BILL WATCH 46/2020
[10th July 2020]
The Senate Sat Last Week, then Adjourned until 21st July
The National Assembly Sat This Week & Will Sit Again Next Week
First Acts of 2020 Gazetted
The following two Acts were gazetted in a Government Gazette dated 1st July 2020, which is the date of commencement of both Acts:
Freedom of Information Act (No. 1 of 2020)
The object of this Act [link] is to give effect to the right of access to information in accordance with the Constitution – a better title would be “access to information” [albeit limited access] as pointed out in Veritas’s critique of the Bill [link].
Repeal of AIPPA? The Act purports to repeal the much decried Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [AIPPA], but the extent to which it does so seems open to doubt.
Section 41 of the Act states that AIPPA is repealed but goes on to say that all statutory instruments made under AIPPA “shall remain in force as if they had been made under the appropriate provision of this Act”. The difficulty is that the only regulations made under AIPPA supplemented AIPPA’s provisions for accrediting journalists and imposed a levy on media houses. The new Freedom of Information Act contains no provisions at all requiring journalists to be accredited or allowing levies to be imposed on media houses. Hence the AIPPA regulations could not have been made under any provision of the new Act. It follows therefore that they do not remain in force and, as a result, journalists no longer have to be accredited and media houses do not have to pay a levy.
While that seems to be the correct legal position, the Ministry of Information and the Zimbabwe Media Commission apparently think otherwise. The Minister of Information promulgated new fees for the accreditation of journalists in March, at a time the Bill for the new Act had already been passed by Parliament [see SI 79/2020]. And the Zimbabwe Media Commission’s Facebook page asserts that the regulations made under AIPPA requiring the accreditation of journalists, registration of mass media services and the payment of a statutory levy by registered mass media services are still in force.
International Treaties Act (No. 2 of 2020)
In the Senate Last Week
Nomination of MDC-T Chief Whip
At the start of proceedings on Wednesday 1st July the President of the Senate informed the Senate that the Movement for Democratic (MDC-T) Party had nominated Senator Dr Mavetera as its Chief Whip in the Senate.
MDC-A Senators recalled by MDC-T
Immediately after the above statement, the President of the Senate announced Parliament’s receipt of written notification on 30th June by the MDC-T party that the following eight Senators had ceased to be members of the party: Senators Keresencia Chabuka (Manicaland Province), Siphiwe Ncube (Bulawayo Province), Phyllis Ndhlovu* (Matabeleland North Province), Meliwe Phuti (Matebeleland South Province), Gideon Shoko (Bulawayo Province), Hebert Sinampande (Matebeleland North Province), Tapfumanei Vunganayi (Mashonaland East Province) and Helen Zivira (Bulawayo Province). As a result, she informed Senators, their seats had fallen vacant in terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution, and the President and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission would be informed accordingly, to allow the vacancies to be filled.**
* On 2nd July, however, the Deputy President of the Senate informed the Senate that, in a letter also dated the 30th June, the MDC-T party informed Parliament that due to litigation in the Supreme Court, Hon. Phyllis Ndhlovu had not ceased to be a member of the party; hence she remains a Senator for the Matebeleland North Province.
** On 3rd July the unseated Senators launched an urgent High Court application challenging the President of the Senate’s implementation of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution.
On Tuesday 30th June, Senators were informed that the following Bills had been passed by National Assembly, transmitted to the Senate and duly received:
The Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill
The Census and Statistics Amendment Bill.
On Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd July, respectively, the Bills went through all their stages, and were approved without amendment or objection. Both Bills have, therefore, been passed by Parliament and are now being prepared for submission to the President for his assent and publication in the Government Gazette as Acts.
On Tuesday 30th June, having had two weeks to digest the Marriages Bill since the Minister’s Second Reading speech, Senators were able to express their views on the Marriages Bill, and did so for the best part of two hours. Contributions from all sides were unanimously against the Bill’s failure to include provision for lobola, despite the Minister’s assurances that lobola would not be abolished by the Bill. Also raised, was that the age of consent [presently 16] should be increased to 18 [the present marriageable age]. At the end of the afternoon the Minister briefly responded to the debate but did not conclude his speech, saying that he would be discussing the Bill with the Council of Chiefs the next day and would be coming back to the Senate thereafter. Debate was then adjourned to await the outcome of the Minister’s discussions with the Council of Chiefs. As the week ended without debate on the Bill having been resumed, the Senate will not consider the Bill again until it sits again, from Tuesday 21st July..
