BILL WATCH 33/2017
[19th September 2017]
The National Assembly Will Sit This Week, Starting Today
Late News: Electoral Amendment Bill Gazetted
An Electoral Amendment Bill was gazetted yesterday, 18th September, in a Government Gazette Extraordinary. It is available on the Veritas website [link].
Although there is nothing in the Bill or the accompanying explanatory memorandum to say so, the clauses of the Bill are almost identical to the corresponding sections of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations, 2017 [link] [as gazetted last week in Statutory Instrument [SI] 117/2017]. The only point of difference is in clause 4, which now has an extra subclause backdating amendments to section 36A of the Electoral Act dealing with the re-registration of existing voters; the backdating is to 12th September the date the present voter registration exercise started, as ordered by the President in SI 109/2017 [link]. Election Watch 11/2017 of 16th September [link] commented on the regulations – and mentioned the need for a follow-up Act of Parliament, which is what this Bill is intended to be.
Comment on the Bill will follow in an Election Watch bulletin.
National Assembly Starts Work Today
The National Assembly will sit this afternoon. This will be its first working meeting since the Fifth Session of this Parliament was opened by President Mugabe on 12th September [see Bill Watch 32/2017 link].
Agenda for today
This afternoon’s sitting will not see the beginning of work on the legislative agenda outlined by the President last week. The only item on the Order Paper is a motion in response to the President’s opening address, which follows the customary form of words:
“That a respectful address be presented to the President of Zimbabwe as follows:-
May it please you, your Excellency the President: We, the Members of Parliament of Zimbabwe, desire to express our loyalty to Zimbabwe and beg leave to offer our respectful thanks for the speech, which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.”
Unfinished Bills Have Lapsed and Need to be Revived
The reason for today’s single-item agenda is that under Parliament’s Standing Orders all Bills, motions and other business that is unfinished at the of a session lapses. This means that lapsed items do not automatically appear on the Order Paper at the beginning of the next session. National Assembly Standing Order 161, however, allows the House to pass a resolution restoring any such Bill to the Order Paper at the stage it had reached in the preceding session.
As pointed out in both Bill Watch 31/2017 [link] and Bill Watch 32/2017 [link] a number of Bills lapsed at the end of the last session. The responsible Ministers are, therefore, expected to take advantage of today’s proceedings to give formal notice that they intend to move motions to restore the lapsed Bills listed below. Giving formal notice of a motion allows its appearance on the Order Paper for tomorrow, so such motions could be listed for consideration tomorrow, Wednesday 20th September. Once a restoration motion is approved, the restored Bill can be put back on the Order Paper and continued from the point it had reached at the end of the last session.
It may be possible, therefore, for work on some of these Bills to resume on Thursday 21st September. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill and the Land Commission Bill need priority attention.
The Lapsed Bills Awaiting Restoration
· National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [this Bill is near the end of its passage through the National Assembly which is awaiting the PLC’s report on the amendments made to the Bill during the Committee Stage – see Bill Watch 30/2017 of 4th September [link] for a detailed update on the amendments. The Bill still needs to go to the Senate.]
· ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill [see note in Bill Watch 27/2017 of 9th August link]
· Estate Administrators Amendment Bill [link] [awaiting its Committee Stage in the National Assembly, as it has been since early June]
· Land Commission Bill [link] [after considerable delay, the Senate overrode an adverse PLC report on its amendments to the Bill, passed the Bill with those amendments. The amended Bill was sent back to the National Assembly for approval on 19th July, but had not been dealt with by the end of the session.]
· Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [link] [under consideration by PLC since 1st Reading on 11th May]
· Insolvency Bill [link] [under consideration by PLC since 1st Reading on 20th July]
· Shop Licences Amendment Bill [link] [also under consideration by PLC].
Other Bills on President’s Legislative Agenda Ready for First Reading
In addition to lapsed Bills from the last session, there is a full new legislative agenda – see Bill Watch 32/2017 for more detail [link].
Two important Bills on that legislative agenda were gazetted some time ago and can, therefore, be introduced at an early stage:
· Insolvency Bill [link] – to update Zimbabwe’s outdated insolvency law in line with best practice internationally
· Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill [link] – to bolster the fight against corruption and other corporate governance ills afflicting Zimbabwe’s public entities/parastatals/statutory bodies