Bill Watch 28-2022 - National Assembly's Progress on Bills & Coming up in the Senate Next Week

BILL WATCH 28/2022

[2nd July 2022]

Parliament Has Not Been Sitting This Week

The Senate Adjourned on 15th June and will Sit Again on Tuesday 5th July

The National Assembly Adjourned on 23rd June until Tuesday 12th July

World Parliament Day

Veritas would like to congratulate the Speaker and Parliament on this important day, which was established in 2018 through a United Nations General Assembly Resolution to commemorate the founding of the Inter-Parliamentary Union [IPU as long ago as 1889.  [Our Speaker Hon Jacob Mudenda is now in Montevideo, Uruguay, is attending the 288th Session of the IPU’s Executive Committee].  

By a happy coincidence we can also celebrate two significant events for parliamentarism in Zimbabwe:

·        The completion of the new Parliament Building at Mount Hampden, and Parliament is expected to move to its splendid new premises in the next couple of months.

·        Senator Chief Charumbira’s election as President of the Pan African Parliament [PAP]He has our best wishes for a successful term of office.

In the National Assembly 21st to 23rd June]

Progress on Bills

Copper Control Amendment Bill [link]  On 23rd June the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, on behalf of the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, briefly wound up the Second Reading debate.

The Committee Stage was taken immediately and the only proposed amendment on the Order Paper was moved by Hon Nguluvhe for Hon Mayihlome, without benefit of an explanation for MPs not privy to the reasons for it.  The amendment called for a change to the penalty in the new section 10A of the Copper Control Act appearing in clause 7 of the Bill.  The Minister said the amendment would be inconsistent with the thrust of the Bill as a whole; he explained that the amendment would allow a court to sentence a person convicted to pay a steep fine whereas the other new penalties would require a minimum sentence of imprisonment for offences.  There being no counter-argument put forward by any MP, the amendment was unsuccessfully put to the vote, and so the Committee Stage ended with the Bill have been approved without amendment. 

The Minister then suggested that the Third Reading be given to the Bill immediately.  Hon Chikwinya – somewhat belatedly – objected that the House had erred in rejecting the amendment proposed to clause 7 and requested the re-opening of the Committee Stage to correct the error.  The Temporary Speaker ruled Hon Chikwinya out of order because he was too late with his request, and the Bill was given its Third Reading and sent to the Senate. 

Judicial Laws Amendment Bill [link] presented and referred to PLC

On Tuesday 21st June the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs presented this Bill, which was duly given its First Reading and immediately referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for the report on its consistency or otherwise with the Constitution.  [Standing Order 144(3) provides that without the PLC report the Bill cannot proceed to the Second Reading stage.]

Children’s Amendment Bill [link]

On Wednesday 22nd June the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, on behalf of the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, delivered the Second Reading speech explaining the need for the Bill.  Hon Mpariwa then explained that the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare still had to complete consultations on the Bill with stakeholders and requested a postponement of the Second Reading debate in order to enable the committee’s report on the Bill to be presented.  She added that the committee takes issues of children very seriously and referred to the launch the previous week of Parliament’s Child Rights Caucus.

Child Justice Bill [link]

On Wednesday 22nd June the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, reverting to his capacity as Minister Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Minister responsible for the Bill, delivered his Second Reading speech.  On Thursday 23rd June Hon Mataranyika, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, presented the report on the public hearings on the Bill conducted jointly by the portfolio committee and the Senate’s Thematic Committee on Human Rights; this comprehensive report makes numerous suggestions for improvement of the Bill and is available for downloading on the Veritas website [link].  Comments by Veritas on the Bill are also available [link].

Other Business in the National Assembly 21st to 23rd June

Approval of BIPPAs with Indonesia, Botswana and Singapore on 22nd June

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the three motions on the Order Paper requesting the House to approve Agreements on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments that had been negotiated and signed on behalf of Zimbabwe years ago – with Indonesia (signed 1999), Botswana (signed 2011) and Singapore (signed 2000) [copies still not available].  The House approved the motions without further debate.  As approval by both Houses of Parliament is a necessary constitutional step in the process of making the agreements legally binding on Zimbabwe [Constitution, section 327], the Senate can be expected to deal with the same motions when it resumes sitting next week. 

Portfolio Committee Reports presented Tuesday 21st June

The State of Youth Centres in Zimbabwe  This report was presented by Hon Tongofa on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.  It was compiled after briefings from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and concerned organisations on the “non-functionality of youth centres”, followed by field visits paid to youth centres and recreational parks around the country.  It makes the following recommendations, including: the need for the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation to consider financial investments through Public-Private Partnership for the purposes of upgrading and maintenance of Interact Centres [Youth Centres] by January 31st 2023; the allocation of at least 20% of the total 2023 budget of the Ministry towards refurbishment and maintenance of the existing Interact Centres; local authorities should desist from converting land set aside for Interact Centres for other purposes; there should be tax incentives for companies which support the growth and development of interact centres by 31st December 2022; local authorities must set aside at least 30% budget towards Interact Centres and also 15% from the devolution fund go to youth interact centres by 31 December 2022; and the Ministry should ensure that all interact centres have facilities which cater for people with disabilities by 31st December 2023.

