BILL WATCH 33/2018
[23rd October 2018]
How Far has this Parliament’s Legislative Agenda Progressed?
Speaker’s 30-day Ultimatum to Ministers to Present Bills
There are thirty Bills on the Government’s Legislative Agenda for the 2018-2019 Parliamentary session, as presented by President Mnangagwa to the joint sitting of Parliament on 18th September. For the content of the Legislative Agenda see Bill Watch 26/2018 of 24th September [link].
During an Induction Seminar on 25th September for Ministers and Deputy Ministers, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Jacob Mudenda, gave Ministers presentation the following ultimatum on presentation of Bills named by President Mnangagwa in the Legislative Agenda presented to the joint sitting of Parliament on 18th September:
“We are going to wait for you for a month and if no Bill that has been tabled by His Excellency is coming from a Ministry, please know that we shall summon you to Parliament and ask you why you are not complying with the legislative agenda that was presented to Parliament by His Excellency.”
The month-long period of grace granted by the Speaker will have expired by the time the Senate and the National Assembly resume sitting on Tuesday 30th October after the present two-week recess [12th to 26th October].
This bulletin serves to update readers on what Bills named by the President in the Legislative Agenda have already been received by Parliament.
Bills Ready before Start of this Parliament
Three Bills on this Parliament’s Legislative Agenda were completed by the responsible Ministries during the life of the last Parliament, but too late for presentation before MPs adjourned in early for the election campaign.
- Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill [link] This Bill was gazetted on 6th August, having been sent to the last Parliament for printing and gazetting some time before that.
- Forest Amendment Bill This Bill, and the next one are with the Attorney-General’s Office for proof-reading prior to final printing and gazetting. As neither Bill has been gazetted, copies are not ready for Parliamentarins [nor available from Veritas].
- Consumer Protection Bill See above note on Forest Amendment Bill.
A fourth Bill was also ready:
- Companies and Other Business Entities Bill [link] This Bill was gazetted in March this year but not dealt with by Parliament before the Houses adjourned for the election campaign. It was slightly expanded and re-gazetted on 5th October. [link]
What has Happened to the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill?
This Bill was listed in the Legislative Agenda. It has a long history. A Bill with this name was passed by the last Parliament, with amendments, just before sittings ceased before the 30th July election. After much delay caused by the need to incorporate the amendments in the final printed copies to be sent to the President, Parliament sent it to the President for his assent and gazetting as law. The President, however, did not assent to the Bill, but returned the Bill to the National Assembly for attention to be given to his reservations about it, i.e., his reasons for not being willing to assent to it in the form in which Parliament had passed it.
When a Bill is returned by the President like this, section 131(7) of the Constitution requires the Speaker to convene without delay a sitting of the National Assembly to reconsider the Bill and the President’s reservations.
The Speaker has not yet convened this sitting, and the Bill does not appear on Parliament’s list. This suggests that the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is still working out what to do with the Bill in the light of the President’s reservations.
Hard Work ahead for Ministries
This leaves twenty-five bills from the Legislative Agenda still to be received by Parliament and sent to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting before they are introduced in Parliament.
As well as these there will be other Bills that Parliament will be called on to deal with:
- Finance and Appropriation Bills These are not normally listed in the Legislative Agenda, because they are routine events on Parliamentary calendar. Parliamentary Committees have already started country-wide hearings, then there are meetings with Ministries on appropriations and the customary pre-budget seminar lasting a week, the presentation of the Budget by the Minister of Finance and the ensuing debate, and then dealing with the Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill.
- More Bills to align Acts to the Constitution It should not be forgotten that, in addition to the constitutional alignment issues that were mentioned in the Legislative Agenda, there is a great deal of urgently needed constitutional alignment that was not referred to by the President. This fact was neatly illustrated by last week’s Constitutional Court decision invalidating section 27 of the Public Order and Security Act [POSA] for inconsistency with the Constitution [section 27 gave the police wide powers to prohibit the holding of public demonstrations within particular police districts]. As election observer reports have pointed out, the Electoral Act still needs to be fully aligned. And the Minister of Finance’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme [link] recognises an urgent need to align acts to encourage foreign investment .
- Bills as the need arises In addition there will always be other Bills needed that have not been included in the Government’s Legislative Agenda. Examples of this are the;
- Finance (No. 2) Bill, H.B. 9, 2018 [link] that deals with new money transfer tax. It was gazetted late on Friday 19th October, having been received by Parliament the previous day from the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. Its purpose is to confirm the changes made to the Intermediated Money Transfer Tax by Statutory Instrument 205/2018 with effect from 13th October.
- The President has recently announced that he will use the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Regulations to curb the foreign exchange black market. A Bill will be needed to confirm these regulations
Parliamentary Recesses Due
ZANU-PF has confirmed that its annual Conference will go ahead in December. Parliamentary has customarily interrupted its December sittings for a week to allow for this as so many of the MPs are ZANU-PF.
A Christmas and New Year recess for Parliament is also customary.
Congratulations to the Speaker
The Speaker deserves congratulations for his innovative plan for Parliament to monitor progress on the Legislative Agenda and to hold Ministers accountable to Parliament for delivery of Bills.
This will not only enhance transparency and efficiency in the legislative process, but inspire public confidence that their elected representatives are fulfilling their constitutional role.
Veritas will regularly publicise information about the progress made on the Legislative Agenda.