BILL WATCH 10/2021 - Parliament Makes Limited Progress on Bills

BILL WATCH 10/2021

[27th February 2021]

Both Houses of Parliament Will be Sitting Next Week

This bulletin covers business done in Parliament over the last two weeks.  Both Houses previously had sat briefly only to adjourn  because of the strict lockdown until Tuesday 16th.  [Under the Constitution it is only each House which fixes sitting days, not the Executive].  The Senate sat on Tuesday 16th February and for two subsequent days that week then went into recess until Tuesday 2nd March.  The National Assembly sat during both weeks and will continue next week, from 2nd March. 

In the Senate 16th to 18th February

Bills

In the absence of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the Marriages Bill – the only Bill on the Senate’s Order Paper – was not dealt with.  It, therefore, remains on the Order Paper.

International agreement approved

On Wednesday 17th February the Senate approved the Memorandum of Understanding on the Harmonisation of the Seed Regulatory Framework in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).  This memorandum aims to address regional seed insecurity through integrating small national seed markets into the large SADC seed market. 

Ministerial Statement on National COVID-19 Vaccination Roll Out Programme

On 18th February Vice-President Chiwenga presented the statement.

Motions

No new motions were presented.  Instead, Senators used available time to continue adjourned debates on previously presented motions.

At the end of the week, no Bills having reached the Senate from the National Assembly, the decision was taken to go into recess until 2nd March

In the National Assembly 16th to 25th February

New members sworn in

On 23rd February three new MDC-T party-list MPs were sworn in:

  • Hon Nomvura MGUNI – Bulawayo Metropolitan Province
  • Hon Judith CHIMWANZA – Manicaland Province
  • Hon Base MIRANZI – Mashonaland West Province.

They were filling vacancies caused by the recall of three MDC-A women’s quota proportional representation MPs by the MDC-T and were appointed as MPs with effect from 5th February by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, in terms of section 39 of the Electoral Act, having been nominated by the MDC-T party to fill the vacancies.

Ministerial Statements

National COVID-19 Vaccination Roll Out Programme  On 16th February Vice-President Chiwenga presented this statement.   It is available on the Veritas website [link].

2020 Grade Seven Examinations Results  On 23rd February the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education presented a statement commenting on them.

Announcements

Vacancy  On Tuesday 16th February the Speaker announced the death on 4th February of Hon Lisa Singo, ZANU PF MP for Beitbridge constituency.  MPs observed a minute’s silence in respect of their late colleague.  This vacancy requires a by-election when ZEC resumes conducting elections.

Committee chairpersons  On 16th February  the Speaker announced new chairpersons for two portfolio committees:

Portfolio Committee for Budget, Finance and Economic Development – Hon Dr Nyashanu [the former chair, Hon Mhona is now the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development];

Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade – Hon W. Shamu [the former chair, Hon Paradza is now the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services].

New members of Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO]  On 23rd February the Speaker announced that two new members had been appointed, Hon. Lilian Zemura [Mashonaland East] and Hon. Johnson Madhuku [Bikita East], both ZANU PF.

Reports from the PLC on Statutory Instruments

On 18th February it was announced that the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] had returned:

An Adverse Report on Statutory Instrument 25 of 2021, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) (Standard Scale of Fines) Notice, 2021, gazetted on 25th January.  As the report is not yet available on the Veritas website, we refer readers to Bill Watch 3/2021 of 28th January [link], entitled The New Standard Scale of Fines: A Fine Mess, for a discussion of the legal defects in SI 25 – and the potentially serious consequences if the SI is relied on to impose fines exceeding the limits of the former Standard Scale.

Note: On 19th February Justice Chinamora dismissed an urgent High Court application to interdict reliance on SI 25 by the police and judicial authorities pending a final decision on a substantive application for an order invalidating SI 25.  His judgment in Jarvis & ZimRights v Minister of Justice & Others HH 74-21 is available on the Veritas website [link].

Non-Adverse Reports on all other statutory instruments gazetted during January 2021, i.e., SIs 1 to 36.  

Bills

Only three Bills came up – and they were not completed, so no Bills had been transmitted to the Senate by close of business last Thursday, when the House adjourned to 2nd March:

Centre for Education, Innovation, Research and Development Bill [link]  On 17th February the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development delivered his Second Reading speech explaining the background and objectives of the Bill.  The full speech is available on the Veritas website at this link.  As the Bill’s title suggests – and the Bill itself confirms – the intention of the Bill is to set up another statutory body/parastatal.  No further progress was made.

