BILL WATCH 71/2020
[25th October 2020]
Second Session Ended and Third Session Opened
Only the National Assembly will be Sitting This Week
On Tuesday and Thursday last week the National Assembly met for its last sittings of the Second Session of this Parliament. The Senate did not sit, having previously adjourned until Thursday 22nd October.
On Thursday, just before midday, both the Senate and the National Assembly met for their first sittings of the Third Session that were interrupted briefly by a joint sitting of both Houses to hear President Mnangagwa deliver his virtual [from State House] State of the Nation Address [SONA] and mark the opening of the Fourth Session by spelling out the Legislative Agenda for the session. A limited number of members participated physically, in deference to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but many more were present virtually, and the proceedings were broadcast on national television. After the joint sitting the Houses met separately again for a few minutes and proceedings were then adjourned by the presiding officers.
The National Assembly will sit again on Tuesday 27th October. The Senate will meet next on Tuesday 3rd November.
This bulletin deals with the National Assembly’s sittings on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st October. A separate bulletin will cover the Legislative Agenda for the Fourth Session.
In the National Assembly 20th and 21st October
None of the remaining uncompleted Bills were dealt. In terms of Standing Orders all these Bills lapsed when the House adjourned on Wednesday at the end of the session, along with all other uncompleted business of the House. The lapsed Bills are the following:
· Forest Amendment Bill [link]
· Financial Adjustments Bill [link]
· Cyber Security & Data Protection Bill [link]
· Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link]
· Manpower Planning and Development Amendment Bill [link] [still awaiting initial PLC report]
This does not mean that the House will have to re-start work on these Bills from scratch. Provision exists in Standing Orders for the House to approve motions restoring lapsed Bills to the Order Paper at the stage reached in the previous session.
Motions adopted [Tuesday]
Ritual murders The House voted to depart from the Order Paper to allow the moving of a new motion by the ZANU PF Chief Whip, Hon Togarepi, seconded by Hon Nduna, calling on law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators of ritual murders in all parts of the country to book and demanding deterrent legislative measures to eradicate ritual murders by the end of 2020. The motion was adopted after a lengthy debate that inevitably focussed on the recent ritual murder of a young child in Murehwa; some MPs called for the death penalty to be imposed on the culprits.
Late presentation of the 2021 Budget Strategy Paper [BSP] The House voted to condone the late tabling by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development of this important document, which is dated 15th October but should by law – the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Finance Management (General) Regulations – have been presented to Parliament by the end of July. The Deputy Minister explained, on behalf of the Minister, the circumstances that gave rise to the delay. MPs pointed out that the previous week’s countrywide pre-Budget public consultations by the Portfolio Committee of Budget, Finance and Economic Development had had to be conducted without the benefit of the BSP. The BSP is available on the Veritas website [link].
Condolence motion: the late Hon Patrick Chidakwa Debate concluded with the adoption of the motion.
Rights of persons with disabilities This motion calling for special grants for disabled persons and domestication of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by 31st July 2020 was enthusiastically supported by all sides of the House in previous sittings. It was passed with an amendment – the new deadline for Government action in response to the motion is 31st December 2020.
Question Time [Wednesday]
Dual pricing system – US dollars and RTGS/ZWL dollars The Minister confirmed that it was wrong for retailers to accept payment and collect VAT in US dollars and the remit the VAT to ZIMRA in RTGS/ZWL dollars. Culprits would be identified and prosecuted.
Immunity from prosecution for corruption The Leader of Government Business, Hon Ziyambi, confirmed that as the President is the only person enjoying immunity from prosecution under the Constitution, everyone else in Zimbabwe can be prosecuted for corruption, including Ministers and senior officials. MPs with personal knowledge of senior police officers apparently enjoying immunity from prosecution or investigation should report such cases to him.
Allowances and benefits for MPs The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, in answer to a supplementary question arising from his answers about dual pricing and sticking to the official exchange rate, revealed that his Ministry and Parliament had been involved in discussions about sitting allowances for MPs and other issues concerning MPs’ welfare, such as vehicle benefits. Figures would be made available shortly by Parliamentary authorities.
Presentation of devolution legislation The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said that once the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill had been passed by Parliament and the constitutional provisions about devolution clarified, the Bills to give effect to devolution would come to Parliament. Government, he said, was committed to devolution.
Note: Progress on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill may depend on the fate of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill and Act, which is currently the subject of litigation in the Constitutional Court. By a Constitutional Court order of 31st March 2020, the Senate should have conducted a repeat Third Reading vote on this 2017 Bill by the deadline of 27th September fixed by the Constitutional Court. As the Senate failed to do so, Parliament applied to the Constitutional Court for an extension of the deadline and was granted a temporary reprieve until that application is finally decided. The Constitutional Court is due to hear the application on Monday 26th October. If the application is dismissed, the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill – and the resulting Act – will be null and void, with an inevitable consequential effect on the content of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill.
Ministerial Statement on resumption of sporting activities [Wednesday]
After Question Time, the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Hon Coventry, made a statement [link] on the resumption of sporting activities in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members had many requests for clarification on particular points, and discussion continued until the end of the sitting – and the Third Session – at 4.53 pm
Two Acts Gazetted
Two Acts were gazetted late on Friday 23rd October in a Government Gazette Extraordinary:
- Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Act, 2020 [Act 6 of 2020]
The Attorney-General’s Office Act – which this Act amends – is not yet in force, so the amendments made by this Act will come into force on the date fixed by the President as the date of commencement of the Attorney-General’s Office Act by statutory instrument. As these amendments were designed to bring the Attorney-General’s Office Act into line with the current constitutional and factual situation, this can be expected to happen soon.
- National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Act, 2020 [Act 7 of 2020]
This Act did, however, come into force on 23rd October.
Two other Bills already passed by Parliament still await gazetting as Acts. They are the:
- Finance Bill
- Constitutional Court Bill.