BILL WATCH 14/2021
[9th March 2021]
Both Houses Sat Last Week
Only the National Assembly Will be Sitting This Week
In the National Assembly Last Week, 2nd to 4th March
It was a very busy week for the House. This was partly because many hours were spent on debating a ZANU PF motion that the House should enact a “Patriotic Bill”.
Service Delivery related to Sexual and Gender Based Violence [link] On 4th March Hon Nyoni, Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, made this Ministerial Statement in response to the report of the portfolio committee on its fact-finding visits to various Ministry outposts. This is the statement that has attracted headlines in the print media for its alarming statistics on teenage pregnancies and rapes of girls under 18. After the Minister’s statement and a brief question and answer session, the committee’s report was adopted by the House.
On 2nd March the Speaker announced the assignment by the “MDC-Alliance” – the name the Speaker now uses to describe the organisation headed by Senator Mwonzora and formerly Hon Thokozani Khupe – of its new MPs to various portfolio committees.
Adverse Report on New Standard Scale of Fines adopted
On 2nd March the National Assembly adopted the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]’s adverse report on SI 25/2021, after the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs conceded that new Standard Scale of Fines had not been first approved by Parliament, as required by the Criminal Law Code. This marked the culmination of a process started by Veritas with Bill Watch 3/2021 [link], which identified the legal defects in the SI. The effect of this vote by the National Assembly has already been explained in detail in Bill Watch 12/2021 [link].
None of the Bills on the Order Paper was brought up for debate. All will, therefore, feature on the Order Paper for this week [see below]. Instead the House focussed on other business.
Two International Loan Agreements approved
On 4th March the Minister of Finance and Economic Development secured the House’s approval of the following loans by:
1) Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) This loan was concluded on 28th August 2020 and relates to the Urgent Response Operation to Fight COVID-19, to be implemented through the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The amount is US$ 10 million at a concessionary interest rate and it will be used to procure diagnostic equipment, medical supplies, laboratory equipment, medicines, possibly vaccines.
2) Export-Import Bank of India This loan 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 is US$ 310 million, also at a concessionary interest rate. MPs questioned the Minister closely on the merits of extending the life of Hwange Power Station as opposed to opting for an entirely new replacement.
Committee Reports presented
Emissions of pollutants by Steel Brands ((Pvt) Ltd in Houghton Park On 3rd March Hon Musarurwa presented the report of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate and Tourism on this subject. The report condemns the authorities that originally approved the setting up of this heavy industry in a residential area, apparently under pressure from “higher up”, and the company itself for serious breaches of the environmental legislation and endangering the health of surrounding residents. MPs expressed outrage about the situation revealed in the report, endorsed its recommendation for the industry to be relocated by the end of 2021 and called for an investigation into how the prospect of export earnings had been used to usurp the rights of residents.
State of Independent Power Production in Zimbabwe On 4th March Hon Gabbuza presented the report of the Portfolio Committee on Energy and Power Development.
[Reports to be posted on Veritas website in due course.]
Accelerated motion presented on need for a “Patriotic Bill”
After the opening preliminaries on 2nd March, the House adopted a motion by the Leader of Government Business and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Ziyambi Ziyambi, for a substantial departure from the Order Paper for a debate on a possible Patriotic Bill. The debate will be summarised in a separate Bill Watch 15/2021 of 9th March.
Previous motion adopted
Basic Education Assistance Module [BEAM] On 3rd March the House adopted Hon Josiah Sithole’s motion for the improvement of the BEAM Programme.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week [9th to 11th March]
Only the National Assembly will be sitting this week.
International Agreements for Approval
Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the only agreement listed so far. See Bill Watch 8/2021 [link] for an explanatory note.
Take-note Motions on Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Reports
Annual Reports for 2018 and 2019 These reports have been on the Order Paper since December last year.
Report on National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe [link] This is a very important report on access to birth certificates and other identity documents.
