BILL WATCH 06/2022 - Parliament Reopening: Acts of 2021: Universities Bill

BILL WATCH 6/2022

[12th February 2022]

Both Houses of Parliament will Re-open Tuesday 15th February

List of Acts of 2021

The Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill

In the last bulletin of 2021 [link] we noted the passing by Parliament of the Appropriation (2022) Bill and the Finance Bill and correctly predicted that they would probably be gazetted as Acts before the end of 2021.  This bulletin describes these Acts briefly and also gives a complete list of all the Acts of 2021.  It also has a brief section on the only Bill gazetted since the beginning of 2022 – the Amendment of State Universities Acts Bill.

Two Acts – Appropriation (2022) Act, 2021, and Finance Act, 2021

Appropriation (2022) Act, 2021 (No. 6 of 2021) [link]

This Act appropriates the sums of money to be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund [CRF] for the funding of Parliament, Ministries and other Budget entities in accordance with the Estimates of Expenditure for 2022 approved by the National Assembly on 9th December 2021.  [Mistakes in this Act were corrected by the Law Reviser by SI 15/2022 [link] of 21st January made in terms of the Statute Law Compilation and Revision Act.]

Finance Act, 2021 (No. 7 of 2021) [link]

This Act gives effect to the proposals set out by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development in the 2022 National Budget Statement [link], including changes to the tax laws re income tax, capital gains tax, value added tax [VAT], estate duty, customs and excise, the operations of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority [ZIMRA], mining royalties and fuel levies. 

It also provides for the following important matters:

·        Civil penalties for exchange control offences  A comprehensive replacement of previous provisions.  

·        Banking Act amendments  The Banking Act has for the past year provided for the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to declare specified areas to be International Financial Services Centres [IFSCs].  The present amendments are supplementary provisions about IFSCs and their governance by an IFSC Authority.  The Minister of Finance and Economic Development promptly followed these amendments with a notice declaring the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone to be Zimbabwe’s first International Financial Services Centre [IFSC] with effect from the 7th January – see SI 4/2022 of that date [link].   

·        A Chapter headed “Blocked Funds Resolution” which deals with the assumption by the State of liability for settling foreign currency debts owed by the Reserve Bank to foreign creditors – these are debts incurred by Zimbabwean companies that remained unpaid because the Reserve Bank was unable to repatriate the foreign currency required for payment.  The amount involved is US$ 3.4 billion; it is included in the statement of Public Debt tabled by the Minister when presenting the 2022 Budget on 25th November 2021.  The objective of the assumption of debt is to give the Reserve Bank a “sound” balance sheet.  The Minister mentioned the subject in his Budget speech of 25th November but left MPs with the impression that a separate Debt Assumption Bill would be introduced early in 2022.  Opposition MPs were, therefore, surprised to find this Chapter in the departmental draft of the Finance Bill which they first saw on 7th December and in the official Finance Bill they received only two days later.  Although they protested, the Bill was rushed through the National Assembly the same day.  As for how the Government intends to pay this huge debt, according to the National Assembly Hansard for 25th November the Minister stated that payment will be achieved “through issuance of long-term Government securities”.

Gazetting of Acts of 2021 now complete

The gazetting of the above two Acts on the 31st December 2021 completed the gazetting as Acts of all Bills finally passed by Parliament during 2021.  The following table gives the complete list of the Acts of 2021.

ACTS OF 2021

Act No.

Title

Date gazetted

Date into
force

---

No Act No. 1 passed or gazetted

---

---

2

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Act, 2021 [link]

7 May 2021

7 May 2021

3

Education, Innovation, Research and Development Centre Act [Chapter 25:34] [link]

3 September 2021

3 September 2021

4

Forest Amendment Act, 2021 [link]

3 December 2021

3 December 2021

5

Data Protection Act [Chapter 11:22] [link]

3 December 2021

3 December 2021

6

Appropriation (2022) Act, 2021 [link]

31 December 2021

31 December 2021

7

Finance Act, 2021 [link]

31 December 2021

31 December 2021

 

Why is Act No. 1 of 2021 missing?

A curious feature of the list is that there is no Act No. 1.  This absence is probably the result of an administrative error reserving the space for “Act No. 1 of 2021” in anticipation of a second publication of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Act of 2017 after the Senate’s successful Third Reading of the Bill for that Act on 6th April 2021.  This vote was by an undoubted two-thirds majority, unlike the miscalculated vote of 2017, which the Constitutional Court invalidated nearly three years after the gazetting of the resulting Act [link] on 31st March 2020.  The court ruled that the 53 affirmative votes, officially accepted in 2017 as sufficient, had been one vote short of the required two-thirds majority of the 80-member Senate.  But the court’s order of invalidity was subject to a condition that it would not come into effect if the Senate managed by a stated deadline (later extended by the court) to approve the Third Reading by a sufficient majority on a second attempt [this was done].  As explained in Constitution Watch 2/2021 [link] the Act was not re-published because the Government took the view that republication was unnecessary as the  Senate’s vote of 6th April had, by virtue of its satisfaction of the court’s condition, automatically validated the Act’s original gazetting as Act No. 10 of 2017.  [The correctness of this view is being challenged in a case in the Constitutional Court which may be heard next month.]

The Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill

This Bill [link] was gazetted on 7th January.  Veritas summarised and critically commented on the Bill in Bill Watch 3/2022 of 3rd February 2022 [link].  Our conclusion was that the Bill is deeply flawed because it does not wholly succeed in any of the objectives set out in its memorandum, and fails completely in what is perhaps the most important one, namely, bringing the State University Acts into conformity with the Constitution’s protection of academic freedom.

Academic freedom is protected by section 61 of the Constitution.  Section 61 expressly entrenches “academic freedom” as a fundamental human right under the general heading of freedom of expression.  As Bill Watch 3/2022 points out at some length, all the Acts to be amended by the Bill not only fail to mention academic freedom but also contain provisions for government control that are inconsistent with university autonomy.  The Bill does nothing to remedy this situation.  It even adds further provisions extending Government control over important university staff appointments.

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