms Majome tried to assert her authority and instil order on some participants who would either speak when they had not been given the floor or jeer at her.

At the Mutasa meeting yesterday, what started as a peaceful meeting almost got out of hand when one participant refused to be reprimanded and comply with a directive that he should conduct himself in an orderly manner by allowing Ms Majome to make a point of intervention while he was on the floor.

The man who refused to give his name, first refused to sit down when asked to do so to allow Ms Majome to make a point of intervention to clear some misconception created by his contribution.

This was after he complained about the short notice of the meeting, accused legislators of not being independent enough to carry out the hearing.

A heated exchange ensued as he refused to sit down as he accused Ms Majome of disturbing the floor of proceedings by unnecessarily interjecting.

Another participant also rose to question why they were being asked to be orderly when parliamentarians themselves have failed to do so in the August House.

“Tinonzwa kuti imi maMPs munositombochayana wani kuparliament,” said the participant.

Ms Majome’s efforts to assert her authority hit a brick-wall as a handful of the rowdy elements defied her.

Ms Majome warned one of the participants that he risked being charged under legal provisions governing Parliament as his actions amounted to disrupting Parliamentary proceedings by refusing to comply with lawful orders when he refused to sit down.

“Is it not strange to say Parliament is sitting here in Honde. When has that ever happened? There is nothing like that to say people gathered here constitute the sitting of Parliament,” said the participant clearly oblivious of the implications of his actions.

Ms Majome’s attempts to tell him that he was free to leave the room went unheeded saying he would only leave when the meeting was over.

Another person who appeared to be part of the group also rose to question why amendments to the constitution were being brought when it was agreed that it should be done by two thirds.

Source : The Herald