President assents to new laws

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act that seeks to punish citizens or permanent residents who campaign for sanctions and trade boycotts against Zimbabwe through lobbying and engaging foreign governments, and cause suffering to ordinary people became law yesterday after being signed off by President Mnangagwa.

The President has also approved the Labour Amendment Act which seeks to remove the clause allowing termination of job contracts on notice where the majority of workers are not permanent staff, grants employed women three months paid maternity leave for each pregnancy and removes the one-year qualifying period and the limit of three terms of paid maternity leave.

The Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet made the announcement of the Presidential approval and under General Notice 1189 of 2023, which now makes these two Acts part of the law of Zimbabwe.

All changes to statute law have to be approved by both the National Assembly and the Senate. They then go to the President who can either approve, as he has done with these two, or send them back for reconsideration.

According to Clause 2 (3) of the new Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act: “Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who, within or outside Zimbabwe, intentionally partakes in any meeting, whose object or one of whose objects the accused knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing involves the consideration of or the planning for the implementation or enlargement of sanctions or a trade boycott against Zimbabwe (whether those sanctions or that boycott is untargeted or targets any individual or official, or class of individuals or officials), but whose effects indiscriminately affect the people of Zimbabwe as a whole, or any substantial section thereof, shall be guilty of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe . . . ”

The clause provides penalties that include a fine not exceeding level twelve or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both.

Other proposed penalties include termination of the citizenship of the convicted person if that person is a citizen by registration or a dual citizen, prohibition of being a registered voter for a period ranging between five and 15 years and prohibition of standing for a public office for a prescribed period.

Clause 5 of the new Act amended section 174(1) of the principal Act defining more tightly the crime of abuse of public office. It was felt that the framing of the offence of criminal abuse of office as it had been defined was very broad in its scope in that it gave room for public officers to be prosecuted for honest mistakes made during the course of their duties

The new provision makes it clear that the public official must have known or realised that their conduct was illegal.

The Act also provides for a mandatory minimum sentence in rape and murder cases and expands the definition of “dangerous drugs”.

The new Labour Amendment Act removes the qualifying time and the number of times maternity leave is granted.

Previously maternity leave was granted for a period of 98 days on full pay to a woman employee who had served for at least one year and limited the number of periods of such leave to three by any one employer.

The Act also curbed child labour by increasing the maximum penaltyfor a person found guilty of conducting child labour with the maximum sentence raised from two to 10 years.

The Act also give clarity on retrenchment of employees where an employer has tried to minimise their obligations to staff by giving most workers fixed-term contracts rather than permanent posts.

The proposed law seeks to cover the difference between employees on permanent contracts and fixed term contracts by providing that an employer who employs the majority of their employees on fixed term contracts will have to make use of retrenchment provisions when the contracts are terminated, rather than just give the notice set out in a fixed term contract.

The Act also provides protection to employees against discrimination by entrenching the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and gender.

Herald

Positive Eye News

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