BILL WATCH 16/2021 - Reports & Questions dealt with but no Bills

BILL WATCH 16/2021

[13th March 2021]

Only the National Assembly Sat This Week

Both Houses are due to Sit Next Week

In the National Assembly 9th, 10th and 11th March

MPs sat until early evening on all three days – 6.15 pm on Tuesday 9th, 6.24 pm on Wednesday 10th and 6.30 pm on Thursday 11th.  The House concentrated on report, motions and question but did little on Bills.

Bills

Pension and Provident Funds Bill  On 11th March the House received the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]’s non-adverse report on this Bill, meaning that the Second Reading stage can now commence and it is listed for Tuesday 16th March.

There was no progress on any of the several other Bills on the Order Paper.

Papers Tabled

ZBC Forensic Audit Report, July 2014  No doubt there will be questions asked of the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services about why this took almost seven years to reach to Parliament.

International Agreement approved

Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer   This agreement was approved on the motion of the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.  It has already been approved by the Senate, so the Government is now able to take the final step to become party to the agreement by lodging an instrument of ratification signed by the President.  

Committee and/or Delegation Reports adopted

The House adopted the following reports:

  • Portfolio Committee Report on the Budget Performance Reports for the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and SMEs Development. 
  • Delegation Report on Fourth International Seminar on Parliamentary Capacity Building and Achievement of SDGs for Developing Countries – held in Beijing, China, from 11th to 19th June 2019.
  • Delegation Report on the November 2020 Extraordinary [virtual] Session of the Governing Council of the International Parliamentary Union

Committee and/or Delegation Reports presented for the first time

There were several of these reports [see list below] and after some contributions from MPs, the debates were adjourned to be continued at later dates.

  • Report on the (virtual) 47th Plenary Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum
  • Report on the State of Vocational Training Centres, the Empower Bank and Sporting Facilities in Zimbabwe [a joint report by the Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and the Thematic Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment]
  • Report on Fourth International Seminar on Parliamentary Capacity Building and Achievement of SDGs for Developing Countries – held in Beijing, China, from 11th to 19th June 2019.
  • Report on the Petition by the Zimbabwe Old People Association’s on Lack of Service Delivery by Chitungwiza and Erosion of Pensions by Inflation [report by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, National Housing and Public Works]
  • Report on Immigration Service Delivery at Border Posts, including during the COVID-19 lockdown period [report by the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services].

Lapsed Motions from Second Session restored to the Order Paper

  • Motion on non-monetary incentives to civil servants – MPs will now be able to continue debating this motion and to hear the Government’s response, if any, from the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
  • Motion for the adoption of the Report of the Privileges Committee on allegations of soliciting bribes raised against four members of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development.  This motion has been dormant for the best part of a year, having  already been responded to by the four MPs concerned.  Other MPs have made their contributions to the debate, giving the impression that the House is unlikely to accept the report and its recommendation that the four MPs should be penalised, not for soliciting bribes as alleged, but for conduct “creating an impression of impropriety”.    

Motions adopted

  • Motion suspending the impending removal from the Order Paper of the motion for an Address in reply to the Presidential Speech.  This suspension will allow further MPs to contribute to this debate, notwithstanding Standing Orders 44 and 107 relating to the removal of motions from the Order Paper after 21 days.  
  • Motion calling for (1) the recapitalisation of the District Development Fund [DDF] and (2) adequate funds to be made available for DDF operations.  The DDF comes under the President’s Office.

Motion presented

Motion calling for an End to Statelessness by 2024  This motion, which has been waiting in the queue for some weeks, was to have been presented by Hon Kindness Paradza, who has since been appointed Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, disqualifying him from pursuing the motion.  Hon Mayihlome stepped into the breach, and presented the motion, seconded by Hon Shamu.  Between them they made a strong case for giving effect to the recommendations listed in the motion – including domestication of international agreements to which Zimbabwe is already party; acceding to and domesticating international agreements which Zimbabwe is not party to; pushing within SADC the SADC Joint Action Plan on the subject; and aligning the Citizenship Act, the Births and Deaths Registration Act and the Immigration Act with the Constitution to address issues of statelessness – all to contribute towards ending statelessness by 2024.

PLC Reports on Statutory Instruments of February

On 11th March the PLC rendered non-adverse reports on all Statutory Instruments all gazetted during February except for:  

47/2021 – Civil Protection (Declaration of State of Disaster: Rural and Urban Areas of Zimbabwe) (Road Infrastructure Network) Notice, 2021 [link]

50/2021 – Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Chiredzi) Notice, 2021 [link]  [This SI was fully discussed in Bill Watch 11/2021 which listed several legal defects in it and described it as hopelessly invalid.  The SI has very recently been “corrected” by SI 63A/2021 [link], but in Veritas view the corrections have not succeeded in validating the SI.]

55/2021 – Income Tax (Rate of Interest) Notice, 2021 [link].

This may mean that the PLC has reservations about, and is considering adverse reports on, the following SIs, subject to the outcome of consultations with the Ministries concerned.

Questions

On 10th March the Speaker and MPs expressed satisfaction with the attendance of Ministers and Deputy Ministers at Question Time.  

Question by Hon Mavhunga on Payment of fines paid under SI 25/2021 before the House vote repealing it  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Ziyambi, said that there would be no refunds of excess amounts paid under the SI between the date of its gazetting on 25th January and the House vote repealing it on 2nd March.  That was so, he said, because until 2nd March the SI had been the law.

Comment:  Bill Watch 12/2021 of 3rd March 2021 [link] expresses a different opinion – that the SI was improperly issued and was illegal from the outset, although we also concluded that anyone wanting fines refunded would probably have to go to court.

Question by Hon Mpariwa:  “When will Government ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance?”  Minister was on even shakier ground when he summarily dismissed Hon Mpariwa’s carefully worded question, with the response: “ .. the protocol [sic] was ratified [sic] here in Parliament. We ratified [sic] it in this session [sic] of Parliament.  So I am not sure why the Hon. Member thinks we need to do it again.”  Hon Mpariwa’s question was sound and justified.  In fact, this important Charter was approved by both Houses of Parliament in terms of section 327 of the Constitution in March 2019 – not in “this session”, which only began in October 2020 – and the Government has for the best part of two years failed to deposit an instrument of ratification with the African Union.  The deposit of an instrument of ratification signed by the President is the essential last step needed before Zimbabwe becomes a State party to the Charter and legally bound by its provisions.  Parliament’s approval of the Charter was an essential preliminary, but did not render the deposit of the instrument of ratification unnecessary.  Note: The African Union website Status List for the Charter confirms that Zimbabwe signed the Charter on 21st March 2018, but shows that ratification has not taken place to date [link].

Hon Mpariwa deserves a proper answer to her question.  As she mentioned, the 2023 elections are only two years away.  If the answer is “Not now” or “Not before the 2023 elections” or “Never”, MPs and Zimbabweans in general will be entitled to know why.    

Missing Persons Act  On 9th March Hon Mliswa raised a question about this Act as a point of privilege.  He raised the case of Itai Dzamara, whose disappearance occurred on the 9th March 2015 and has been the subject of questions in the House on numerous occasions since.  He mentioned the agony of the Dzamara family and other families in the same predicament and suggested that the Ministry of Home Affairs should be using the Missing Persons Act to assist them.  The Speaker undertook to communicate with the Minister of Home Affairs.

 

A separate bulletin will follow with coverage of what is likely to come up in Parliament next week

 

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