Cletus Mushanawani Mashonaland Central Bureau Chief
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media and Broadcasting Services, Mr Prince Dubeko Sibanda, has urged Zimbabweans to use their high literacy levels to unpack all gazetted Bills to ensure that the country has good laws that promote good governance.
In an interview on the sidelines of his committee’s public hearing on the proposed Freedom of Information Bill in Bindura on Monday, Mr Sibanda, said: “When we go out for public hearings, we want citizens to turn up with information pertaining to the contents of the Bill.
“When we are talking of a Bill, we are talking about a law that is still in the oven and that law will be used against us. It will control us as citizens and that is why the Constitution says we should be given that opportunity to shape that law in the manner that we think will promote good governance in the country.
“I bemoan a scenario where when you go for public hearings you find a lot of people gathered, but have never seen the Bill that they are coming to contribute to. The consultation will become meaningless.”
Mr Sibanda implored Zimbabweans to take an interest in the laws being crafted.
“It is high time that we take an interest in the laws that are being made for us,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we are the ones who complain that this law is a bad, but if you are saying it is a bad law, then the question will be, what was your contribution when that law was being made?
“Right now you cannot say that the law is being made by Parliament only. The law is being made by Parliament in conjunction with citizens.
“Therefore, citizens should take advantage of that opportunity which is provided by Section 141 of the Constitution to ensure that when they hear that a Bill has been gazetted, it is now a public document.
“Let them access that Bill, go through it and see how it affects your day-to-day lives and make suggestions on how that Bill can be improved.”
Contributing during the public hearing, Mr Agreement Kugara called for the amendment of Clause Eight of the Bill, which deals with procedure for response by an information officer, including the periods within which various stages of dealing with the request must be done.
The Bill states that within 21 days, an information officer must determine whether to grant or not a request from an applicant of any information.
“The stipulated 21 days is too much and encourages laziness among information officers,” said Mr Kugara.
“The requested information should be availed promptly because timeliness is very important. My suggestion is that information should be made available within 14 days.”
Mr Kenias Chigombe said the availing of any requested information should be within five working days.
Mr Ezekiel Pasipamire said the proposed Freedom of Information Bill should also apply to private entities as they were also notorious for not providing requested information, citing company policies and protocols.