BILL WATCH 73-2020 - Third Session Starts, Preparations for 2021 Budget

BILL WATCH 73/2020

[3rd November 2020]

Both Houses are Sitting This Week

Only the National Assembly Sat Last Week

In the National Assembly Last Week

Death of Hon Joosbi Omar MP

On Tuesday 27th October MPs observed a minute’s silence in respect of Hon Omar, whose death on 25th October was announced by the Deputy Speaker. Hon Omar was the ZANU PF MP for Mwenezi East constituency.  Filling the vacancy will require a by-election.

Bills

The only action on Bills was the adoption by the House on Tuesday 27th October of a motion by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the restoration to the Order Paper of the following Bills left uncompleted at the end of the Second Session on 21st October [for links, see below]:

  • Forest Amendment Bill
  • Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill
  • Constitution of Zimbabwe (No. 2) Bill.

Note: The same motion approved the restoration to the Order Paper of the Minister’s take-note motions on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s Annual Reports for 2018 and 2019 and its recently-launched Report on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe, dealing with obtaining birth certificates, identity documents, passports etc.

Motions

Motion in response to the President’s State of the Nation Address [SONA and Legislative Agenda On Tuesday 27th October ZANU PF Chief Whip, Hon Togarepi, seconded by Hon Mhona, moved the customary motion of loyalty and thanks in response to President’s virtual address to the joint sitting of Parliament on 22nd October.  Their speeches were followed by Hon Khupe with her first speech to the House, which she began by introducing herself as “Leader of the Opposition”She spoke in the absence of MDC-A MPs because they walked out. She gave her view of the role of the Opposition in Parliament, called for the status quo after the 2018 general election to be accepted by all and for Opposition leaders to cease advancing their own personal interests and move forward in unity for the common good, which was a better life for every Zimbabwean.  She announced that she would dialogue with the President. On sanctions, she asked for a workshop for MPs at which experts would explain the effect of sanctions, after which, she believed, all MPs would be united in calling for sanctions to go.  The complete speech is available on the Veritas website [link].

Debate on the above motion took up most the sittings on Tuesday and Thursday.  Resumption of debate on Thursday was briefly delayed while Hon Pupurai Togarepi and Hon Kindness Paradza of ZANU PF eloquently expressed their reaction [including saying we are no longer a colony] to the much-publicised previous day’s House of Lords discussion on human rights violations and corruption in, and sanctions on, Zimbabwe and sanctions.

City Status for Victoria Falls On Wednesday 28th October the Minister of Local Government and Public Works presented his motion asking the House to approve that the President be requested to accord city status to the Municipality of Victoria Falls.  The motion was approved after thorough debate, with only Hon Sansole, a former mayor of the municipality, speaking against approval. Among other factors, justification for city status was found in Victoria Falls position at the core of a vital tourism economic zone corridor and the new Victoria Falls Stock Exchange.

Repercussions of MDC-T recalls of MDC-A MPs

In addition to Ms Khupe’s debut as “Leader of the Opposition” [see above], there were the following events of interest under this heading:

Registration of assets by new MPs On Thursday 29th October the Speaker warned new MPs that they were obliged by National Assembly Standing Order 50 to declare their assets within 60 days of their appointment.  He also reminded not-so-new MPs that if they had acquired new properties since previously declaring their assets, they must update the Declarations Register maintained by the Counsel to Parliament.

New portfolio committee chairpersons Also on Thursday the Speaker announced that “the MDC-T Party” had nominated the following MPs for appointment by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders as chairpersons of portfolio committees:

  • Hon Peter Moyo – Information and Communication Technology;
  • Hon Yvonne Musarurwa – Environment and Tourism;
  • Hon Lindiwe Maphosa – Higher Education, Science and Technology Development;
  • Hon Sipho Mokone – Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services.

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Tuesday 3rd November’s sitting will be the Senate’s first working sitting of the Third Session.

Motion in response to the President’s SONA and Legislative Agenda

The only item of the Senate Order Paper for Tuesday 3rd November is the customary motion expressing Senators’ loyalty to Zimbabwe and their thanks to the President for his speech on 22nd October at the opening of the Third Session. The motion will be proposed by Senator Chirongoma and seconded by Senator A Dube.

