Bill Watch 69/2019 - Consumer Protection Act gazetted & Coming up in Parliament This Week

BILL WATCH 69/2019

[16th December 2019]

Both Houses Will Sit Again This Week, from Tuesday 17th December

Consumer Protection Act Now Law

The Consumer Protection Act [Chapter 14:14] [link] was gazetted as Act No. 5 of 2019 on Tuesday 10th December 2019.  The Act came into force as law on that date. 

Suppliers and consumers of goods and services should be aware that many provisions of the Act are already operational – such as the Part spelling out Fundamental Consumer Rights and the Part applicable to Electronic Transactions.  These provisions apply to most transactions for the supply of goods or services occurring on and after 10th December between suppliers and consumers.  Some transactions are exempted by section 3 – for instance, those in which goods or services are supplied to the State or to large companies and other juristic persons big enough [how big still to be prescribed by the responsible Minister]; these consumers can be considered capable of protecting their own interests when entering into transactions.  The protection enjoyed by ordinary consumers, however, will be improved by these provisions. 

The Act also makes provision for enforcement of consumer rights in addition to recourse to courts of law, both civil and criminal.  These include a Consumer Protection Commission, Consumer Protection Advocacy Groups, provision for other consumer protection organisations and consumer protection officers.  There will inevitably be some delay before these provisions become fully operational because appointments, supplementary statutory instruments and administrative arrangements will be needed.  So, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Hon Nzenza, and her officials still have much to do

Budget Business in the National Assembly Last Week

The National Assembly sat until 8.10 pm on Tuesday and 9.12 pm on Wednesday, but only until 3.01 pm on Thursday.  [MDC MPs complained that they had been turned out of their hotel accommodation in Harare to make room for delegates to the ZANU PF Conference and they needed time to travel back home]. 

Budget debate

On Tuesday 10th December individual MPs continued making their contributions to the debate on the Budget presentation by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.  The Minister then gave a lengthy and comprehensive response to points raised during the debate.  After that the House then gave the Minister the go-ahead to present the Finance (No. 3) Bill, which he immediately did.  The Bill was then referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC].

Estimates of Expenditure

A little later the same day the House went into Committee of Supply – a committee of the whole House – to consider the Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year 2020.  The votes [allocations] for the President’s Office, Parliament and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans were approved without amendment – despite criticism that the amount for foreign travel allocated to the President’s Office was too generous and the total amount for Parliament too niggardly.  At 8.10 pm the House adjourned until next day.

On Wednesday the remaining votes were approved, two of them with amendments.  MPs insisted that the vote of the Audit Office be increased to allow more staff to be employed and more forensic and special audits to be carried out.  The extra ZWL$20 million for the Audit Office was then taken off the vote for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, so total estimated expenditure remains unchanged.  The Appropriation (2020) Bill was accordingly given its First Reading and referred to the PLC.

The two Budget Bills

The PLC returned non-adverse reports on the Finance (No. 3) Bill [late on Wednesday] and the Appropriation (2020) Bill [just before the House adjourned on Thursday].  The remaining stages of both Bills have been adjourned to be dealt with this week.

Bills in the National Assembly Last Week

Coroner’s Office Bill, as amended, sent to Senate

On Tuesday 10th December the PLC returned a non-adverse report on the amendments made to this Bill during the Committee Stage the previous week.  The National Assembly immediately took the Bill through its final stages, passed it as amended, and transmitted it to the Senate.  The Senate is due to deal with it this week.  An annotated version of the Bill showing the amendments is available on the Veritas website [link]; the effect of the amendments was described in Bill Watch 68/2019 [link].

Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill, as amended, completed

On Thursday 12th December the National Assembly considered and – as expected – agreed to the amendment made to the Bill by the Senate [see below].  The amended Bill was then given its final reading, meaning that it can now be sent to the President for assent and gazetting as law.  Under the Bill in its final form, therefore, only ZIMRA and the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] will be able to apply to the High Court for Unexplained Wealth Orders [UWOs].

