Bill Watch 59/2020 - National Assembly passes Finance Bill & Coming up in the Senate This Week

BILL WATCH 59/2020

[14th September 2020]

The Senate will Sit This Week from Tuesday 15th September

The National Assembly Has Adjourned until 22nd September

At the end of its sitting on Thursday 10th September the National Assembly adjourned until Tuesday 22nd September.  It had passed two Bills during the week [the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill and the Finance Bill] and sent them to the Senate, bringing to three the number of Bills it has completed in the last two weeks.

The Senate will take its turn in Parliament this week, sitting from Tuesday 15th September.  Its Order Paper includes not only the Bills just passed by the National Assembly, but also the uncompleted Bills that were carried forward from its last working sitting on the 23rd July [See below, in paragraph headed Coming up in the Senate This Week, for a list of all the Bills awaiting Senators’ attention].

Bills Passed by the National Assembly Last Week & Sent to the Senate

1.  National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill [link]

On Tuesday 8th September the Bill went through the Committee Stage without amendment and was given its Third Reading without debate, then sent to the Senate.

2.  Finance Bill [link]

As mentioned in Bill Watch 58/2020 [link] the National Assembly gave this Bill its First Reading on 3rd September and referred it to the PLC.

Fast-tracking decision  At the beginning of proceedings on Thursday 10th September the House approved a motion by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the fast-tracking of all Government Business for Thursday’s sitting and for the next series of sittings from 22nd September.  This involves the suspension of Standing Orders 52, 142, 143 and 146 about automatic adjournment of the House at 6.55 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 1.25 pm on Fridays; referral of Bills to Portfolio Committees, and time-limits for procedures in connection with the PLC and Stages of Bills.

Finance Bill completed  The House then proceeded to fast-track and complete all stages of the Bill during the afternoon’s sitting.  First, the non-adverse initial PLC report on the Bill was announced.  There followed the Second Reading Stage of the Bill [a brief Second Reading speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, MPs’ contributions, the Minister’s response and the House’s approval of the Second Reading];  the Committee Stage [with amendments being made in clauses 3 and 4 and a new Part and clause 18 being inserted after clause 17];  and the referral of Committee Stage amendments to the PLC for consideration while the House turned to other business [see below].  A little while later there was a prompt non-adverse report from the PLC on the amendments, followed by the final adoption of the Committee Stage amendments and, last of all, the Third Reading.  The Bill was then transmitted to the Senate for consideration next week.  The sitting ended at 5.01 pm, so MPs were spared an evening sitting made possible by the fast-tracking resolution.

Amendments to the Bill

The amendments mentioned above were proposed by the Minister and approved by the House without any explanation having been asked for by MPs or volunteered by the Minister.  The text of the amendments is available on the Veritas website [link].  The gist of the amendments is as follows:

  1. Changes to clauses 3 and 4 re income tax thresholds and tax bands

Between them these clauses of the Bill re-state the income tax threshold, the tax bands and the rates applicable in each tax band for the five-month period 1st August to 31st December 2020.  The amendments apply only to the special threshold and tax bands for those who earn all or part of their taxable income from employment in foreign currency, where the clause specifies the new threshold and bands in US dollars.  The effect of the amendments is to reduce the US dollar amounts specified in the Bill to equate them to the corresponding ZWL amounts for the threshold and bands, using the latest Interbank US dollar/ZWL exchange rate.

  1. Insertion of new clause 18 amending Companies and Other Business Entities Act
    [sections 303 and Tenth Schedule]

(1) Two-year extension of deadline for re-registration of companies under the Act

The presently applicable deadline for the mandatory re-registration of companies and private business corporations [PBCs] that were registered under repealed laws is extended from 13th February 2021 to 13th February 2023.  The re-registration form prescribed in the Tenth Schedule to the new Act is modified accordingly and the fee that must accompany the form is set as US$ 10 or its equivalent in Zimbabwe dollars at the date of submission of the form.

(2) Beneficiaries under Global Compensation Agreement of 29.07.2020 exempted from re-registration, etc

Farming companies and PBCs listed in Schedule 1 to the Global Compensation Deed signed on 29th July 2020 will be exempted from the need to re-register under the new Acts until 28th July 2026.  Also, if they were struck off the Companies Register under repealed laws or their registration has lapsed, they will be deemed to be still registered and entitled to the same exemption.  [Note:  This amendment, like the others, was passed without question, explanation or discussion.  In fact it cried out for an explanation.  The Global Compensation Deed has not been published so MPs should have asked, and had a right to be told, what the effect of the amendment would be.]

Bill Presented in the National Assembly Last Week

Manpower Planning and Development Amendment Bill [link]

On Wednesday 9th September this Bill was presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development.  It was given its First Reading and referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC].  The PLC is expected to fast-track its report in accordance with the fast-tracking resolution approved by the National Assembly on 10th September [see above], which applies to all Government business.

Other Business in the National Assembly Last Week

Note: In this section an asterisk (*) after a reference to a document signifies that it is hoped to have it available on the Veritas website www.veritaszim.net in the near future.

New vacancy in the National Assembly

On 8th September MPs observed a minute’s silence for Hon Miriam Mushayi, MDC-A MP for Kuwadzana constituency, who died on 7th September.  This vacancy will have to be filled by a by-election.

Privileges Committee into alleged misconduct by MDC-A MPs: End-date extended

On 8th September the Speaker informed the House of the extension to 31st October 2020 of the period within which the committee should report its findings and recommendations to the House.  The setting-up of this Privileges Committee and the allegations against the MPs concerned were outlined in Bill Watch 62/2019 of 21st November 2019 [link].

