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THE RIGHT TO PETITION PARLIAMENT
RIGHT TO PETITION PARLIAMENT
The right to petition Parliament is guaranteed in section 149 of the Constitution which states that:
“(1) every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to petition Parliament to consider any matter within its authority, including the enactment, amendment or repeal of legislation.
(2) The manner in which petitions are to be presented to Parliament, and the action that parliament is to take on presentation of a petition, must be prescribed in Standing Orders.”
The most important elements of a petition as provided for in the Constitution are that a person must be a citizen or permanent resident. Another important element is that the matter of a petition must be within the mandate of Parliament.
Requirements for a juristic person or organisation
The organization or juristic person shall clearly state the names of the people or group they are representing and in the organisation. This is important to ensure transparency and curb against abuse of the right to petition by foreign influence intending to harm the image of the country.
The organization or juristic person must clearly stipulate the manner in which they are funded.
A petition must be couched in respectful, decorous and temperate language as a general requirement for petition by individuals or organisations.
Standing order 195 stipulates that a petition should be in writing and signed.
Elements of a Petition
A petition contains essentially two main parts namely grievance and prayer. A petition must clearly state its grievance. In other words, the petitioner must clear raise the issues of concern, what has caused the petitioner to right the petition. A prayer may only be deduced from the grievances.
The prayer must speak to the grievances raised. Essentially the prayer informs Parliament how the petitioner expects their issues to be solved. Example- the petitioner has raised an issue that there is no law regulating the right to education for the girl child, the prayer must then speak to the issue and an example would be to ask Parliament to enact a law that regulates the right to education for the girl child. A petition thus becomes admissible when all requirements have been satisfied.
A petition becomes in admissible when it fails to meet all the requirements as provided for in the Constitution and Standing orders. A petition also becomes inadmissible when it request Parliament to perform a function outside of Parliament’s constitutional mandate. A petition is inadmissible if it contains the same or substantially similar information to a petition lodged by the same person, during the same session of Parliament and which has been addressed.
Appendix E to the Standing Orders stipulate that petitions may be lodged with the Clerk in writing or sent to the Clerk by email. Petitions may only be lodged when the office of the Clerk is open and Parliament is not dissolved. In the event that a petition is lodged when Parliament is not sitting, the petitioner must be informed of the next possible sitting so that they may lodge their petition. A petition may be presented to Parliament by citizens and permanent residents of Zimbabwe. This right also extends to juristic persons or organisations.
The Clerk through Counsel’s office has to examine the petition for compliance within five working days and submit the petition with recommendations to the Speaker or the President of the Senate.
After receiving the petition, the Speaker or the President of the Senate shall inform the National Assembly or Senate and refer the petition to the relevant Committee. The petitioner shall be informed that the petition was admissible and referred to a relevant Committee. If the petition is inadmissible, the petitioner shall be notified and the reasons for inadmissibility. The Committee shall consider the petition within sixty business days and present the report and recommendations to the House. The House may adopt or reject the recommendations of the Committee.
The petitioner shall be informed of the outcome of his or her petition upon conclusion and resolution of the House.