The Freedom of Information Bill and the International Treaties Bill sailed through their final stages in Parliament on Tuesday and now await Presidential assent to become law.
The two Bills went through their third readings in Senate on Tuesday, the final steps in the Parliamentary process that began with their first readings in the National Assembly.
The Freedom of Information Bill is one of the three laws drafted in a lengthy process that involved consultation with a wide range of opinion and significant input from the relevant Parliamentary portfolio committee, one of the committees chaired by an opposition MP.
The three proposed laws are to replace the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, generally regarded as seriously deficient, giving impetus to the media reforms that the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa have embarked upon.
Other Bills in the pipeline are the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill.
The International Treaties Bill will establish a uniform procedure for the consideration and approval of international treaties by the Cabinet and Parliament before their ratification by the President.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi steered the International Treaties Bill and did the same with respect to Freedom of Information Bill while standing in for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
Speaking soon after its passage, Minister Ziyambi said the Bill was one of the legal instruments that were subjected to wide consultations by stakeholders.
“If there is a Bill that has gone through wide consultation, it is the Freedom of Information Bill,” said Minister Ziyambi.
He commended Parliament for passing the Bill in unison.
“We had problems with AIPPA. This day has been historic. This Senate will go into the history of our country for having given effect to the right to information,” said Minister Ziyambi.
He said it was critical to note that the National Assembly had acceded to some amendments that were moved by Parliament’s portfolio committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services chaired by a Member of the opposition, MDC Alliance to show unity of purpose.
Binga North MP Mr Prince Dubeko Sibanda chairs the committee.
Acting Senate president Chief Fortune Charumbira said the new dispensation had gone a long way in repealing contentious legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act and it was doing away with AIPPA.
“This Bill is linked to good governance, democracy and human rights. The passage has been unanimous. So we should congratulate ourselves as a country,” said Chief Charumbira.
The Freedom of Information Bill seeks to give effect to Section 62 of the Constitution which provides for the right to access to information as enshrined in the Declaration of Rights.
The drafting process involved, at an early stage, input from the relevant Parliamentary portfolio committee.
The Bill sets out the procedure of access to information held by public institutions or information held by any person, which is necessary for the exercise or protection of a right.
It also sets out considerations for making available, on a voluntary basis by entities, certain categories of information thereby removing the need for formal requests for such information.
The Bill also sets out the scope of limitations on the right of access to information, the rights of third parties, the role of principal officers of entities and information officers in its implementation, procedures for internal and court appeals in respect to requests for access to information and the time limits within which these processes must be carried out. – Herald