BILL WATCH 81/2020 - Budget Debate Under Way& Media Commission Bill Passed by Senate

BILL WATCH 81/2020

[9th December 2020]

Both Houses are Sitting This Week

Debate on 2021 National Budget Under Way

Bill Watch 78/2020 of 1st December [link], relying on the official Order Papers, said there would be three afternoons’ worth of sittings for both Houses last week.  In the event the Senate and the National Assembly sat on Tuesday 1st December only and both then adjourned until Tuesday 8th December.  

This bulletin outlines business done last week and yesterday, and what is on the Order Papers for the remainder of this week.

In the Senate Last Week and Yesterday

Tuesday 1st December

The Senate sat for just over an hour and a half, during which Senators made contributions to three adjourned debates on:

  • The motion of loyalty and thanks in reply to the Presidential speech to Parliament on 22nd October, the first day of the present Parliamentary session;
  • The motion on gender-based violence, calling for strict enforcement of the law on domestic violence and for the enactment of stiffer penalties for it;
  • The condolence motion for the late Perrance Shiri  Several Senators spoke about the late Minister and Senator Air Chief Marshall (Rtd) Perrance Shiri, mentioning his appetite for hard work, his ability to get on with everyone and his habit of wearing overalls while on official duty – in addition to his liberation struggle record, his service in the Army and Air Force and his contribution as Minister of Agriculture.

Tuesday 8th December

Motion of loyalty and thanks in reply to SONA Senator Mkwebu made a brief contribution to the continuing debate on this motion.  He was followed by Senator Mwonzora who, in a lengthy, thoughtful and eloquent speech, made a plea for a change in politics in Zimbabwe, stating that we have seen enough rancour and bloodletting in our nation and it is time for change.  It is time for the ruling party to change its attitude towards the opposition and vice versa.”   

Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill passed  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs piloted the Bill through all its stages on behalf of the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.  By just after 4 pm the Bill had been passed as amended by the National Assembly, without further amendments by the Senate.  In his Second Reading speech, the Minister treated Senators to an elaborate exposition on the importance of freedom of expression, and drew on American judicial decisions in the field to illustrate the point that while freedom of expression is vital to democracy, it cannot be unlimited and must be used responsibly, particularly by the media, and allowances must be made for differences among cultures and societies. Governments in societies such as ours bear a greater burden in attempting to strike a balance between freedom of expression and restricting that freedom in the interest of social peace and national cohesion. If Governments stray too far in the direction of paternalistic protectionism, that error is perhaps preferable to the opposite one of complete neglect. Mr. President Sir, we can and should aspire to the standards of free expression of a country such as the United States but it may not be fair to hold developing societies like our own too closely to those standards.”   

In the National Assembly Last Week and Yesterday

Tuesday 1st December

Non-adverse PLC report on Manpower Planning and Development Amendment Bill  The Deputy Speaker announced receipt of a non-adverse report on this Bill from the Parliamentary Legal Committee, meaning that the Second Reading stage of this Bill could go ahead.

Condolence motion for the late Miriam Mushayi MP   Apart from a moment’s pause for the above PLC announcement, the House devoted the whole sitting to the condolence motion in respect of the late Miriam Mushayi, MDC-A MP for Kuwadzana constituency, who died on 7th September.  Many MPs of all parties spoke of her kindness, her sterling work in the House and on committees and her helpfulness towards colleagues.

Tuesday 8th December

Fast-tracking for Budget and all other Government Business  The House approved a motion by the Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Hon Ziyambi, for the fast-tracking, not only of Budget business but also of “all other Government business”, with immediate effect and for the next series of sittings.  This clears the way for late-night sittings and the suspension of Private Members’ motions after Question Time on Wednesdays and the normal rules for taking stages of Bills on different days.

Manpower Planning and Development Amendment Bill [link]  Although item 1 on the Order Paper was continuation of the Budget Debate, the National Assembly approved a motion by the Leader of Government Business that this Bill be dealt with first – a clear indication that the Government is eager to have it passed as a matter of extreme urgency. The House proceeded to hear: the lengthy speech explaining the Bill by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Science and Technology Development; the comprehensive report on the Bill by the Portfolio Committee concerned and its recommendations for adjustments to some of the provisions; and contributions from MPs of all parties uniformly in favour of the Bill.  The Bill was given its Second Reading and the Committee Stage is to be taken today.  

