The CPLO was set up in May 2006 and on 1st August 2006 opened its doors . Its formation was a result of the Catholic Church’s observation that there was a general lack of community participation in policy formulation and legislation and the heavy impact these policies have on the poor majority. The Members of Parliament who are the elected representatives are supposed to put these issues across to the decision makers to ensure that pro-poor policies are enacted in the country. It has not been heard of in Zimbabwe that a community has made an attempt through its MP to let it be known in Parliament that the provisions of a bill being debated are disagreeable in part or in whole or that a particular policy is affecting them adversely. The office works to improve the participation of policy formulation in the communities.
The CPLO is designed to attempt to bridge the gap between the House of Representatives (Parliament) the representatives (MPs) and the people they are supposed to represent. It is not only disagreeable laws that the public needs to have an input in. It is all laws governing them, hence the CPLO deals with governance issues.
Apart from legislating, parliament has the role of ratifying certain executive appointments, voting expenditure and acting as a check on the executive wing of government. The CPLO tries to simply inform, lobby and advocate where possible. It is important that the members of the public are aware of particular proceedings in the parliament – this also is the responsibility of the CPLO.
The office is headed by a diocesean Catholic Priest who is a theologian and a registered legal practitioner of the laws of the country. His name is Rev. Fr. E Ndete
The broader aim of the CPLO is to enhance the democratic right of civil society in having an input in the parliamentary policy making and legislative process in Zimbabwe. It is also its broader aim to inform the Bishops Conference on the Bills that are being debated so that informed decisions are made at the end.
The specific objectives are to:
- Provide a forum for civil society to make an input and contribute to the parliamentary policy making and legislative process. This will be archived through roundtable meetings which only the main talk is formal and the debate that would follow would be sincere and out of record.
- Inform the public and the Conference on pending and new policies and legislations and their implications. This is archived in publications and meetings when the CPLO goes around dioceses and also through representative organizations that will have participated in the roundtable discussions.
- Create a new avenue between civil society and parliament. There has been a big gap between civil society and parliament. It is high time that the two groups look at each other with faith and compliment each other in improving the people’s state of affairs. The creation of confidence cannot be done overnight but should be seen as a process.
- As much as possible, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference and possibly other churches are kept informed on legislation of public interest. This is archived through documentation to the conference from time to time.
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