BILL WATCH 7/2020 - Updates on Bills and Acts 11 March 2020

BILL WATCH 7/2020

[11th March 2020]

Update on Bills and Acts

Both Houses of Parliament are sitting this week

Progress on Bills in the National Assembly

International Treaties Bill [link]

On 3rd March, there were further contributions to the Second Reading debate from individual MPs, including Hon Tsunga, Hon Phulu and Hon Mpariwa.  Hon Phulu asked for the inclusion of a definition of “foreign organisation or entity”, and referred to section 327 of the Constitution which distinguishes between “foreign organisation or entity” and “international organisation”.  In his response to the debate the Minister agreed that a definition should be included in the Bill, and added in passing that he no longer intends to remove the reference to foreign organisations or entities from section 327 of the Constitution – a signal, perhaps, that the Government is dropping clause 23 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link].  On 5th March the Committee Stage was completed, with a definition of “foreign organisation or entity” being added to the definitions in clause 2 of the Bill as requested by Hon Phulu.  The Bill was then referred back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC].

On 10th March the PLC returned a non-adverse report and the amended Bill was given its Third Reading and sent to the Senate.

Freedom of Information Bill [link]

On 3rd March the National Assembly resumed the Second Reading stage of this Bill, having last discussed it on 19th December.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs replied in detail to points made by the Portfolio Committee in its comprehensive report on the Bill and by MPs during the debate; he conceded that some amendments would be necessary during the Committee Stage.  Either he or the Portfolio Committee would propose the amendments that would appear on the Order Paper.

On 5th March the Committee Stage was completed, with amendments being made to clauses 2 [insertion of definition of “information officer”], 10 [confirmation of right to appeal to the Media Commission if a decision on a request for information is not notified by the prescribed deadline], 13 [insertion of provision for information to be provided in Braille or sign language] and 17 [removal of word “access” from term “access fees”].

On 10th March the PLC returned a non-adverse report and the amended Bill was given its Third Reading and sent to the Senate.

Marriages Bill [link]

The Second Reading stage of this Bill was completed on 10th March with further contributions from MPs, including two impressive speeches from women MPs supporting clause 40 in principle and criticising both the public misunderstanding that had befallen the clause and the Cabinet’s decision to drop it.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs then replied in detail to points raised by the Portfolio Committee in its report on the Bill and by MPs during  the debate.  The Committee Stage is next; and, from what the Minister said, some amendments can be expected, including adjustments to clause 40.  The Minister, however, rejected suggestions that matrimonial property issues and the age of consent to sexual intercourse be covered in the Bill.

Forest Amendment Bill [link]

The PLC’s non-adverse initial report on this Bill was announced in the National Assembly on 3rd March.  This clears the way for the Second Reading stage to start, so the Bill now features on the list several Bills currently waiting for their Second Reading stages [see below]

The Bill, amongst other amendments to the Forest Act, has a clause [clause 12] amending section 78 of the Act, which provides for what the Act calls “major offences”.  For setting of fires without authority in both State and private forests, clause 12 removes the option of a minimum fine from the existing mandatory minimum sentencing provisions of section 78(2) – this makes a minimum prison sentence of 5 years or, in less serious cases, 1 year, mandatory.  For fires “in the open air on any land” the levels of the existing mandatory fines in section 78(3) are reduced without changing the existing prison sentences. 

Clause 12 also proposes adding a new section 78(4), which will oblige “the Court” [presumably a court sentencing someone for contravening section 78(1), (2) or (3)?] to ”take into account such aggravating factors as loss of human life, livestock, wildlife and other property”.  It then adds an incomprehensible proviso that “penalties for such offences” [which offences?] “shall apply as is provided for under the Parks and Wildlife Act … or the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act … whichever is greater”.  MPs will certainly need to demand a full explanation for this puzzling proviso. 

National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill [link]

The PLC’s non-adverse initial report on this Bill was announced in the National Assembly on 10th March, clearing the way for the Second Reading stage to start.

Bills Coming up in the National Assembly This Week

Several Bills are listed for consideration this week:

Marriages Bill [link] – for Committee Stage.

Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill – starting Second Reading stage with presentation of Minister’s Second Reading speech explaining the objectives of the Bill

Constitutional Court Bill –starting Second Reading stage with presentation of Minister’s Second Reading speech explaining the objectives of the Bill

Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill – starting Second Reading stage with presentation of Minister’s Second Reading speech explaining the objectives of the Bill

Forest Amendment Bill – starting Second Reading stage with presentation of Minister’s Second Reading speech explaining the objectives of the Bill.

Bills with Parliamentary Legal Committee

The National Assembly is also awaiting a report from the PLC on the Financial Adjustments Bill [referred 12th February]

Bills Completed In The House Of Assembly And Sent To The Senate

International Treaties Bill [link]

Freedom of Information Bill [link]

Update on Acts

Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency Act [[link]

This Act came into operation on 7th February 2020, the day it was gazetted.  The new Agency is the successor to the former Zimbabwe Investment Development Authority, the Special Economic Zones Authority and the Joint Venture Unit in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.  

The Act repeals and replaces the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Act, the Special Economic Zones Act and the Joint Ventures Act.  Section 48 contains appropriate savings and transitional provisions; existing regulations and investment licences are continued in force; existing special economic zones [SEZs] continue as such. There are also consequential amendments to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.

