New code of conduct for VPs, ministers

President Mugabe is welcomed back home on his return from Mali by Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko at Harare International Airport last night - Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda

President Mugabe is welcomed back home on his return from Mali by Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko at Harare International Airport last night – Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda

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GOVERNMENT has started drafting a law that will create a code to regulate the professional conduct of Vice-Presidents, Cabinet ministers and their deputies as part of a reconfiguration of the statutes to align them with the Constitution.

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Such a law is provided for under Section 106(3) of the Constitution, which prescribes that, “An Act of Parliament must prescribe a code of conduct for Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers.”

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In the absence of such a code, cases of gross misconduct by senior Government officials such as criminal abuse of office and outright corruption have become rampant.

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President Mugabe fired then VP Dr Joice Mujuru and 16 ministers on charges which included graft and abuse of office in December 2014.

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In dismissing the VP and ministers, the President invoked Section 106(2) of the Constitution.

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The proposed law and code will ensure strict monitoring of high-ranking officials to prevent the recurrence of similar cases.

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Furthermore, as part of these measures by Government to thwart high-level public sector graft, the legal reconfiguration will see promulgation of the long-awaited Public Sector Corporate Governance Bill.

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The proposed law seeks to arrest corporate malfeasance and cronyism within State-owned enterprises and parastatals by enforcing stricter regulation of company boards and senior management.

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In written responses to questions from The Sunday Mail, Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said the laws were part of the ongoing realignment of laws to be intra vires the Constitution adopted in 2013.

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Government has placed high priority on laws that promote human rights and those facilitating economic development.

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The realignment, which she said was at the halfway stage, has already seen to gazetting of the National Prosecuting Authority Act to pave way for establishment of the National Prosecuting Authority. Three Bills are currently before Parliament, five others have been drafted, one is being drafted and three more are due for stakeholder consultative meetings.

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“We are almost half-way through the process. The National Prosecuting Authority Act is now in force. The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill, Gender Commission Bill, General Laws Amendment Bill are now complete and are before Parliament and will be debated soon,” said Mrs Mabhiza

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“The General Laws Amendment Bill is going to align over 204 pieces of legislation to the Constitution. The Bill has recently been gazetted.”

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She said stakeholder consultative meetings for the Children’s Bill and Persons with Disabilities Bill (spearheaded by the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry), and the Tourism Bill (driven by the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Ministry) will commence soon.

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“The Land Commission Bill is almost complete and will be brought before Parliament soon. There are various draft bills of priority, laws such as the Local authorities Bill, the Public Sector Corporate Governance Bill, the Joint Ventures Bill and the Traditional Leaders Bill.

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“These Bills have been drafted and the line ministries are still consulting on the same, after which the Bills will be referred to Parliament.”

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Drafting of the new laws is being driven by the Inter-Ministerial Task force on Legislation Alignment. The task force is constituted by legal experts from all ministries who administer laws that were affected by the 2013 Constitutional changes.

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The Public Sector Corporate Governance Bill proposed by the Finance and Economic Development Ministry and as approved by Cabinet, will make it mandatory for all board members to declare their assets and abide by a code of conduct. Board members will be appointed on the basis of a clearly defined skills matrix and a 50-50 gender balance shall be enshrined.

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Further, the law will outlaw multiple board sittings at all State-linked companies.

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This provision is being included to halt the phenomenon of “career board members” who hold multiple directorships in public and private companies.

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In addition, no permanent secretary will sit on parastatal board.

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The law will plug the gap that paved way for corrupt and unprofessional conduct by the boards and senior management at public companies like ZBC and Air Zimbabwe. “As you may be aware, the Public Sector Corporate Governance Bill was adopted by Cabinet in 2014,” Mrs Mabhiza said.

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“The principles to the Bill were also approved by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. Currently the office of the Attorney-General (Legislative Drafting) is in the process of drafting the Bill and will be finalised soon. The law is being drafted on the basis of the principles set out by the Minister of Finance last year and the principles of public sector administration and leadership as provided for in Chapter 9 of the Constitution.”

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The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill will provide for the expanded Bill of Rights, which includes the right to silence of arrested suspects.

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It will also provide for the repeal of unconstitutional provisions relating to the death penalty.

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The Constitution outlawed imposition of the death penalty against women and citizens under the age of 21 and above 70-years-old.

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