Bill Watch 13 - 2018 This Week's Bills

BILL WATCH 13/2018

28th May 2018

Both the National Assembly & the Senate will Sit This Week

Bills with President for Assent

Two Bills were sent to the President on 24th May for his assent and gazetting as Acts:

·        Electoral Amendment Bill

·        Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Debt Assumption) Bill.

Both Acts could be gazetted any time this week. 

In the Senate Last Week

Approval of PLC Adverse Report on Command Agriculture Regulations [SI 79/2017]

The Senate sat for only half an hour last week, on Tuesday 22nd May.  The only business conducted was the passing of a resolution approving the adverse report of the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] [link] on the Command Agriculture regulations, SI 79/2017 [link].

PLC chairperson Hon Samukange told Senators that the PLC adhered to its report notwithstanding the defence of the SI put up by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement on 11th April.  The Senate then voted to agree with the PLC. 

This vote does not mean the end of the Command Agriculture scheme.  Neither the PLC nor the Senate has said that the Scheme itself is illegal or unconstitutional or that the regulations as a whole are void for inconsistency with the Constitution.  The objection is to sections 5, 6 and 7 of the regulations which, as the PLC sees the position, apply criminal sanctions for breaches of Command Agriculture contracts by contract farmers.  The PLC’s view, and the Senate agreed with them, was that to apply criminal sanctions for breach of a civil contract is inconsistent with section 49(2) of the Constitution, which prohibits imprisoning anyone for inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.  The PLC did not object to anything else in the regulations.

What now?  Once Parliament notifies the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement of the Senate’s decision, the Government will have 21 days to choose between the two options allowed by the Constitution: (1) repealing the offending provisions of SI 79/2017 or (2) approaching the Constitutional Court for a declaration that those provisions are constitutional, i.e., that the PLC was mistaken. 

Coming up in the National Assembly This Week

There are five Bills, all of them important, on the Order Paper for Tuesday 29th May.  They are at varying stages of their journey through the House.  The following paragraphs mention the Bills by degree of progress made, starting with the Bill nearest to completion.

Bill awaiting final stages

Civil Aviation Amendment Bill [link]   The Committee Stage was taken on 15th May.  As there were amendments to the Bill, they were  referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] as required by the Constitution.  The PLC returned a non-adverse report on 16th May.   The remaining stages were adjourned to Tuesday 29th May, when the National Assembly will resume after a week’s break.  

Bills already undergoing Second Reading Stage 

Public Health Bill  [link]  Debate will continue.  The Minister has already presented his speech explaining the Bill.  On 16th May the report of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care [link] was presented, and on 17th May there were further contributions to the Second Reading debate from MPs.  The Minister of Health and Child Care has not yet replied to the debate.

Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill   The Minister of Finance and Economic Development made his Second Reading speech explaining the Bill on 17th May.  Debate was then adjourned until 29th May.  As there are public hearings on the Bill all this week, continuation of the debate will probably be further postponed to allow the Portfolio Committee report on the Bill to be presented [the normal next step in the Second Reading stage] before MPs start making their contributions to the debate. Note: Bill Watch 12/2013 incorrectly stated that the Second Reading stage had not yet started. 

Bill awaiting start of Second Reading Stage

Companies and Other Business Entities Bill [link] The PLC returned a non-adverse report on 16th May, but no further progress was made  before the House adjourned until 29th May, when the Second Reading stage is scheduled to begin.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs will start with a speech explaining the Bill.  This will be followed by the report on the public hearings held in April by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. 

Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill for Committee Stage

Although this Bill has already received its Second Reading and is therefore awaiting the start of its Committee Stage, we have listed it last in terms of progress made because the Order Paper does not yet include the expected amendments said to have been agreed between the Minister and the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy.  Further movement on this long and complex Bill is unlikely until these amendments have been included on the Order Paper. 

Question Time, as usual, is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Other business  Also on the Order Paper are:

·      continued debate on Hon Zindi’s motion on the welfare of war veterans; and

·      motions presenting new committee reports, including the Public Accounts Committee’s Report on the Appropriation and Fund Accounts of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.

 

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Bills

No Bills are listed on the Order Paper for 29th May, because the Senate is waiting for Bills to be transmitted from the National Assembly.  The Bill most likely to arrive early in the week is the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill, now in its final stages in the National Assembly.

Other business

Smith Commission Report into the Conversion of Insurance and Pension Values from the Zimbabwe Dollar to the US Dollar

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development is listed to present his motion asking Senators to take note of this report.  He has already presented the same motion in the National Assembly.

Motions

The Order Paper for 29th May lists nine “adjourned debates”, i.e., debates that have started but not completed.  Three of them are on take-note motions presenting reports of thematic committees; if Senators have finished making their contributions, now is the time for the appropriate Ministers to respond to the reports and points made in debate.  The remainder are on motions on matters of public interest introduced by Senators, including the importance of local languages, devolution, ICT literacy and the constitutional rights of the elderly; here, too, there is need for Ministerial responses. 

Question Time, as usual, is scheduled for Thursday.

 

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