BILL WATCH 8/2018
[10th April 2018]
Both Houses Resume Sitting on Tuesday 10th April
MPs returned to their Parliamentary duties this week after a three-week break. Parliament last sat on Thursday 22nd March.
The National Assembly sittings are likely to be devoted mainly to the urgent Government Bills on its Order Paper. The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has said there will be a focus on getting the Electoral Amendment Bill passed this week.
Committee meetings re-started on Monday 9th April as notified in separate Committee Series 13/3018 of 8th April [link].
The Electoral Amendment Bill and the US ZIDERA Amendment Bill 2018
US Senators Coons [Democrat] and Flake [Republican] - chairperson and member, respectively, of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs - on 21st March introduced into the US Senate the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Bill [link]. Should the Bill become law as an Act – it is now merely under consideration at Senate committee level – it would make amendments to the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 [link] [commonly known as ZIDERA or ZDERA. The effect of the amendments would be to update ZIDERA by incorporating topical targets to be achieved by Zimbabwe to allow the resumption of normal US-Zimbabwe relations. Some of these targets are short-term and relate to the 2018 Zimbabwe elections:
· Pre-election conditions:
o BVR roll - public release, without cost, in both paper and digital formats of a roll endorsed by all registered political parties
o Defence forces – must not campaign for any candidate nor intimidate voters, must be non-partisan, and must verifiably and credibly respect human rights and freedoms of all
o International observers – must be permitted to monitor the entire electoral process, and enabled to access and analyse tallying, tabulation and transmission and content of voting results
o State media – free and full access for candidates, equal time and coverage to all registered parties, in an impartial manner
o Civil society, voter and civic education, monitoring of electoral process – civil society organisations must be allowed to play an independent role, including having parallel vote tabulation exercises.
· Presidential election – must be widely accepted as free, fair and credible by international and domestic civil society monitors. The President-elect must have freedom to assume the duties of the office of President.
Comment: If Veritas’ Draft Electoral Amendment Bill [link] had been taken on board by Government and passed by Parliament, it would have gone as far anyone could reasonably expect legislation to go to satisfy the pre-election conditions. Adopting the Committee Stage amendments proposed by the Minister of Justice and the Opposition, which are largely based on the Veritas Draft Electoral Amendment Bill, will achieve much the same purpose [see below Coming up in Parliament This Week, In the National Assembly].
The other targets specified in the ZIDERA Amendment Bill are longer-term: aligning old laws with the Constitution; implementing all elements of the Constitution, including devolution, economic reforms, accounting for diamond revenues.
Estate Administrators Amendment Bill Sent to President
Parliament sent this Bill to the President for his assent on 28th March. Its gazetting as an Act is, therefore, likely to occur soon.
Not yet sent to the President is the only other Bill already passed by Parliament – the important Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill.
Coming up in Parliament This Week
IN THE SENATE
Bills Senators will only be called on to consider Bills if the National Assembly completes work on one or more of the Bills still on its very full agenda [see below].
Other business There are enough motions under debate to keep Senators busy while they wait for Bills. Question Time is on Thursday.
IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Bills awaiting Committee Stage
Electoral Amendment Bill [link]
The Order Paper for Tuesday 10th April contains 30 pages of proposed amendments to the Bill . A few of the amendments are from the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, but most are from Hon Gonese, MDC-T Chief Whip. Both the Bill [link] and the proposed amendments [link] are available on the Veritas website.
- The Minister’s amendments include provision to remove from the Electoral Act all provisions for “special investigation committees” involving the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission [ZHRC]. ZHRC has consistently objected to this obvious inconsistency with its own constitutional independence; it has an entirely separate programme for monitoring the elections. It is noteworthy that his amendments do not provide for the agreed new Code of Conduct for Candidates, Political Parties etc. which the three main parties are said to have submitted to the Minister.
