BILL WATCH 66/2020 - In Parliament Last Week, Coming up This Week

BILL WATCH 66/2020

[5th October 2020]

Both the Senate and the National Assembly will be Sitting This Week

In the Senate Last Week
[29th & 30th September, 1st October]

Bills

The responsible Minister – the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in both cases – did not ask Senators to deal with the Marriages Bill or the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill.  Both these Bills are listed for consideration this week.  There has, however, been an interesting development in relation to the latter Bill [see under Coming up in the Senate, below]. 

Reports

NPRC Annual Reports for 2018 [link] and 2019 [link]:  On Tuesday 29th September several Senators delivered their contributions, mostly very brief, to the debate on the take-note motions moved the previous week by Vice-President Mohadi when presenting the reports.  Disappointingly, Senators had little or nothing to say about the content of the reports or the performance of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [NPRC] in the two years covered by the report.  There was much praise, however, for the President for having gone to Matabeleland to discuss Gukurahundi.

Domestication of UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities  Senator Muzenda, chairperson of the Thematic Committee on Human Rights, presented the committee’s report on a petition from the Institute for Community Development calling for the domestication of this Convention.  Although the Convention was adopted by Zimbabwe in 2013, the Convention has not been “domesticated” [incorporated into the law of Zimbabwe by Act of Parliament] and the Government has not come up with a National Policy on Disability. 

Motion on abolition of death penalty

On 30th September Senator Makone’s motion lapsed on reaching the time-limit fixed by Standing Orders.  Veritas which has been working for abolition for many years is pleased that there was a clear majority of the many Senators who took part in the debate supported the motion.  As we approach World Day Against the Death Penalty, we hope a new motion for abolition will be raised.

Approval of International Agreements

On 1st October the Senate approved the same batch of BIPPAs already approved by the National Assembly the day before [see under National Assembly below].

In the National Assembly Last Week
[
29th & 30th September, 1st October]

Bills

Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill [link] : The Bill was given its Second Reading after the Minister’s response to the debate on 30th September.  The Committee Stage was not taken the next day but it is listed for this week [see below]

Other Bills : No other Bills were dealt with during the week  [see under Coming up in Parliament 6th to 8th October, below, for a list of Bills carried forward to this week].

Belated approval of BIPPAs in terms of section 327 of Constitution

The House approved six bilateral Agreements on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments, four of them signed by Zimbabwe twenty years ago or more [dates of signing by Zimbabwe in brackets].  The agreements are with the following States:   Korea (2010); Czech Republic (1999); Kingdom of Sweden (1997); United Arab Emirates (2018); Kingdom of Thailand (2000); United States of America (1999).  MPs noted the incongruity of approving an agreement with the USA while that country was still sanctioning Zimbabwe, but the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade defended the Government’s position.  The Deputy Minister also disputed Hon Biti’s argument that agreements subject to section 327 of the Constitution should be approved by Parliament before being signed by or on behalf of the President.

Note: The USA BIPPA was not correctly listed on the Order Paper [a typo reflected it as a second agreement with the UAE, but Hansard makes it clear that it was the 1999 Agreement with the USA that was approved].

In terms of section 7 of the new International Treaties Act (No. 2 of 2020) [link] the agreements themselves must be published by the President in statutory instruments.  Their dates of entry into force must, in terms of the same provision, be notified by General Notices in the Government Gazette in the name of the chairperson of the Public Agreements Advisory Committee [PAAC] established by the Act.  Section 9 of the Act says these requirements apply notwithstanding the fact that all the agreements were concluded before Act No. 2 of 2020 became law on 1st July 2020.

Reports

Service delivery by local authorities  On 29th October Hon. Bushu moved his take-note motion on the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing on the Fact-Finding Visits to Selected Local Authorities on the State of Service Delivery in Zimbabwe.

More recalls of MDC-A MPs

On 1st October the Speaker started off with the announcement that the MDC-T had recalled 10 more MPs from Parliament in by written notice received the same day.  There was no discussion. 

