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Cablegate: Parliamentary Committees Exert Influence Over

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001311

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ZI
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES EXERT INFLUENCE OVER
AMENDMENTS BUT RESTRICTIONS ON PRESS REMAIN

Summary
-----------

1. (SBU) Amendments to three bills were considered by
Zimbabwe's Parliament June 12. Adverse reports were issued
on each amendment by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC).
Two bills passed without objection on June 12 after
compromises were made prior to the amendments reaching the
floor. The third bill, contrary to reports in local papers,
was withdrawn. In spite of the changes, the Media Institute
of Southern Africa has expressed concerns about the amendment
to the law on Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
(AIPP) arguing that it is too vague and allows GOZ law
enforcement agencies too wide a latitude to prosecute alleged
offenders. The good news is that parliamentary committees
are working behind the scenes and forcing debate on
amendments and the ruling party is now responding to adverse
reports.

Parliament Meets to amend three bills
--------------------------------------
2. (SBU) For some time Parliament has been considering
amendments to three laws. These laws are: Customary Law and
Local Courts, Citizenship and, the most controversial, Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy. USAID officers
learned that the PLC had issued adverse reports on each but
that their major concerns were incorporated into the
amendments. Unfortunately press reports on the subject
failed to mention that the PLC's objections were dealt with
in an earlier venue.

Amendment One to Customary Law and Local Courts Passes
--------------------------------------------- --------
3. (SBU) The purpose of the amendment to this law was not to
change the jurisdiction patterns of local courts which have
authority over customary law. Rather it was intended to
allow these courts to enforce their judgments. In the past,
once a local court made a decision, it was referred to the
Magistrate Court for enforcement where it was often delayed.
Now payments such as child maintenance, should be faster.
The PLC objected to the original amendment because it limited
the lifespan of a judgment to two years. The Ministry agreed
with the PLC's proposal to do away with the limitation
altogether.

Amendment Two to Citizenship Law Does Not Go Forward
--------------------------------------------- -------
4. (SBU) The PLC issued an adverse report because the
amendment entitled farm workers who come from Zambia, Malawi
or Mozambique to register as citizens of Zimbabwe. This
would have allowed them the privilege of citizenship based on
job description and origin which violates Section 23 of the
Constitution which states that no law shall discriminate
against any person on the grounds of that person's tribe,
race, place of origin, political views, color, religion or
sex. Due to the objections of the PLC, the amendment did not
go forward though the government owned paper, the Herald,
reported that it had passed.

Amendment Three to AIPP Passes - Media Watchdog Unhappy
--------------------------------------------- ----------
5. (SBU) The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
law passed last year with its restrictions on the media has
come in for substantial criticism from human rights and media
organizations. The Amendment produced several months ago was
likewise controversial. The PLC issued an adverse report and
as a result many of their recommendations were adopted. The
most important of these were the deletion of the provision
criminalizing the writing of false stories and the provision
removing independent media organizations from the media
board. In a press release issued June 14, the Media
Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said that although "it
was reported that the concerns of the PLC had been addressed,
MISA-Zimbabwe notes that the passing of the bill does not
change much in making the law democratic....The law still
remains lethal in as far as it makes demands for the
accreditation of journalists and media houses respectively.
Access to information remains totally closed and much power
is vested in public officials." MISA was particularly
disappointed that the new amendment expanded the definition
of a journalist who must register with the Media and
Information Commission (MIC) to include a number of
publications and information that would not be normally
considered part of the mass media such as web pages or
organizations that distribute information on, for example,
HIV/AIDS. Shortly after publication of the press release,
MISA itself was ordered to register with the MIC although its
publications are limited to newsletters for its members and
press releases.

Comment
-------
6. (SBU) During past years, parliamentary committees were
prohibited from meeting except when Parliament was in session
but the rule was changed this year and since then, there has
been a remarkable increase in the number of times the
committees have met. Parliament has apparently begun to
recognize the value of these committees and the ruling
party's Chief Whip has said that ineffective committee chairs
will be replaced at the start of the new session in July.
Those on the chopping block are all ZANU-PF MPs who are on
the list to be removed for poor performance. (No MDC chairs
are up for replacement based on poor performance.) When the
next session of Parliament opens in July, the quality of the
new chairs that ZANU appoints to head committees will reflect
the party's appreciation for the growing strength that
committees play in the legislative process.

7. (SBU) Regarding the Access to Information bill, it
appears that serious concerns articulated by Parliament were
addressed, but that the legislation maintains other features
which restrict and impose government control on the media.

SULLIVAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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