- Hon Gonese’s amendments are more comprehensive, being designed to bring the Electoral Act more completely into line with the Constitution than the Government’s efforts at alignment have achieved. They take up most of the 30 pages of amendments.
Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [link]
As the Minister’s amendments expected from the Attorney-General’s Office [see under A Recap, below] are not on the Order Paper for Tuesday 10th April, the Committee Stage is unlikely to go ahead until the amendments are available.
Bills undergoing Second Reading Stage
Second Reading debates are under way on the following Bills:
Civil Aviation Amendment Bill [link]
Shop Licences Amendment Bill [link] As this Bill is part of the Government’s Ease of Doing Business reforms, the Minister of Local Government is likely to want it dealt with urgently, now that he has agreed on amendments to the Bill with the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] [see under A Recap, below]. The agreed amendments are not yet on the public record.
Bills awaiting Minister’s speech to start on Second Reading Stage
Public Health Bill
Bill awaiting First Report from PLC
Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Debt Assumption) Bill [link] This Bill was introduced on 7th March, and is another Bill that is regarded as urgent in the interests of the economy.
Other business Question Time is on Wednesday, but if the Government is, as has been claimed, to determined have Bills dealt with before the end of the present month, MPs may be asked to forgo asking questions in favour of making progress on Bills.
Apart from Bills, there is a long list of motions, both part-debated and yet to be introduced. These include the Minister of Finance and Economic Development’s “take note motion” on the Report of the (Justice Smith) Commission of Inquiry into the Conversion Insurance and Pension Values from the Zimbabwe Dollar to the US Dollar.
A Recap of the Parliamentary Week 20th to 22nd March
Ministerial Statement on Government Doctors’ Strike
On 22nd March, in both Houses, the Minister of Health and Child Care made a statement giving an Update on the Industrial Action in the Health Sector.
In the National Assembly
Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill On Tuesday 20th March this major Bill received its Second Reading, and MPs were left with the impression that the Government’s significant amendments to the Bill would be ready for consideration in the Committee Stage two days later, on Thursday 22nd. In the event, the amendments were not ready, prompting Hon Mliswa, the new chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy to voice criticism of the Attorney-General’s Office, which had been tasked with drafting them.
Shop Licences Amendment Bill [link] Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] chairperson Hon Samukange withdrew the PLC’s adverse report on the Bill, explaining that the PLC had met the responsible Minister and accepted his suggested amendments to meet the PLC’s reservations. On 22nd March the Minister started the Bill’s Second Reading stage with a speech explaining the Bill. Debate to continue.
Electoral Amendment Bill The Bill received its Second Reading and the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said the Committee Stage would be taken on 10th April.
Question Time went ahead on 21st March, but no other business was conducted thereafter because there was no quorum.
In the Senate
As no Bills reached the Senate from the National Assembly, Senators devoted their sittings to Thursday’s Question Time and debating previously presented motions and the following new motions:
ICT literacy programme Senator Mavhunga introduced his motion calling on the Ministry of ICT and Cyber Technology to prioritise fibre-optic infrastructure in rural areas, roll out an ICT literacy programme for the middle-aged and rural populace, take measures to ensure internet services are easily accessible and affordable, and to expedite the Cyber Crime Bill to protect citizens from online abuses. Debate to continue.
Report of the Zimbabwe Delegation to the 41st Plenary Assembly of the SADC-Parliamentary Forum The forum was held in Mahe, Seychelles, from 4th to 15th July, 2017, including a reminder that the Forum had honoured Mr Speaker Jacob Mudenda as a champion or an advocate of the ‘HeforShe’ Campaign, in recognition of his commitment, together with his peers, to the pledge of achieving tangible results in order to implement gender equity and equality. Debate to continue.
Devolution and cultural development Senator Khumalo presented her motion calling for the support of local languages, employment of local people, the expediting of the devolution process, and inclusiveness in all government sectors, such as parastatals management boards and Government Ministries.