Zimbabwe Digital Migration Project  This detailed report on the lack of progress on the project was presented by Hon Mokone on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services.  The report states that “late disbursement and underfunding of the project has stalled the progress hence the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development should prioritize the funding of the project” and concludes that “as a nation, we are very behind in as far as digitisation is concerned. We are amongst the few Southern African countries that have not digitised fully. The other Southern African countries have done that and we as Zimbabwe can do that.  We can only do it if we get funding from the Treasury, only if Treasury gives us the foreign currency that is required for the completion of this project. So far, out of 42 transmitters, only 18 transmitters have been installed. The project was begun before 2020 and right now we are in 2022 and have only installed 18 transmitters.”  MPs began debating the report immediately and continued on Thursday 23rd June, when the take-note motion was approved.  MPs will, therefore, be expecting a positive response from the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

Motion approved: Urgent Request for a Supplementary Budget devoted solely to water and sanitation

On Thursday 23rd June, Hon Hamauswa wound up the debate on his motion on the water crisis in Zimbabwe [erratic water supply in both urban and rural areas] and the need for the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to present special a Supplementary Budget to deal with it.  The House then approved the motion, which Hon Hamauswa originally presented on 9th June, seconded by Hon Chikwinya. 

Petition for Commission of Inquiry into Pomona Waste Management Agreement

On Wednesday 22nd June the Speaker announced that a petition had been received from the Community Water Alliance for Parliament to appoint a commission of inquiry into the above agreement but had been deemed inadmissible for two reasons: (1) Parliament does not have the power to appoint a commission of inquiry and (2) the matter is before the courts. 

Question Time [Wednesday 22nd June]

Promotion by Government of national languages  Asked about Government policy on teachers being able to teach in the 14 national languages recognised by the Constitution, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development gave a full answer on policy on promotion of the national languages as required by the Constitution.  Students at teachers training colleges had since 2019 been required to be competent in at least three of the 14 languages in addition to their mother tongue; special arrangements had been made for teachers to be trained in sign language at three colleges; the Midlands State University [MSU] National Languages Institute had been set up and is now in its own special building and with its own printing press.  The Minister listed the achievements of the Institute so far, as including translations into all 14 official languages of the complete Constitution of Zimbabwe, educational materials on COVID-19 in 2020 and the National Development Strategy 1 [NDS1]; work in progress includes translations of the Highway Code and techno-scientific text books. 

NOTE ON TRANSLATIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION  In fact Veritas paid for the Ndebele and Shona translations and MSU an Government did the others. All the above translations of the Constitution are available on the Veritas website on the Zimbabwe Constitution webpage [link].  They are translations of the original 2013 text of the Constitution, and do not include amendments made by Acts of Parliament in 2017 and 2021, respectively as these are still sub judice.

Civil penalties for failure by merchants to comply with measures to curb inflation  When replying to a question about wholesalers demanding payment exclusively in US dollars, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development revealed that the Reserve Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit [FIU] had recently checked had recently investigated 28 businesses and discovered that only 11 had been complying with the law that foreign currency from the RBZ auction should charge in local currency or, if they want to accept the USD, must use the auction exchange rate.  The offenders had been blacklisted and penalised by a civil fines levied by the FIU.  MPs queried the effectiveness of civil fines, called for the list of offenders to be provided to Parliament and the publicising of blacklisted businesses to “name and shame” them. 

Hon Gonese suggested that, in addition to providing MPs with the list, the Minister should come back to the House with a Ministerial Statement on the reasons for the widening gap between the official exchange rate and the parallel market rate and the measures to arrest the situation. 

Comment:  As the House adjourned the next day until 12th July before it was possible for the Minister to present any statement, the promised Ministerial Statement will have been pre-empted by the announcements made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development at his press conference on Monday 27th June [link] and the gazetting on the same day of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Exchange Control Act) Regulations, 2022 [SI 118A of 2022] [link]. 

Government procurement of fire tenders for local authorities  Hon Matewu referred to the very recent circular to local authorities by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works notifying them of Government’s acquisition of fire tenders for them under an agreement with the Government of Belarus, to be paid for with devolution funds.  His question was under which law the acquisition had been done.  Hon Chombo, the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Public Works, proved unable to unwilling to answer the question and supplementary questions to the satisfaction of MPs.  Eventually, she was ordered to come back to the House with a full Ministerial Statement on the fire tenders issue, as well as the already promised Statement on the Pomona Waste Management deal.  [As the House stands adjourned until 12th July, the presentation of both statements will be delayed until at least then.]

Coming up in the Senate Next Week

Bills

Although it is not on the Senate Order Paper, the Copper Control Amendment Bill is certain to be brought up.  The Bill was passed by the National Assembly on Thursday 23rd June amidst some confusion [see above].

Approval of International BIPPA Agreements with Indonesia, Botswana and Singapore

Although they, too, are not yet on the Order Paper these three BIPPA agreements, approved by the National Assembly on 22nd June without debate [see above], are certain to be brought before the Senate for its approval. .

Motions

Hon Senator S. Mpofu has a new motion on the Order Paper for Tuesday 5th July concerning the problem of street children.  It calls on the Government to ensure that through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare to assess the root causes and address specific needs of such children so that they do not continue to live in the streets; and to sensitise communities on responsible parenting that embraces a receptive culture towards children living in the streets and ensures that they do not reconsider living in the street having been provided with better places to live.

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