Bills for Committee Stage
Forest Amendment Bill [link] –This is listed for 9th March, but, once again, none of the potential amendments mentioned during the Second Reading debate is 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. The next step is presentation of the Portfolio Committee’s report on the Bill and the public hearings on it held last week; progress this week will, therefore, depend on whether the report can be finalised in time for presentation.
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. Several Constitution Watches containing detailed critical commentary on this Bill, and Veritas’ submissions to the Portfolio Committee, are available on the Veritas website.
Note: When will the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, after a long hiatus, resume proceedings on this Bill on behalf of the Government? In the National Assembly on 4th March – in response to a point of privilege raised by Hon Mliswa concerning the Budget’s allocation of funds for devolution when provincial councils are still not operational – expressed guarded optimism that “any day now (the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill) will be tabled to the House to correct the situation” which Hon Mliswa had mentioned.
The Order Paper lists about twenty unpresented motions waiting to be presented, including: motions for the restoration to the Order Paper of adjourned debates from the last session on which MPs apparently wish to say more or to hear what the Ministers concerned may have to say in response to points made; a number of take-note motions presenting as yet unpresented committee and delegation reports; and motions calling for changes to existing laws or policies, such as the motion on statelessness and the right to a nationality and the motion on the crisis in public education, both mentioned in Bill Watch 8/2021 [link]. As always with backlogs, there is the risk that valuable recommendations in reports will go unconsidered and lose their topicality.
In the Senate Last Week, 2nd to 4th March
The Senate met at 2.30 pm on each of these three days and sat until 3.53 pm on Tuesday, 3.20 pm on Wednesday and until 3.58 pm on Thursday. The short sittings compare unfavourably with those of the National Assembly on the same days – which started at 2.15 pm and lasted until 6.45 pm on Tuesday, 6.27 pm on Wednesday and 6.49 pm on Thursday. There was some Government business on the daily Senate Order Papers for the week, but the responsible Ministers did not use the opportunity to bring it up. Perhaps it was having had nothing much to do – and no real prospect of new Government business in the coming week – that prompted Senators to adjourn for twelve days until Tuesday 16th March.
No Bills came up from the National Assembly.
There was no progress on either the Marriages Bill or the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill, 2017 – for details about the delays on these Bills see Bill Watch 8/2021 [link].
Domestic violence On 2nd March Hon A. Dube wound up the debate on his motion on domestic violence and thanked Senators for their overwhelming support. The motion was then put to the vote and agreed to; it calls on law enforcement agents to strictly enforce law on domestic violence and bring all culprits to book and on Parliament to legislate for stiffer penalties to deal with domestic violence.
Condolence motion re Late Senator Perrance Shiri Also on 2nd March Senator Tongogara wound up debate on this motion and it was adopted.
Motion on President’s Speech opening the Session On 3rd March there was procedural confusion on whether the debate on this motion was about to expire in terms of Standing Orders, with Chief Charumbira and other Senators still wishing to contribute but apparently not able to do so on the spot. No authoritative answer having been given, the debate was adjourned.
Question Time [Thursday]
Questions without Notice, i.e., about Government policy, took up most of the sitting. The Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities, Hon Garwe, and the new Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Hon Mhona, were the main targets of Senators’ questions. Hon Garwe fielded questions about irregular and illegal settlements in wetlands and elsewhere, and drew attention to a ground-breaking ceremony in Mbare the previous day, 3rd March, for high-rise blocks of flats intended to accommodate people displaced by floods. Hon Mhona explained the thinking behind the President’s declaration that the condition of the country’s “road infrastructure network” is a state of disaster and how the Ministry proposed to tackle the task of rehabilitation it entrusted to it by the statutory instrument concerned – the Civil Protection (Declaration of State of Disaster - Rural and Urban Areas of Zimbabwe) (Road Infrastructure Network) Notice, SI 47/2021 [link].