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MDC blocks Zanu PF from rushing Marriages Bill

By Daniel Chigundu

MDC legislators on Wednesday blocked a move by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to rush the Marriages Bill into Parliament before its set time.

According to Zimbabwe laws, when Bills are gazetted they must at least take about 14 days before they are introduced in Parliament.

However, Minister Ziyambi wanted to move a motion to suspend the clause that talks about the 14 day-passage, a move which was objected MDC legislators.

Below is how MDC legislators blocked rushing the Bill:

Leave to move the suspension of Standing Order Number 134

Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi: Madam Speaker, I seek leave of the House to have the suspension of Order Number 134, which states that every Bill other than a Constitutional Bill must be published in the Gazette at least 14 days before it is introduced in the National Assembly.  So I seek leave that it be introduced to tomorrow.

Honourable Gonese:  Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to debate the motion which has been introduced by the Hon. Minister.

I think it is imperative that we make decisions from an informed position.  At this point in time, this Bill was gazetted on Friday and obviously the reason why the provisions are in place is to ensure that adequate time is given for either the Portfolio Committee or the public at large to debate or to have an appreciation of the Bill which the Hon. Minister intends to bring to the House. I think it is important for the Hon. Minister to favour us with the reasons why they are seeking the leave of this august House to depart from the Standing Order.  We cannot just blindly follow.  We should be acquainted with the rationale and reasoning behind that request.  If the Hon. Minister gives that rationale or reasoning, we can then consider it but if we are in the dark, it becomes very difficult for us.

This Bill has generated a lot of controversy and debate.  As a result, before it is introduced, it is important for the time period which is provided to run its course.  Therefore, until and unless we have an explanation, I am inclined to say that we are not agreeable to that request; we must follow the normal rules.  Let us have the period of 14 days after gazetting before the Bill is introduced into the House. We do not want fast-tracking.

The Executive has had these issues relating to marriages for a very long time.  The Chair would be aware that there were issues relating to child marriages which emanated from the Con-Court Judgment outlawing child marriages.  The Executive did not bring a Bill to amend the marriage laws in order to outlaw child marriages at that point in time.  There has always been this debate about harmonisation of our marriage laws which have been in the public domain for a long time.  I do not understand the rush why all of a sudden we are trying to circumvent the process whereby a period of 14 days has to be allowed before the Bill is formally introduced in the House.

Honourable Edwin Mushoriwa:  Thank you for giving me this opportunity.  I would like to add on to what Hon. Gonese has said.  We are not agreeable to what the Minister has just said about this Marriages’ Bill that is being rushed here in Parliament without following the proper procedures.

This Bill on marriage has shaken the whole country.  What the Minister wants to do – destroying marriages by doing wrong things, we want the law to follow the proper procedures

Minister Ziyambi Madam Speaker, I think the Hon. Member must ignore his statement that I am destroying marriages because that statement is very false and without any basis at all. I believe that he should withdraw that statement if he is to continue to make his statement.

Deputy Speaker:  Hon. Mushoriwa, please withdraw your statement.

Honourable Mushoriwa:  Madam Speaker, may I know which statement I should withdraw

Deputy Speaker: That the Minister’s Bill wants to destroy marriages Honourable Mushoriwa, we are not debating about the Bill but the suspension.  The Bill will be debated later.

Honourable Mushoriwa:  I hear what you are saying Madam Speaker.  We are debating the suspension.  My point is that every Bill that comes to this august House should be subjected to public consultations and should pass through all stages. There is nothing special about that Bill. People should be given an opportunity to air their opinions.  There is no reason to rush in ensuring that it becomes law.  Why should we rush the Bill?  For that reason, the people of Zimbabwe have got the right to be consulted on the contents of the Bill.  There is no hurry.  What the Minister wants to do is against what the people want.  As a people, we are saying we will not accept that

Minister Ziyambi:  What I intend to do is not what they are speaking to because we are wasting time

Deputy Speaker: Order!

Minister Ziyambi:  Madam Speaker, mira

Honourable Phulu: It will close

Minister Ziyambi: It will not close.  I just want to guide you so that you can debate appropriately.

Deputy Speaker:  Honourable Phulu take your seat, you will have your time too

Minister Ziyambi:  Madam Speaker, all I am simply asking is for the Bill to be introduced into the National Assembly before the expiration of the 14 days.  I am not saying all the other processes should cease.

When a Bill is gazetted, it will be introduced into the National Assembly after 14 days. I did not seek leave that we do not do public hearings.  I never said public consultations should not go on.  All I am seeking is for the Bill to be put on the Order Paper.  Everything that they are saying is already catered for.  I am not saying people should not be consulted.  I do not know why there are issues in that regard. If the argument is that they want the 14 days, it is alright but the major reason why I wanted the Bill to be introduced so that it comes on the Order Paper is that Parliament can have something to do.  We want more Bills to come through but if there is an objection, I do not have a problem.  We can leave it.  We can even do it next year. We do not need to debate Madam Speaker.  I withdraw

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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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