Take-note motions on reports

Parliamentary delegation report adopted  On Thursday 10th September Hon Kwaramba responded to the debate on the Report of Parliamentary delegation on the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women on Social Protection Systems, Access to Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure for Gender Equality and Empowerment for Women and Girls*.  The House then approved the motion.

Parliamentary Committee reports  On Tuesday 8th September two reports were presented and debates on their contents adjourned to be continued later:

  • Public Accounts Committee [PAC] report* on the Benchmarking Visit to the Parliament of Zambia by a PAC delegation
  • Liaison and Co-ordination Committee report* on the First Session of this Parliament, which ended on 30th September 2019.

Constitutional commission annual reports

On Thursday 10th September the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs moved take-note motions on:

  • Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] Annual Report for 2019* The Minister introduced his motion by explaining that section 323(1) of the Constitution obliges every constitutional Commission to report to Parliament through the responsible Minister by the end of March the following year.  There being no MPs wishing to debate, the Minister immediately with withdrew his motion with the leave of the House.
  • Judicial Service Commission [JSC] Annual Report for 2019* The Minister again introduced his motion by referring to section 323(1) of the Constitution.  As MPs requested an opportunity to speak on the report, debate was then adjourned to a later sitting.

Question Time [Wednesday 9th September]

MPs raised many issues, including the following:

Mining in National Parks  Both the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the Minister of Mines and Mining Development responded to a question about Government policy on this topic in the light of the previous day’s Cabinet decision that mining in national parks is banned and publicity about coal prospecting operations having been allowed be undertaken in Hwange National Park.  The Minister of Mines and Mining Development assured the House that the Cabinet decision was final, that any existing special grants would be reviewed with a view to cancellation, and that the Mines and Minerals Act would be amended accordingly by the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill now nearing completion.

Compensation for dispossessed white farmers  Hon Mliswa questioned the wisdom of prioritising compensation for white farmers in compliance with the Constitution at a time when the Government had so many other financial obligations to meet under the Constitution, e.g., to war veterans and the disabled, to fund the health, education and  social welfare sectors, all presently greatly under-resourced.  Where was the US$ 3.5 billion coming from?  Would Parliament have a say?  In his reply the Minister of Finance and Economic Development assured MPs that:

“The Global Compensation Agreement is an agreement on the global and final figure for compensationThe resources will be raised internally and externally, when we have agreed or concluded on the instrument through which the resources would be raised.  If it is a debt instrument; which is what we are targeting, that will be brought before Parliament because we cannot contract debt without Parliament. It is at that stage that the financing instrument will be brought to Parliament.”

Long queues at toll-gates delaying vehicles  A question about Government’s policy on drivers who avoid tollgates by the use of side-roads led to a supplementary question about what Government intended to do about unbearable queues – up to five kilometres long – at tollgates, which an MP suggested was why some drivers resort to side-roads.  The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, standing in for the Leader of Government Business in the absence of the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, conceded that long queues and the resulting delays were unacceptable and that Government would have to “up its game” to improve service at tollgates.

The role of Community Development Co-ordinators [CDCs]  The Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, SMEs and Community Development explained that a CDC is a Ministry official based in a ward, that the Ministry wishes to have a CDC in every ward in the country and that a Community Development Co-ordinator is the mobiliser, facilitator and promoter of the social and economic activities that develop communities in a ward.  The Ministry wants to have one CDC in every ward in the country.

Ministerial Statements

On Wednesday 9th September after Question Time two Ministerial statements were delivered by the new Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Hon Dr Masuka, on:

  • The State of Water Supply in Urban Areas*
  • The Adoption of Conservation Agriculture Concept on Maize and Traditional Grains – Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme*.

Approval of International Agreement

On 10th September the House approved the SADC Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Harmonization of Seed Regulatory Framework in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).  There was a brief debate in which MPs referred to the MoU’s possible impact on Zimbabwe’s current anti-GMO food policy.

Coming Up in the Senate This Week

Reminder: The Senate’s last sitting on 4th August was a short token sitting that lasted only a few minutes before the Senate adjourned to 15th September, as noted in Bill Watch 53/2020 of 7th August [link].  Its last working sitting was on 23rd July.

Bills already on the Order Paper

Constitutional Court Bill [link] – for Committee Stage

Senators gave this Bill its Second Reading, without any debate, on 23rd July.  So the remaining stages of the Bill are also likely to be without debate.  

Marriages Bill [link] – for continuation/conclusion of Second Reading debate

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has faced opposition from most Senators who have contributed to the debate on this Bill.  They have objected to (1) the Civil partnerships clause of this Bill [originally clause 40, but now clause 41 after renumbering necessitated by an extra clause inserted by the National Assembly] and (2) the absence of any provision for lobola.  Senators will want to hear the Minister’s final response to their objections and about the outcome of his discussions with the Council of Chiefs that were due to take place in early July.  

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill [link] – for re-run of Third Reading Vote

The background to this item on the Order Paper is explained in Bill Watch 27/2020 of 13th May [link].

Bills to be added to the Senate Order Paper

These are the three Bills that were passed by the National Assembly in the last two weeks and immediately sent to the Senate [see above]:

Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill [link]

Passed by the National Assembly on 1st September without amendments.

National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill [link]

Passed by the National Assembly on 8th September without amendments.

Finance Bill [link]

Passed by the National Assembly on 10th September with amendments [link].  

 

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