International agreement approved: Economic Partnership Agreement between Eastern and Southern African States and the United Kingdom
This agreement to cover the post-Brexit situation was approved on 2nd July without objection or debate – and without an explanatory speech from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, who moved the motion for its approval. The agreement had already been approved by the National Assembly.
In the National Assembly This Week
ZANU PF MP Killer Zivhu recalled by ZANU PF party
On Tuesday 7th July, the Speaker announced that on 1st July Parliament had been notified by ZANU PF that Hon Killer Zivhu, its MP for Chivi North, had ceased to be a member of the party with effect from 1st July. The Speaker proceeded to inform the House that under section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution a vacancy had arisen in the Chivi North seat by operation of the law. The President and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission would be informed accordingly to enable the vacancy to be filled.
Petitions received and referred to Portfolio Committees
Also on 7th July the Speaker announced receipt of three petitions and their referral to the appropriate portfolio committees:
- Petition from Deaf Zimbabwe Trust requesting (1) an amendment to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to protect the deaf in accordance with the Constitution, and (2) the domestication [incorporation into Zimbabwe law] of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities [referred to Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs];
- Petition from Budiriro Residents Water Foundation requesting Parliament to intervene with the City of Harare and the Environmental Management Agency to preserve and protect wetlands in the area, among other issues [referred to Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate and Tourism];
- Petition from Tag-a-Life International beseeching Parliament to urgently protect the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe to basic primary and secondary education during the COVID-19 pandemic [referred to Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education].
Constitutional Court Bill passed with one amendment and sent to Senate
On Tuesday the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs wound up the Second Reading debate on this Bill with a speech in which he carefully explained his reasons for rejecting all but one of the criticisms of the Bill offered in the report of the Portfolio Committee and by MPs during the debate. The Committee Stage followed, and the Minister successfully moved an amendment to clause 13 by the insertion of words clarifying that the clause would be subject to not only “any other law”, but also to “section 85(1) of the Constitution”, thus:
“13 Right of audience
Subject to section 85(1) of the Constitution and any other law, in all proceedings before the Court the parties may appear with or be represented by a legal practitioner.”
[Section 85(1) of the Constitution lists the persons who may apply to any court for the enforcement of fundamental human rights and freedoms.] The amended Bill was then referred back to the PLC for its report on this amendment, and the expected non-adverse report was received on 9th July, allowing the House to pass the Bill and send it to the Senate for consideration when it resumes sitting on 21st July.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill – Start of Second Reading debate
As notified by Veritas in a special Bill Watch bulletin [link] disseminated early evening on 9th July, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs presented this Bill that afternoon, followed by his Second Reading speech, the presentation of the Portfolio Committee’s report [link] on the public hearings on the Bill and the first contributions from MPs. The Second Reading debate is due to continue next week.
Two reports presented by Parliamentary delegations
Report on the 53rd Session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and the 37th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Hon P Moyo, seconded by Hon Nduna, presented this report. Both sessions took place in March 2019 in Bucharest, Romania. [ACP stands for African Caribbean and Pacific nations that are parties to the Cotonou Agreement with the European Union [EU].
Report of the 75th Session of Executive Committee of and 42nd Conference of African Parliamentary Union [APU] These events took place in Djibouti in November 2019. Report presented by Hon Zhou, seconded by Hon Mhona.
Coming up in the National Assembly Next Week
Motions by Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Two motions by Hon Ziyambi head the Order Paper, for the House to take note of the annual reports for 2019 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Judicial Service Commission.
For continuation of Second Reading debate
- Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill [link] – the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
- Forest Amendment Bill [link] – the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry
- National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill [link]
For launch of Second Reading stage with Minister’s Second Reading Speech
- Financial Adjustments Bill [link] – the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.