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Prioritise media, legislative, electoral reforms in next Parliament sitting

The Parliament of Zimbabwe should prioritise media, legislative and electoral reforms when it resumes sitting on Tuesday 28 February 2012 after its adjournment in December 2011. This is critical as the country prepares for the conclusion of the constitution making process which will lead to a referendum later during the year.

At the close of Parliament's sitting in 2011, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Amendment Bill, Electoral Amendment Bill and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill were before Parliament and discussions around the bills are set to begin with the resumption of the sitting. The amendments to POSA were introduced as a Private bill by Honourable Gonese while the Electoral Amendment Bill and ZHRC Bills are part of the reforms planned to take place during the lifespan of the inclusive government as stated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

'Parliament should prioritise issues which are pending from the last sitting and these are around electoral, legislative and media reforms which are urgent particularly as the country prepares for the completion of the constitution making process. There is need for Parliament to create an environment which is suitable for voting,' said the Spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Mr. Thabani Nyoni.

The debate which took place in 2011 around the amendments to POSA was adjourned to allow the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa to input on whether the amendments will be discussed by the GPA negotiators. If amended, POSA will limit the powers of the police creating an opportunity for increased freedom of expression in the country. The Electoral Amendment Bill was discussed in Parliament and public hearings carried out amid claims of bussing and violence. One of the key proposals in the Bill is the introduction of the polling station based voting which according to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) will reduce chances of vote rigging while some observers have indicated that this could lead to increased intimidation and targeting of opponents of ZANU PF.

According to Veritas, the following pending issues will also be discussed;

1.             The partisan nature of the media

2.             Enactment of revised indigenisation regulations

3.             Condemning of Political utterances by Service Chiefs and;

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