Priorities for the Movement for Democratic Change and civil society were the repeal of or amendment of the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act but the responsible ministries, Justice and Information were headed by ZANU-PF stalwarts Patrick Chinamasa and Webster Shamu and they were not interested in reform.
This was said by the United States embassy after a briefing with Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo who was optimistic about the setting up of new commissions including the Media and Human Rights Commissions.
POSA regulated meetings, demonstrations and protests, while AIPPA regulated print journalism.
Broadcasting was regulated by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Act.
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2019
SUBJECT: THE BUSINESS OF PARLIAMENT IN ZIMBABWE
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (b) and (d)
¶1. (SBU) The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo,
updated Post on the Constitutional drafting process and the
formation of vital commissions that are expected to drive
reforms within the media, electoral process, human rights,
and corruption spheres. Speaker Moyo also clarified that —
in keeping with procedural norms and despite the MDC-T’s
superior numbers in Parliament — the legislative process and
any reform of existing repressive laws would originate from
Cabinet and not Parliament. END SUMMARY.
New Constitution and Commissions on Track
¶2. (C) Parliamentary Speaker Lovemore Moyo told polecon
chief and poloff on June 23 that the next stage in the
constitutional process is beginning as scheduled in late
June. In keeping with the timeline stipulated in the Global
Political Agreement (GPA), provincial meetings will be held
in each of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces beginning on June 25 in
Harare, and then progress from Mashonaland in the North to
Matabeleland in the South several days later. The purpose of
the meetings is to educate voters on the constitutional
process, elicit their input, and identify delegates for the
upcoming &All Stakeholders Conference8 in mid-July.
¶3. (C) Moyo was pleased that despite an effort by ZANU-PF
party members to delay the provincial meetings, they were
being held without delay. Some donor nations are providing
funding for the Constitutional process, and MDC-M Senator
David Coltart has been asked to establish a fund to assure
donors that the funds were not at risk of abuse.
¶4. (C) Moyo also discussed the process of forming the Media,
Electoral, Anti-Corruption, and Human Rights Commissions.
Currently, Parliament is collecting and culling applications
from the public to staff these commissions. June 26 was the
final day candidates could submit their applications.
Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee will
establish the methodology to use to determine eligibility.
Moyo stressed that the selections would be independent of
party affiliation. He also clarified that all four
Commissions would require some form of enabling legislation.
¶5. (C) The Speaker defended criticism from certain activist
groups such as the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and
the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) that they were
not being invited to participate in the Commissions, by
explaining that Parliament did not want organizations to
nominate individuals. Rather it wanted individuals to apply
and allow Parliament to determine their eligibility.
Specific to the Media Commission, Moyo noted that some
representatives of MISA, the National Association of NGOs
(NANGO), and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) were
Q(NANGO), and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) were
refusing to submit applications because they were opposed to
the existence of a statutory media oversight body; they
believed the media should be self-regulating.
Reform-Minded Legislation to Come From Cabinet
¶6. (C) In response to questions on how best to use the
MDC-T’s strength in Parliament to amend or repeal repressive
laws such as POSA and AIPPA, Moyo explained that Parliament’s
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role in the legislative process was to pass or reject
legislation proposed by Ministers through Cabinet. He
conceded that in theory a &Private Member Bill8 could be
drafted by an MP and voted on in Parliament; however, members
proposing legislation would have to personally bear extensive
printing and distribution costs. Most important, there would
be resistance within Cabinet and ZANU-PF would raise charges
that Parliament was being manipulated by western forces.
¶7. (C) As explained by Moyo, legislation is formulated by
ministries and drafted in conjunction with the Attorney
General’s office. This makes critical legislative reform
unlikely in the near term. It also threatens the timely
creation of enabling legislation for the four new
commissions. MDC and civil society priorities are the repeal
or amendment of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA)
which regulates meetings, demonstrations, and protests; the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)
which regulates print journalism; the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Act which is responsible for television and radio; and
establishment of an independent Media Commission. The
responsible ministries — Justice and Information — are
headed by ZANU-PF stalwarts Patrick Chinamasa and Webster
Shamu. Neither has shown interest in reform.
¶8. (C) Other problematic issues are likely to emerge from
the drawn out commission process. For instance, the
constitutionally-defunct Media and Information Commission
(MIC) is attempting to maintain its authority to issue
journalist accreditations. At the COMESA summit earlier this
month, the MIC refused several independent journalists access
to the event despite statements by PM Tsvangirai and the
Attorney General’s Office saying that Constitutional
Amendment 19 had negated the MIC’s statutory authorities.