BILL WATCH 63/2020
[29th September 2020]
Both the Senate and the National Assembly are Sitting This Week
Fast-Tracking to Apply to All Government Business This Week
Fast-tracking will apply this week to all Bills and all other Government business in both Houses. This is in accordance with resolutions approved by both Houses in recent sittings.
Coming Up in the National Assembly This Week
Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill [link] Committee Stage continuing
For Veritas commentary on this Bill see Bill Watch 62/2020 [link]. Still facing the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who is steering the Bill through the National Assembly, is the task of persuading the House to approve a totally new and very lengthy clause 28 headed Conditions under which Commission may Allow Self-Regulation of Media Practitioners with respect to Complaints Against Them. During last week’s proceedings some MPs indicated they were not entirely happy with this clause. The new clause is available on the Veritas website [link].
Forest Amendment Bill [link] for start of Second Reading stage
Financial Adjustments Bill [link] for start of Second Reading stage
For Veritas comments on this Bill see Bill Watch 66/2019 [link]. The Public Accounts Committee [PAC] has made several unsuccessful attempts to secure evidence on this Bill from the Permanent Secretary for Finance and Economic Development, the latest last Monday – he has repeatedly not turned up and PAC have asked for Parliament to issue a subpoena. It was a PAC report in 2019 on several years’ worth of unauthorised Government expenditure, amounting to billions of US dollars, that necessitated this Bill. As the Bill is asking for condonation of these billions of US dollars, without producing full information on how the debts were run up, the debate on the Bill is likely to be stormy.
Cyber Security & Data Protection Bill [link] for continuation of Second Reading debate.
For the Second Reading debate so far, see below [In the National Assembly Last Week]. Ministers have stressed the urgency of the Bill.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link] for continuation of Second Reading debate
Belated approval of BIPPAs in terms of section 327 of Constitution
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has motions seeking the National Assembly’s approval of Agreements on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments, four of them signed by Zimbabwe twenty years ago or more [dates of signing by Zimbabwe in brackets]. The agreements are with the following States.
1. Korea (2010)
2. Czech Republic (1999)
3. Kingdom of Sweden (1997)
4. United Arab Emirates (2018)
5. Kingdom of Thailand (2000)
6. United Arab Emirates (1999).
Unpresented committee/delegation reports and uncompleted debates on members’ motions
There are numerous such items on the Order Paper, including the customary motion thanking the President for his speech at the opening of the present session on 1st October 2019.
Coming Up in the Senate This Week
The Senate has only two Bills on the its Order Paper for this week. They are:
Marriages Bill [as amended by the National Assembly]
The Senate is still waiting for a response by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to the Second Reading debate. Chiefs and many other Senators have expressed their disappointment that the Bill does not expressly recognise the importance of lobola in customary marriages, even where couples and their families choose to observe and comply with the tradition. Further developments are awaited with great interest.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill, 2017: Repeat of Third Reading Vote
The complex background to this item is explained in Bill Watch 27/2020 of 13th May [link]. Suffice it to say, the purpose of repeating a vote, first conducted over three years ago, is to see whether the Senate can muster 54 affirmative votes instead of the 53 affirmative votes mustered in 2017. This is required by the Constitutional Court ruling on 31st March which declared the 2017 vote null and void on the ground that 53 yes votes were not sufficient to pass the Bill, being fewer than the 54 yes votes required by section 328(5) of the Constitution to pass a constitutional bill. The Court ruling allowed Parliament 180 days from 31st March 2020 to conduct a valid vote, “failing which the declaration of nullity would come into force”.
Day 180 from 31st March was Sunday 27th September, so the declaration of nullity has already come into operation. This means the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.1) Act is null and void.
In the National Assembly Last Week
A new vacancy in the House
On 23rd September the Speaker formally announced the death on 12th September of Hon Patrick Chidakwa, ZANU PF MP for the Marondera East constituency.
Auditor-General’s Reports Tabled by the Speaker
On Tuesday 22nd September the Speaker tabled the following four reports by the Auditor-General. He explained that he was doing so in terms of the Audit Office Act because the Auditor-General had reported that the Ministers concerned had failed to carry out their obligations under the Act to table the reports before Parliament.
1. Monitoring by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of the Quality of Goods being Imported into the Country
2. Support of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation
3. Management of Occupation Health and Safety in Mining Operations by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development
4. Management of Sewerage Systems by Urban Local Authorities under the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Motions on deaths of Hon Masango Matambanadzo and Hon Senator Perrance Shiri
Much of the rest of the sitting on Tuesday was taken up by MPs’ contributions to the debates on these two motions, both moved by Hon Mliswa.
Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill [link]
The Second Reading stage started on Wednesday 23rd September after Question Time. The introductory speech by the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services was followed by the presentation of a Joint Committees’ report on the Bill [link]. Debate continued the following day with one contribution from the floor. More MPs are likely to wish to contribute to the debate, which is listed to continue this week.
Liaison and Coordination Committee Report on First Session
Also on Wednesday, this report was adopted. It had been presented previously by ZANU PF Chief Whip, Hon Togarepi, and had attracted several contributions from MPs eager with suggestions for the more efficient conduct of Parliamentary business.
Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill [link] – Committee Stage begun
National Assembly business on Thursday 24th September began with the start of the Committee Stage of this Bill. Before the lengthy proposed amendments already on the Order Paper [link] were reached, the Minister eventually accepted MPs’ fervent objections to the Commission being able to ask for police assistance in their investigations, and clause 10(4) to that effect was deleted. Also deleted after MPs protested against it, was clause 13(2). And the Minister accepted, and the House approved, Hon Biti’s suggestion that the word “or” be inserted after the words “if it thinks fit” in clause 15(1) conferring the Commission’s powers to institute or participate in court proceedings for redress of violations of the Act.
The House also approved the insertion of a new Part V, after Part IV, providing for a Media Fund and containing new clauses 20 to 26. The provisions for the Media Fund – to be funded partly by annual levies payable by mass media owners under the new clause 24 – come more or less straight from the now repealed AIPPA.
Before the remaining [and potentially controversial] part of the Committee Stage was postponed to 29th September, the House approved the addition to the original clause 20 [now renumbered 27] of two subclauses (4) and (5) requiring the Commission to submit general annual and special “particular” reports to Parliament through the responsible Minister.
In the Senate Last Week
Bills Senators were not called on to deal with either of the two Bills still on their Order Paper. Both these important Bills head the Order Paper for Tuesday 29th September [see above].
Senator Mohadi introduced a take-note motion on the Report of 46th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum at Swakopmund in December 2019.
Teenagers discharged from Child Care Facilities Senator Tongogara introduced her motion calling on the Government to partner with other stakeholders and the private sector to alleviate the challenges faced by teenagers discharged, without proper preparation, from Child Care Facilities on attaining 18 years of age
Motions adopted On Wednesday 23rd September Senators voted to adopt four take-note motions on reports of Parliamentary delegations to meetings in far-flung destinations: Iceland [for the Women Political Leaders Global Forum, in November 2019) ; Bali, Indonesia 9for a World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development Goals in September 2019]; Bangui, Central African Republic [for a meeting of the African Parliamentary Union in June 2019]; St Petersburg, Russia [for the 2019 St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2019].
National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [NPRC]: Annual Reports On Thursday 24th September Vice-President Mohadi presented the NPRC’s Annual Reports for 2018 and 2019. Senators then started debate on both reports. Senator chiefs said that conflict between miners and farmers in their areas needed resolution by the NPRC.