Reform agenda on course: Govt Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana

Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The Government’s reform agenda outlined by President Mnangagwa when he gave his State of the Nation Address and officially opened the first session of the Ninth Parliament last year is on course with several Bills at various stages of activation. In his agenda, the President laid out 27 Bills that cut across the socio-economic and political life of the country in line with the overall agenda of turning around the economy and enhancing personal freedoms.

Writing on his Twitter account yesterday, Government spokesperson Mr Nick Mangwana said: “It’s not easy but we are sincere and together we will do it.

“Yesterday (Tuesday) Cabinet passed the Freedom of Information Draft Bill which provides the framework for transparency & accountability by obligating the State & public entities to voluntarily disclose information. It also has provisions on getting access to info. Gazetting this Friday.

“As we continue with our Media Reform Agenda, Cabinet passed the principles to amending the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) setting the fundamentals to aligning this Act to the Constitution as well as modernising it to take account of technological deveopments and new views.”

Government has set in motion processes to enhance personal freedoms and other political rights by moving to repeal the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill was last week tabled in the National Assembly and is currently being considered by the Parliamentary Legal Committee for its constitutionality.

It will replace the Public Order and Security Act.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill are expected to be gazetted today.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill seeks to harmonise the Broadcasting Services Act (Chapter 12:06) with Section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and will provide that every person has the right to freedom of expression and freedom of media.

It also proposes that freedom of expression and freedom of the media excludes incitement to violence, advocacy of hatred or hate speech, malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity, and malicious or unwanted breach of a person’s right to privacy.

The Bill also provides that all State-owned media of communications must be impartial and free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts.

The Freedom of Information Bill will repeal AIPPA and provides for the right to freedom of expression as provided for in the Constitution and right to access information held by public and private institutions if it’s in the public interest.

It also provides for the scope of limitations of information that can be accessed including protection of right to privacy.

Parliament is currently debating several Bills that include the Companies and Other Business Entities Bill, Consumer Protection Bill, Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill and the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency Bill.

The Companies and Other Amenities Bill seeks to modernise company registration and improve corporate governance.

It seeks to replace the outdated Companies Act that was enacted in 1951.

The Consumer Protection Bill seeks to protect the rights of consumers from unscrupulous business people while the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill will create a formal negotiating platform for Government, business and labour on issues of mutual concern.

The Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency Bill will establish a one-stop shop for potential investors by bringing together various institutions involved in investment promotion under one roof.

The Education Amendment Bill is also under consideration and will align the Education Act with the Constitution by ensuring provision of free primary education.

Other Bills whose principles have been approved by Cabinet include the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill which will, among other things, permit dual citizenship for citizens by birth, establishment of a Zimbabwe Citizenship and Immigration Board to oversee the granting and revocation of citizenship by descent or registration and prohibition of dual citizenship for citizens by descent and     registration

The principles for the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill to address the issue of devolution, which is one of the top priorities of Government, have also been adopted by Cabinet.

Apart from prospective legislation under consideration, Government has also embarked on parastatal reforms that have seen the Cold Storage Company entering into an agreement with Boustead Beef from the UK.

The partnership is expected to revive the fortunes of the company that used to be one of Africa’s largest meat processing concerns.

Zupco is soon expected to take delivery of 1 000 buses to replenish its fleet and reposition itself in the provision of public transport.

It has a long-term goal of operating a fleet of 3 000 buses. Last year President Mnangagwa also signed into law the Ziscosteel Debt Assumption Act to enable Government take over the company’s debts to make it attractive to potential investors.

The company is saddled by a debt of approximately US$500 million.

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