Bills

No Bills are currently listed for consideration.  We know from the President’s speech, however, that the Government wishes Parliament to complete work on Bills left unfinished at the end of the Second Session last week.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – or the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Mutsvangwa – is, therefore, likely to present a motion requesting the Senate to restore the following Bills to the Senate’s Order Paper:

  • Marriages Bill, as amended by the National Assembly
  • Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, as amended by the National Assembly
  • Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill – the not-properly-passed 2017 Bill.  [This may depend on whether the Constitutional Court grants an extension of the 27th September deadline for the Senate to pass this Bill with a two-thirds majority.]

Coming up in the National Assembly This Week

Take-note motions

As motions by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs head the Order Paper for today, 3rd November, we list them first:

  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission annual reports for 2018 and 2019 – item restored to the Order Paper last week.
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Report on National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe – item also restored to the Order Paper last week [link].
  • National Prosecuting Authority’s Report for the Year 2019 – item newly added to the Order Paper.  Under section 262 of the Constitution the Prosecutor-General should have submitted this annual report to Parliament, “through the appropriate Minister”, by the end of June. The motion is, therefore, out of time and in accordance with the Speaker’s recent practice the Minister will have to request the House to approve condonation of this default before moving his take-note motion.

Bills

Bills from the previous session restored to the Order Paper are listed next:

Forest Amendment Bill [link]

The House awaits presentation of the Portfolio Committee’s report on the Bill.

Cyber Security & Data Protection Bill [link]

The Bill is ready for the start of the Committee Stage.  Amendments have been tabled by the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on ICT and are available on the Veritas website [link].  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].  Two excellent commentaries on the Bill are available on the Veritas website [link] and [link].

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link]

See Bill Watch 67/2020 [link].  There has been no progress on this Bill for several months.  The Second Reading debate is yet to be completed.

Note: The Financial Adjustments Bill was another Bill left unfinished – more accurately, barely started – at the end of the Second Session, despite having featured on the Order Paper for the whole session.  According to what Ministry officials have told the Public Accounts Committee, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development is expected to present a re-drafted and more informative version of the Bill in the present session.  If this draft is substantially different, it will have to be re-gazetted as a new Bill. The Minister remains constitutionally bound to present a Bill to condone all unauthorised expenditure by the Government over the period covered by the Bill [2015-2018] – and, of course, any other unauthorised  expenditure that has come to light during that period or since.

Motions

Motion responding to the President’s SONA This is the debate that occurs each session during which even the least loquacious MPs have the opportunity to contribute and draw attention to matters of particular concern to voters in their constituencies.  If the Second Session is any guide, the debate will last for most of the session.

Creation of a dedicated Ministry for Children’s Affairs This is a new motion to be moved by Hon Dr Nyashanu, seconded by Hon Mataranyika.  It focuses on the present situation under which Government programmes relating to children’s rights and welfare are being handled by different Ministries without the requisite coordinated and holistic approach.

Funding of District Development Fund [DDF] This motion expresses concern at the present incapacitation of the DDF due to dwindling financial resources, obsolete equipment and dilapidated infrastructure and calls for recapitalisation of all its departments and the availing of adequate funds by the end of the year.

Pre-Budget Seminar: Thursday 5th to Saturday 7th November

This annual event will take place in Harare this year and by not all MPs will be physically present at the venue, which is the Rainbow Towers Hotel.  Only presiding officers, Ministers, members of the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, chairpersons of Portfolio Committees, members of the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development, and members of the expanded Sustainable Development Goals Committee will attend physically.  The remaining MPs will participate – virtually via a Zoom link – from the National Assembly and Senate chambers, their hotels or other venues of their choice.

Parliament’s preparations for the Seminar have included countrywide consultations with members of the public and stakeholders conducted by portfolio committees, a Pre-Budget Briefing by experts on 21st October and this week’s portfolio committee meetings for consultations with the Ministries they supervise, and the commissions, parastatals and stakeholders for which the Ministries are responsible.

The Speaker has firmly defended the usefulness of the Seminar, pointing to the large number of suggestions emanating from last year’s Seminar that were incorporated in the 2020 Budget.

 

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