COLUMN | Common Law: Our MPs have, yet again, left Zimbabwe’s children at the mercy of sex predators

Vulnerable: Virginia Mavhunga, a teen mother, holds her child at her home in Murehwa (pic: AP).

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws” ~ Plato

On Monday, 25 June 2024, the Senate received the Criminal Laws Amendment (Protection of Children and Young Persons) Bill H.B. 4A, 2024 from the National Assembly.

This is the amended Bill to comprehensively reinstate protections from sexual exploitation for children. While I have reservations about some of the changes made by the National Assembly, and hope that the Senate will address those concerns, the Bill was not moved and discussed this week.

On Thursday 27 June 2024, the Senate adjourned sittings for two weeks and will reconvene on 9 July 2024. This is significant because the Presidential Measures that temporarily reinstated protection measures are due to expire at midnight on 10 July 2024.

[Also read: Common Law | Protection of Children: When bad drafting meets negligence

COLUMN | Zimbabwe’s legal system dropped the ball on child sex laws. Here’s how it’s now trying to correct its mistakes

OPINION | Presidential Powers have closed child sex law loophole, but permanent legislation is needed urgently]

What happens when Temporary Measures expire?

All regulations made under the Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act expire after 180 days unless a substantive law is enacted to bring into force the same effect. Any substantive law that is made before the expiry of the regulations takes effect from the date the regulations came into effect. This means that if Parliament (House of Assembly and Senate combined) passes this Bill and the President assents to it by the 10th of July, the law will be effective from 12 January 2024.

If regulations expire without a substantive law being enacted, the President cannot make similar regulations for six months. If this Bill is not enacted before expiry, we go back to the gap in the law that saw Nkosilathi Gumbo and others being set free by the courts despite having had sexual conduct with a young person. This is carte blanche for would-be molesters until our legislators and the Executive get their act together.

Spare a thought for the children

Once again, the system has abandoned the children of Zimbabwe. Without urgent intervention in the form of a forced sitting of the Senate next week, focused solely on this Bill, there is no hope of making the deadline. Two weeks from now, the children are on their own and the buck stops at the feet of Parliament. As it stands, a half-baked law is better than no law at all.

Where our elected legislature has failed, the citizenry has also failed to bring them to account. We have shirked our civic responsibility and repeatedly made this country a child molesters’ haven.

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Mike Murenzvi writes in his personal capacity and his views are not associated with any organisation he is, or may be, affiliated with.