BILL WATCH 26/2018
[24th September 2018]
The Government’s Legislative Agenda for 2018-2019
President Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation Address to Parliament last week [link] outlined the Government’s legislative agenda for the next year – the Bills that Government will present to Parliament, and expects to be passed, during the First Session of the new Parliament. The session will probably last about twelve months. This bulletin summarises the legislative agenda.
Themes of the Legislative Agenda
The President grouped the thirty Bills he included in the legislative agenda as follows.
Bills to give greater impetus to the Government’s economic agenda
Note: these were grouped under the economic agenda in the President’s Speech.
Note: Asterisks (* and **) denote Bills that have featured in previous legislative agendas. See further under Comments, below.
- Companies and Other Entities Bill * – to overhaul the Companies Act
- Regional Town and Country Planning Amendment Bill – to reduce the time and procedures for processing construction permits
- Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency Bill * – to consolidate various pieces of legislation on investment which are presently spread under various Acts. The Bill will also provide for the establishment of a one-stop investment centre, the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency
- Citizenship of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill – the connection with the economic agenda is not self-evident, but may appear when the Bill is published. The existing Act also requires alignment with the Constitution.
- Immigration Amendment Bill – again, the connection with the economic agenda is not self-evident. The existing Act also requires alignment with the Constitution.
- Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill ** – to address inadequacies in the principal Act and to provide for online registration of mining rights and title
- Gold Trade Bill * and
- Precious Stones Trade Bill * - to curb leakages of precious minerals
- Institute of Education Research, Innovation and Development Bill * – to align with the programme on value addition and import substitution strategies
- Consumer Protection Bill – to protect our consumers from unfair trade practices and abuse by suppliers of sub- standard goods
- Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill – the connection with the economic agenda is not self-evident, but may appear when the Bill is published. The existing Act also requires alignment with the Constitution.
- Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill – again, the connection with the economic agenda is not self-evident. The existing Act also requires alignment with the Constitution.
- Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill **
- Data Protection Bill *
- Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill **
- Labour Amendment Bill ** – to be in tandem with the ongoing ease and cost of doing business reforms; and equally seek an intricate balance between labour productivity and workplace harmony.
- Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill * – to facilitate participatory development by fostering greater collaboration between all social partners
- Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill * – to strengthen the regulation of cooperatives in the country
Alignment of laws to the Constitution [including devolution]
Acknowledging that the alignment of the country’s laws to the Constitution “remains-work in-progress”, the President listed the following Bills under this head:
- Coroner’s Bill * – to provides for the establishment of the Coroner’s Office
- Constitutional Court Bill ** – to, among other things, confer additional responsibilities on the Constitutional Court
- Customary Law and Local Courts Bill – to exclude harmful cultural practices from Customary Law
- High Court Amendment Bill – to provide for clear appeals and referral procedures from the High Court to the Constitutional Court and establish their jurisdictions
- Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill – to the Traditional Leaders Act into line with the Constitution and more particularly, to provide for the establishment of Provincial Assemblies
- Rural District Councils Bill – to give rural district councils greater autonomy, as enshrined in the Constitution
- Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill – to facilitate the devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to Provincial and Local Authorities. Through this Bill, Provincial and Metropolitan Councils will be reconfigured in accordance with Chapter 14 of the Constitution. This will further seek to facilitate enhanced coordination between Central Government, Provincial Councils and Local Authorities, within the context of the decentralisation and devolution programme.
- Public Finance Management Amendment Bill – to facilitate the allocation of sufficient resources for basic social services and economic development at the local level.
Miscellaneous, including administration of justice
- Forest Amendment Bill – to provide for measures to effectively foster the sustainable management of the country’s forestry resource
- Child Justice Bill * – to provide a child justice system
- Marriage Bill * – to outlaw child marriages
- Mandatory Sentencing for Rape and Sexual Abuse Bill *
17 of the Bills are repeats from previous year/s
Seventeen – more than half – the Bills listed by President Mnangagwa have previously cropped up in former President Mugabe’s legislative agendas for the 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 sessions of the last Parliament. They are marked in the above list by using either one asterisk * or two **. Optimists will take this as a sign that the repeats must be nearly ready for submission to Parliament. We will have to wait and see.
Comment and Analysis
A very ambitious agenda for both Government and Parliament
The legislative output of the previous Parliament was not large. A major reason for this was the apparent inability of former President Mugabe’s Government to deliver to Parliament the Bills promised by the President in his annual legislative agendas.
The obvious first question, therefore, is whether the “new dispensation” under President Mnangagwa will be able to deliver all or most of the above Bills to Parliament in time for Parliament to give the Bills the consideration required by the Constitution, including involving the public in its legislative work and consulting interested parties [Constitution, section 141].
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said earlier this week that he expects Parliamentarians to work hard to get through the entire legislative agenda this session. It is to be hoped that his call for hard work from MPs is based on confidence in the readiness and ability of Ministers, their advisers and the legislative drafters to produce quality Bills soon enough for proper consideration by Parliament.
To be avoided is what happened in the last weeks of the last Parliament, when major Bills – Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, Public Health Bill, Insolvency Bill, Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill, Civil Aviation Amendment Bill – were rushed through both Houses ahead of the start of the election campaign. The fate of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill – a complex and lengthy Bill passed in haste with last-minute changes and just sent back to Parliament by the President for further attention – constitutes a warning that rushing things may merely end up slowing a Bill down.
Need for White Papers
Section 141 of the Constitution obliges Parliament (“Parliament must”) to facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes, to ensure that interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament unless such consultation is inappropriate or impracticable and to conduct all its business in a transparent manner.
These Parliamentary obligations give expression to the founding values and principles of “the rule of law” and “good governance”, spelled out in section 3(1) of the Constitution. Section 3(2) goes on to elaborate on the principles of good governance as including “respect for the people of Zimbabwe, from whom the authority to govern is derived” and “transparency, justice, accountability and responsiveness”. These principles bind not only Parliament, but also “the State, and all institutions and agencies of government at every level”, which includes the Executive and Ministers.
Bearing this in mind, Veritas returns to a suggestion that we have raised before: that before Bills are finalised by the Government and sent to Parliament they should be published as White Papers – i.e. the text of the proposed Bill and an explanation of it. This was always done in the past and the practice should be revived. In addition it would be a good idea for a White Paper to include an explanation of the policy behind the proposed Bill, why such a Bill is considered necessary, a statement of what the Bill’s financial implications will be and an assurance that the Attorney-General has advised that the proposed Bill will be consistent with the Constitution.
Omissions from Alignment Agenda
Security legislation No mention is made of the need to align the Defence Act, the Police Act and the Prisons and Correctional Services Act, all of which need further alignment. The purely token changes that were made in by the General Laws Amendment Act passed by the last Parliament were not good enough.
Freedom of speech, press and assembly There is no indication of an intention to change the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Censorship and Entertainments Control Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Public Order and Security Act or the repressive provisions of the Criminal Law Code.
Other Acts still requiring alignment Veritas list of Statutes Requiring Alignment with the Constitution is available on the Veritas website [link].