In line with one of its key objectives of assisting CSOs to engage with policy-makers on issues of public interest, SAPST entered into collaboration with the Bulawayo-based Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe (PRIZ) regarding the non-implementation of Chapter 14 of the Constitution. PRIZ was identified as the lead organization to drum up support to petition Parliament to enact legislation to establish and operationalize Provincial Councils and Metropolitan Councils as provided for in Sections 268 and 269 of the Constitution. SAPST’s role in this collaboration is the provision of technical support to CSOs regarding parliamentary processes and procedures pertaining to the right to petition Parliament. SAPST also assists CSOs with the actual drafting of petitions on identified subjects as well as facilitating CSOs submission of petitions to Parliament.
Summary of Workshop Proceedings
On Thursday 11 February 2016, SAPST was invited by PRIZ to conduct a half-day capacity-building workshop for its network members on the parliamentary procedures regarding the petitioning of Parliament. A total of 51 CSOs representatives (15 female and 36 male) participated at the workshop. The PRIZ Executive Director, Dr. Samkele Hadebe, gave a background to the petition. He indicated that his organization has been conducting advocacy activities around the issue of devolution of power to ensure that provisions of Chapter 14 of the Constitution are implemented fully not in a piece meal manner. Government for instance went ahead and appointed Ministers of Provincial Affairs and these have become de facto structures playing the envisaged role of Provincial and Metropolitan Councils. He said the petition route is a culmination of PRIZ’s advocacy work on the issue where the organization decided to engage Parliament.
SAPST Legal Advisor, Phillip Muziri explained to the participants provisions of the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament relating to the petition process. He indicated that in terms of section 59 and 149 of the Constitution, every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to petition Parliament on any matter within its powers. He explained the key stages of the petition process and at the same time highlighting key procedures that have to be followed to ensure that the petition is not thrown out on technical grounds.
Mr. Muziri also facilitated a session on the actual content of the petition on Chapter 14 of the Constitution. The draft petition was subjected to close scrutiny by participants who raised varying points on key issues that the petition should address. Mr. Muziri explained to participants that the litmus test of what issues to include in the petition is whether what the petitioners were praying for was within Parliament’s powers or not. There was consensus at the end of the workshop that the petition should address the following key issues;
Participants exhibited enthusiasm on the petition and 30 representatives of various organizations signed the petition in support of the PRIZ initiative. A similar workshop will be conducted in Mutare before PRIZ submits the petition to Parliament.