Both constituency and proportional representation MPs are affected, as follows:

Eric Murayi

Highfield East Constituency

Wellington Chikombo

Glen Norah Constituency

Etheredge Kureva

Epworth Constituency

Dorcas Sibanda

PR Bulawayo Province

Caston Matewu

Marondera Central Constituency

Lynette Karenyi Kore

PR Manicaland Province

Concilia Chinanzvavana

PR Mashonaland West Province

Susan Matsunga -

Mufakose Constituency

Prince Dubeko Sibanda-

Binga North Constituency

Unganayi Tarusenga

St Marys Constituency

 

Ministerial Statement on Re-opening of Schools

On 1st October, immediately after the brief recalls announcement, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education presented this Ministerial Statement.  MPs had many requests for clarification.  The discussion took up the rest of Thursday’s sitting until the early adjournment at 4.08 pm.

Coming Up in the National Assembly This Week [6th to 8th October]

Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill [link]: Committee Stage

For Veritas commentary on this Bill see Bill Watch 62/2020 [link].  Still to be considered is the proposed new and very lengthy clause 28 headed Conditions under which Commission may Allow Self-Regulation of Media Practitioners with respect to Complaints Against Them.  The text of the new clause is available on the Veritas website [link]

Forest Amendment Bill [link] for start of Second Reading stage

Financial Adjustments Bill [link]  for start of Second Reading stage

This Bill dates from last year and has been stalled for a long time.  The Public Accounts Committee [PAC] sat on Monday 5th October, and finally achieved its goal of discussing the Bill with Ministry of Finance and Economic Development officials.  It was a PAC report in 2019, that demanded the production of this Bill.  The report exposed several years’ worth of Government expenditure, amounting to billions of US dollars, that had not been authorised by Parliament, as required by the Constitution.  The Bill asks for condonation of this unauthorised expenditure but, as we pointed out in Bill Watch 66/2019 [link], the Bill is flawed and gives no detail on what the expenditure was for or how or why the debts concerned were run up.  The information given to the committee on Monday showed that the Ministry needs to do more work on the unauthorised expenditure in order to present a more complete and accurate picture.  So the Bill is unlikely to come up this week, this session or even this year.  But the presentation of a Bill dealing with this expenditure remains a constitutional necessity.

Cyber Security & Data Protection Bill [link] for Committee Stage.

A commentary on the Bill commissioned by Veritas is available on the Veritas website [link].  Ministers have stressed the urgency of the Bill.  

There are proposed amendments to be considered [link], all of them put on the Order Paper by Hon Gandawa, the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on ICT, Postal and Courier Services.  They are to give effect to the combined recommendations of that committee and the Senate Thematic Committee on Peace and Security in their report on public reaction to the Bill [link].  

The amendments propose: the addition of new clauses 15 and 16 on the duties of data controllers and the rights of data subjects respectively; and the substitution of clause 20(6) about data protection officers.  There are also several amendments to clause 35, which makes comprehensive additions to Chapter VIII [Computer-Related Crime] of the Criminal Law Code.  These imperfectly drafted amendments relate to such subjects as cyber-bullying, child pornography, child sexual abuse material and adults using ICT to groom children to meet them for sexual activity. 

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link] for continuation of Second Reading debate.

Coming Up in the Senate This Week

The Senate has only two Bills on the its Order Paper for this week. They are:

Marriages Bill [as amended by the National Assembly]

The Senate is still waiting for a response by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to the Second Reading debate.  Chiefs and many other Senators have expressed their disappointment that the Bill does not expressly recognise the importance of lobola in customary marriages, even where couples and their families choose to observe and comply with the tradition.  Further developments are awaited with great interest.

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill, 2017: Repeat of Third Reading Vote

The complex background to this item is explained in Bill Watch 27/2020 of 13th May [link].  Suffice it to say, the purpose of repeating the Third Reading vote conducted over three years ago, is to see whether the Senate can muster 54 affirmative votes instead of the 53 affirmative votes mustered in 2017.  This is required by the Constitutional Court ruling on 31st March which declared the 2017 vote null and void on the ground that 53 yes votes were not sufficient to pass the Bill, being fewer than the 54 yes votes required by section 328(5) of the Constitution to pass a constitutional Bill.  The Court ruling allowed Parliament 180 days from 31st March 2020 to conduct a valid vote, “failing which the declaration of nullity would come into force”.  

In Bill Watch 23/2020 of 29th September [link] we expressed the view that, as the 180-day deadline had come and gone on Sunday 27th September, the Constitutional Court’s declaration of nullity had already come into force.  Veritas has since learnt that Parliament made a last-minute application to the Constitutional Court for an extension of the deadline, and succeeded to the extent that a provisional order was granted suspending the declaration of nullity for the time being, until a final decision on the application has been made, after a full legal hearing involving all interested parties. 

 

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