Pension and Provident Funds Bill [link]  The Minister of Finance and Economic Development presented this Bill to the House on Thursday 18th February.  It was promptly given its formal First Reading and referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for the report on the constitutionality of the Bill that is required by the Constitution.

Forest Amendment Bill [link]  On Wednesday 24th February the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality wound up the Second Reading stage with a comprehensive response to recommendations for amendments made by the Portfolio Committee in its report on the Bill and points raised by MPs during the preceding debate; he accepted some of them.  The Bill was then read for the second time.  The Committee Stage is next, when the Minister, the Portfolio Committee and individual MPs can propose amendments to the Bill; it is listed for 2nd March, but as yet no proposed amendments appear on the Order Paper.  

Committee Reports

Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises   

  • On 16th February Hon Mudiwa presented the committee’s Report on the Consolidated Budget Performance Reports for the Ministry [not yet available on Veritas website].
  • On 23rd February Hon Mudiwa presented the committee’s Report on the Fact-Finding Visits by the Committee to ascertain the level of public service delivery related to Sexual Gender Based Violence [SGVB] and COVID-19 in Zimbabwe [not yet available on Veritas website].

Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development  On Thursday 18th February Hon Mkaratigwa presented the committee’s Report on the Public Hearings on the Petition submitted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association [ZELA].

Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education  On Thursday 25th February Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga presented the committee’s Report on the Field Visits conducted to Selected Schools to Check Compliance with COVID-19 Regulations and the State of Preparedness for the November 2020 Examination in light of the COVID-19 pandemic [not yet available on Veritas website].

Motion on 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence [GBV] adopted

On 25th February Hon Budha-Masara wound up the debate on her motion – originally moved in November 2020 – and the motion was adopted without amendment.  This means, among other things, that the House has formally called on Government (1) to invest in issues of GBV and VAWG [Violence and Women and Girls] through gender-responsive budgeting and (2) to create an enabling environment for data collection and evidence on the subject because there is a need for knowledge and data that will inform responses, policies and budgets.  

Coming up in the Senate Next Week [2nd to 4th March]

Bills

Senators may be disappointed that there are still no Bills on their Order Paper, except for the stalled Marriages Bill; on that Bill, see the note in Bill Watch 8/2021 [link].  The National Assembly has so far failed to complete any Bills and transmit them to the Senate for consideration.

Motions

There are no new motions on the Order Paper.  Motions presented previously and adjourned for further debate may keep Senators occupied until Question Time on Thursday.

Coming up in the National Assembly Next Week [2nd to 4th March]

International Agreements for Approval

There are three such agreements for approval in terms of section 327 of the Constitution [the approval of both Houses is necessary, as section 327 requires “approval by Parliament”, i.e., both Houses of Parliament].  

Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer  See Bill Watch 8/2021 [link] for an explanatory note.

Loan Agreement with Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa [BADEA]  The motion by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development  states that this loan agreement was concluded on 28th August 2020, is to be implemented through the Minister of Health and Child Care, and is related to the Urgent Response Operation to Fight COVID-19.  The amount involved is not stated.

Loan Agreement with the Export-Import Bank of India  The motion by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, states that this loan agreement was concluded on 24th February 2020 and relates to the Hwange Units Thermal Power Station Life Extension Project being implemented by the Zimbabwe Power Company.  The amount involved is not stated.

Bills for Committee Stage

Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill [link] – listed for 2nd March.  See in Bill Watch 8/2021 [link] for more details on this Bill.

Forest Amendment Bill [link] –This is listed for 2nd March, but as yet none of the proposed amendments mentioned during the Second Reading debate [see above] appear on the Order Paper

Bills for Second Reading Stage

Centre for Education, Innovation, Research and Development Bill [link] – for continuation of the Second Reading stage, which is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday 9th March, but the virtual public hearings on the Bill are only scheduled for Monday 1st and Friday 5th March, and the committee will need time after that to finalise the report before presenting it to the House.  

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link] – for continuation/conclusion of Second Reading debate.  MPs have already, on 9th July last year, heard the Minister’s Second Reading speech and the report on the public hearings on the Bill conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs [link].  Some individual MPs have made their contributions.  Last year Veritas issued several Constitution Watches [link] containing detailed critical commentary on this Bill. 

Motions

The section of the National Assembly Order Paper listing motions of various types is formidably large – so large that it will clearly be very difficult for the House to handle all of them satisfactorily in addition to the Bills it is expected to pass.

 

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