Privileges Committee Report on Bribery Allegations against Four MPs

The National Assembly did not start debate on this report.  On the motion of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs debate until was adjourned until Tuesday 22nd January.  

Bill Watch 68/2019 summarised the findings and recommendations of the Privileges Committee: that the MPs concerned had not been proved to have solicited a bribe; but they had conducted themselves in a manner creating an impression of impropriety and should be disciplined for that.

In the Senate Last Week

The Senate sat last week, on Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th December.  In preparation for the two Budget Bills, expected to reach them this week, Senators on Thursday approved a motion to suspend relevant Standing Orders in order to fast-track the Bills.

Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill, as amended, completed

On Tuesday 10th December – as expected – the Senate received a non-adverse report from the PLC on the amendment Senators had made to the Bill [with the agreement of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, as explained in Bill Watch 68/2019 link].  The Bill was then passed with the amendment, and referred back to the National Assembly for final approval.

Other Business  On Tuesday Senators listened to Senator Mohadi present the report of the Delegation to the 45th Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum in Maputo, Mozambique, from 15th to 25th July, under the theme of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation and the Role of Parliaments towards the Implementation of the Paris Declaration and Katowice Roadmap.  Debate also continued on the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development’s Report on the Plight of People with Disabilities and Challenges Faced by Women and Girls with Disabilities.

Questions without Notice went ahead on Thursday afternoon, with a series of questions being put to the Minister of Foreign Affairs  and International Trade and other Ministers, including the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, who was asked about the prospects of sanctions being lifted.

Both Houses Will Sit This Week

At close of business last Thursday both Houses adjourned until Tuesday, 17th December.  The expectation is that this week they will be able to complete work on the 2020 National Budget before adjourning for the holiday season.  This will entail the National Assembly dealing with the Finance (No. 3) Bill and the Appropriation (2019) Bill early in the week and the Senate playing its limited role thereafter [see below].  There should also be enough time for the Senate to polish off the Coroner’s Office Bill, just sent up from the National Assembly.

Coming up in Parliament This Week

Remaining Budget Business – two Budget Bills

In the National Assembly   

The National Assembly will move on to the Finance (No. 3) Bill  [link] and the Appropriation (2020) Bill [link].  Once it has passed these Bills they will be transmitted to the Senate.   

In the Senate

As both these Bills are “Money Bills”, defined by the Constitution as including a Bill imposing, increasing or reducing a tax or a Bill appropriating money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other Government fund [Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 1], the Senate has very little say; it may consider and recommend changes to the National Assembly, but may not itself amend the Bills.  

This is because “Money Bills” are governed by a special procedure [Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 7].  If the Senate does not pass a Money Bill within eight sitting days, then the National Assembly can resolve to send it to the President without waiting any longer.  If the Senate wants amendments made to a Money Bill, however, it is empowered to recommend those amendments to the National Assembly, which must consider them but is not obliged to accept any of them.  If the National Assembly accepts an amendment, it can incorporate it in the Bill before it is sent to the President for signature.

Other Bills

In the Senate

The Senate is due to deal with the Coroner’s Office Bill before tackling the two Budget Bills discussed above. As the Bill is officially regarded as urgent – it was fast-tracked in the National Assembly – Senators will be expected to complete it.  No other Bills are likely to reach the Senate.  

In the National Assembly

After it has dealt with the Finance (No. 3) Bill  [link] and the Appropriation (2020) Bill [link] and transmitted them to the Senate, the National Assembly has an Order Paper listing seven other Bills for their Second Reading stages:

Freedom of Information Bill [Minister’s introductory speech already delivered[

Marriages Bill

International Treaties Bill

Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill

Constitutional Court Bill

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill

Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill

followed by six international agreements to be approved by the House.  So MPs will have plenty to occupy any spare time before they adjourn for the holiday season.

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