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Prebunking the Law-Making Process In Zimbabwe: Step-By-Step

Law-Making Process In Zimbabwe

It appears fake news travels faster, especially on social media.

That was the case with the story that was trending a few weeks ago that the Government had made a radio licence mandatory for motorists. The truth of the matter was that these were proposals made in Cabinet for the amendments of the Broadcasting Services Act, Media Practitioners Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act.

For many, what has been said in cabinet stands. For some issues, that could be true. However, when it comes to amendments of acts and bills, the legal process from a cabinet proposal to an Act of law involves several stages.

In an era where misinformation and disinformation proliferate, it is essential to address the misconceptions surrounding the legal process in Zimbabwe, particularly regarding the journey from a cabinet proposal to the enactment of a bill into law. By examining the stages of this process, we can dispel myths and shed light on the accurate procedures involved.

The law-making process in Zimbabwe is a complex and multi-faceted system designed to ensure transparency, accountability, and democratic decision-making. Unfortunately, this complexity also opens the door for misinformation and misunderstanding to take root.

Proposal and Drafting

The first stage involves the development of a proposal by the Cabinet, which addresses a specific issue or policy area. The cabinet identifies a specific issue or policy area that requires legislative action and formulates a proposal to address it.

Contrary to some misconceptions, this proposal is not an immediate enactment but a starting point for the subsequent process. The drafters, usually government departments or ministries, then meticulously craft the bill, taking into account legal considerations, constitutional requirements, and policy objectives.

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Cabinet Approval

Once the bill is drafted, it undergoes a rigorous review and scrutiny within the Cabinet. Cabinet ministers discuss and review the bill to ensure it aligns with government policies, legal frameworks, and constitutional requirements.

This stage is often misunderstood, with some erroneously assuming that Cabinet approval automatically translates into the bill becoming law. In reality, Cabinet approval signifies endorsement and support for the proposal, but it does not confer legal status. The bill must proceed further through the legislative process.

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Introduction to Parliament

The bill is then introduced to the House of Assembly first, then the Senate. The bill is presented by a government minister or a designated representative who provides an overview and rationale for the proposed legislation. This stage marks the formal presentation of the bill to parliamentarians, who will subsequently engage in detailed deliberation and examination.

 Parliamentary Readings and Scrutiny

The bill progresses through three readings: the first reading, which serves as a formal introduction; the second reading, involving substantive debates and discussions; and the third reading, which finalises the parliamentary deliberation.

During the first reading, the bill’s title and objectives are read out, but no debate or discussion on its contents takes place. This stage serves as a formal introduction of the bill to the parliamentarians.

The second reading involves a detailed debate on the bill’s provisions and objectives. Members of Parliament (MPs) have the opportunity to express their views, ask questions, and raise concerns. The bill is scrutinised, and amendments may be proposed at this stage.

Throughout these stages, MPs engage in rigorous scrutiny, raising questions, proposing amendments, and expressing their perspectives. This robust examination ensures that the bill is thoroughly reviewed and refined before proceeding.

 Committee and Report Stages

 Following the second reading, the bill proceeds to the committee stage. A designated committee, such as the Portfolio Committee or the Thematic Committee, reviews the bill clause by clause. They examine its provisions, gather expert opinions, and may make amendments or recommendations for changes.

The report stage follows, allowing MPs to further debate and vote on proposed amendments or changes. MPs have the opportunity to debate and vote on any proposed amendments or changes to the bill. This stage allows for further scrutiny and refinement of the legislation. These stages demonstrate the commitment to thorough examination and democratic decision-making within the legislative process.

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Consideration by the Other House

After the bill completes all stages in one House, it proceeds to the Senate for consideration. Here, the entire process of readings, committee scrutiny, and voting is repeated. This further ensures that the bill is subject to comprehensive evaluation and that diverse perspectives are thoroughly considered.

Public hearings

In some cases, particularly for significant or controversial bills, parliamentary committees may conduct public hearings. These hearings provide an opportunity for citizens, civil society organisations, experts and other stakeholders to present their views, concerns and suggestions on the proposed legislation. Public hearings allow citizens to directly participate in the law-making process by offering perspectives and recommendations to the lawmakers.

Amendment and voting

Based on the inputs received during the parliamentary review and public hearings, amendments may be proposed to the draft bill. MPs discuss and vote on the amendments during parliamentary sessions. The final version of the bill, incorporating approved amendments, is then put to a vote in both the National Assembly and Senate. If the bill is passed by both chambers it proceeds to the next stage.

Presidential Assent

Once both Houses pass the bill, it is then presented to the President for assent. The President reviews the bill, taking into account its constitutional validity, alignment with national policies, and potential implications. Contrary to misinformation, the President’s role is not merely ceremonial but an essential constitutional responsibility.

The bill becomes an Act of law when the President grants assent, signifying its enactment.

The legal process in Zimbabwe, from a cabinet proposal to the enactment of a bill into law, is a meticulous, transparent, and democratic journey. Misinformation surrounding this process can undermine public trust and hinder accurate understanding.

By dispelling these misconceptions, we can foster informed discussions, promote transparency, and reinforce the importance of upholding the integrity of Zimbabwe’s legal system.

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