Companies and Other Business Entities Act [link] now in force

This Act came into force on 13th February.  Although it was passed by Parliament last year and was gazetted as Act No. 4 of 2019 on 15th November 2019, the Act did not come into force then.  Section 1 postponed its commencement to the 90th day after gazetting.  This allowed those affected by the Act to familiarise themselves with the Act’s major changes to company law and to prepare for the transition.  The 90th day was Thursday 13th February.

The Act repeals and replaces the former Companies Act and Private Business Corporations Act.  Section 303 provides in detail for the transition to the new system.  Section 6 establishes the “Office for the Registration of Companies and Other Business Entities” with its own corporate personality – although the Registrar and his officers will be members of the Civil Service.  Section 303 also provides for existing companies and private business corporations to continues in legal existence but obliges them to re-register under the new Act on or before 12th February 2021. The effects of failure to re-register are explained in the section.

New regulations gazetted under the Companies and Other Business Entities Act

The following regulations under the new Act were gazetted on 14th February, repealing and replacing the Companies Regulations, 1984, and the Private Business Corporations Regulations, 1997, and their amendments:

·        Companies and Other Business Entities (Pre-Formation and Post-Formation Formalities) Regulations, 2020 [SI 46/2020] [link]

·        Companies and Other Business Entities (Fees) Regulations, 2020 [SI 47/2020] [link]

Other regulations made under the former Companies Act are continued in force by section 303(21) of the new Act, pending replacement by regulations made under the new Act.

Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act [Act 11/2019] [[link]

This Act came into operation on 21st February 2020, the day it was gazetted.  It amends the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act of 2013 by the insertion of a new Chapter IIIA headed Unexplained Wealth Orders.  The new Chapter comes between the existing Chapter III [Obligations Of Financial Institutions and Designated Non-Financial Businesses or Professions ] and Chapter IV [Conviction-Based Confiscation and Benefit Recovery Orders]

Under the new Chapter both the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority [ZIMRA] are entitled to apply to the High Court for an unexplained wealth order [UWO] against a person who is reasonably believed to hold property greater in value than US $100 000 if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting (a) that the known sources of the person’s lawfully obtained income would have been insufficient to obtain or hold the property, and (b) that the person, or a person connected with him or her, is or has been involved in serious crime whether inside or outside Zimbabwe.  A simultaneous freezing order may also be imposed prohibiting the movement or sale of the property.  The orders may be applied for, and made by the court, ex parte [i.e. without prior warning to the person concerned].  Failure to respond to an UWO may lead to forfeiture of the property in question under another Chapter of the Act.  A false and/or misleading response can result in up to 2 years’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding 20% of the value of the property, or both. 

Background note:  The new Chapter IIIA re-enacts in modified but permanent form the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) ((Amendment of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act) Regulations, 2018, SI 246 of 2018, which were in force from 9th November 2018 to 9th May 2019 and then expired.  The regulations are known to have been used during their short life-span. 

Education Amendment Act [Act 15/2019] [link]

This Act came into operation on 6th March 2020, the day it was gazetted. 

The object of the amendments made is to align the Education Act with the Constitution. For example, it adds a preamble to the Act setting out the text of section 75 (Right to education) of the Constitution, and a section 5 [Compulsory education] stating that “every child shall be entitled to compulsory basic State-funded education” and that “any parent who deprives their child (of) the right to basic state funded education” is guilty of  a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment.  The term “basic education” is defined as “education from Early Childhood Development [ECD] up to the fourth form”, but the new definition allows the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education to include other categories by notice in the Government Gazette.  Section 3 of the amending Act obliges the state to ensure the provision of “sanitary ware and other menstrual health facilities to girls in all schools to promote menstrual health”.  A new section 68A [Pupil discipline] does not in as many words prohibit corporal punishment for pupils, but requires a school’s responsible authority to draw up a disciplinary policy “in accordance with standards set out in regulations prescribed by the Minister for the purpose”.  The section goes on to prohibit disciplinary regulations and policies that permit treatment not respecting the dignity of the pupil or amounting to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

Coroner’s Office Act [Chapter 7:21] [Act 12/2019] [link]

This Act was also gazetted on 6th March 2020 but is not yet in force – in terms of section 1(2) of the Act, the date of commencement will be fixed by President by statutory instrument.  The Act’s object is to establish for the first time in the country’s existence a special Coroner’s Office in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to conduct independent and impartial investigations into “unnatural deaths” in order to determine the circumstances of such deaths [there are definitions of both natural and unnatural deaths]. 

The Coroner’s Office will initially have premises in Harare serving the eastern region of Zimbabwe [where the Coroner-General will be based] and in Bulawayo serving the western region [headed by the Deputy Coroner-General] – but the Act envisages branch offices at provincial and district level.  The office will be funded separately and be a separate reporting unit for the purposes of the Public Finance Management Act.  Much preparatory work will be necessary before the Act and the new systems can become operational.  When the Act comes into force the Inquests Act will be repealed by section 21, and section 20 will make consequential amendments to the Burial and Cremation Act and the Births and Deaths Registration Act.

Acts of  2019

The gazetting of the Education Amendment Act and the Coroner’s Office Act completes the gazetting of the Acts of 2019.  A complete list of these Acts can be downloaded from our website [link].

 

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