Budget debate  MPs then returned to the Budget and heard reactions to it in the form of reports from portfolio committees on:

  • Budget, Finance and Economic Development [recommending that Parliament’s “paltry” allocation of funds be increased, and that the threshold for the Intermediated Money Transfer Tax (IMTT) be ZWL $2000 rather than $500, but accepting that a total expenditure ceiling of ZWL $421,6 billion is imperative];
  • Mines and Mining Development [critical of the adverse effect on the mining sector of the Ministry’s failure to come up with the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill];
  • Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Science and Technology Development [calling for better salaries for college lecturers and less onerous student loans]; and
  • Environment and Tourism [urging an increase in the allocation to National Parks and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority].  This took the House to 6.09 pm, when it adjourned until today.

Coming Up During the Rest of the Week: National Assembly

Question Time [today, Wednesday]   

Continuation of Budget debate

According to the Order Paper for this afternoon, this is the next item of business after Question Time.  Portfolio Committee chairpersons will continue to present the reports of their committees, outlining the reactions to the Budget gathered in their consultations with members of the public, Ministries and stakeholders and listing their recommendations for changes to allocations.

Manpower Planning and Development Amendment Bill – Committee Stage  This is way down the Order Paper as item 10, but may once again be prioritised, as it was yesterday, when its Second Reading jumped the queue.  The Committee Stage provides an opportunity for the House to make changes to the Bill, and the Minister has already given notice of amendments.

Other business

Apart from the above items, the Order Paper lays out nearly the same programme of work as that listed in Bill Watch 78/2020 [link]:

International Agreements for approval   The Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is due to move motions for the National Assembly’s approval of the following international agreements.  Summaries of both agreements can be found in Bill Watch 78/2020 [link]:

  • Minamata Convention on Mercury [link]   
  • Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Take-note motions on reports of ZHRC and NPA  

Next on the Order Paper are take-note motions by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for:

  • the annual reports of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission [ZHRC] for 2018 and 2019;
  • the ZHRC Report on its National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe [link]; and
  • the annual report for 2019 of the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA].

Bills

  • Forest Amendment Bill [link] – awaiting conclusion of Second Reading debate
  • Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill [link] – awaiting start of Committee Stage and consideration of amendments proposed by Portfolio Committee [link]
  • Constitution of Zimbabwe (No. 2) Bill [link] – Second Reading debate in its early stages
  • Manpower Planning and Development Amendment Bill – awaiting Committee Stage [see above]..

Coming Up During the Rest of the Week: Senate

International Agreements for Approval  Senators will be asked to approve the same two agreements as the National Assembly [see above].

Marriages Bill [link]  The nearly-completed Second Reading stage of this Bill has been stalled in the Senate for several months, awaiting a final response by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to the more or less unanimous objections raised by Senators of all persuasions to the Bill’s failure to make acceptable provision for lobola. 

Motions  Senators also have several partly-debated motions adjourned for further debate: the motion of thanks and loyalty in reply to the President’s speech on 22nd October; the motion on domestic violence; and the condolence motion re the late Senator Perrance Shiri.

SADC Parliamentary Forum Calls for SADC Action to Assist Mozambique

to Counter Armed Terrorist Attacks in Northern Mozambique

The 48th Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum [SADC PF] met virtually on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th January.  During the meeting Parliamentary delegations from all SADC countries unanimously adopted a motion [link] proposed by the Speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Hon Jacob Mudenda, urging SADC to urgently assist Mozambique to stem the violent insurgency and bring relief to the thousands of innocent civilians who are bearing the brunt of these barbaric attacks, which are a serious threat to regional peace and stability and to international peace and security.  Advocate Mudenda is chairperson of the SADC PF Legal Sub-Committee. 

The SADC PF is a regional inter-parliamentary body composed of fourteen parliaments representing over 3500 parliamentarians in the SADC region. These member parliaments are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Forum seeks to bring regional experiences to bear at the national level, to promote best practices in the role of parliaments in regional cooperation and integration as outlined in the SADC Treaty and the Forum Constitution.  Its main aim is to provide a platform for parliaments and parliamentarians to promote and improve regional integration in the SADC region, through parliamentary involvement.

 

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