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Masvingo residents refuse to discuss the Coroners Bill

By Hazvinei Mwanaka

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was on Monday left with egg on its face following the refusal by People in Masvingo to discuss the Coroners Bill.

This Coroners Bill provides for the establishment of an office responsible for investigating all deaths that come about as a result of unnatural causes.

It also sets out the appointment, functions, and powers of the Coroner-General, Deputy Coroner-General and coroners in relation to post-mortems, inquests and their findings.

The Bill is seeking to repeal the Inquests Act [Chapter 7:07] and to amend the Birth and Deaths Registration Act [Chapter 5:02] and the Burial and Cremation Act [Chapter 5:03].

Members of the public, who attended the meeting, told the committee which was being chaired by Kadoma Central legislator Muchineripi Chinyanganya that the government must ensure it educates members of the public on Bills so that they can be able to make meaningful and effective contributions.

The issue of lack of knowledge on Bills that will be under public hearings is also true to other previous and present public hearings that are being conducted by various portfolio committees where only a few individuals will be participating while the majority will be looking, wondering and cheering only.

Various stakeholders have called on the government to consider toning-down the language used in Bills as a way of making sure that the provisions are clearly understood by the lowest members of society.

As a way of saving face, Honourable Chinyanganya acknowledged the peoples’ lack of knowledge on the Bill and urged them to familiarise themselves with it and then to send their views and contributions in writing to Parliament.

Meanwhile, the people of Masvingo have said they want Constitutional Court proceedings to be held in various local languages to enable ease understanding by laymen especially in cases which are of public importance.

Giving his contribution to the committee on the Constitutional Court Bill, Great Zimbabwe University law student Lisbert Chadenga said the use of the English language is an infringement of one’s rights.

“The use of the English language is not good at all because it will not cater for other vulnerable and marginalised groups who are not educated at all.

“The Constitution of Zimbabwe recognises all the 16 languages and why can’t we have the proceedings in different languages,” he said.

Another law student who only identified himself as Tendai also echoed the same sentiments highlighting that the issue of language will help justice to be delivered to all.

Other contributors such as Kudakwashe Chihata raised the issue of delays in writing judgements adding that it slows the development of the country’s judicial system.

Speaking at the same meeting Gutu North legislator Yeukai Simbanegavi said the Bill should compel the chief justice to consider issues of gender when it comes to appointing judges.

Despite the incident with the Coroners Bill, the committee expressed satisfaction with the turnout at the public hearings which were also conducted in various other cities in the country.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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