BILL WATCH 41/2022
[30th August 2022]
Supplementary Estimates Approved with Amendments on 25th August
Both Houses will Sit Again This Week
This bulletin is an update on what happened in Parliament last week. Both Houses sat on the afternoons of Tuesday 23rd, Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th August, then adjourned until today, Tuesday 30th August.
No Change on PVO Amendment Bill
[Speaker’s Ruling on Validity of Committee Stage Still Awaited]
Bill Watch 40/2022 [link] summed up the position of this Bill at the end of the sitting on 18th August. There were no further developments in the National Assembly sittings on 23rd to 25th August, the Speaker being away on official business. The position, therefore, remains as stated in that bulletin.
Non- Budget Business in the National Assembly 23rd to 25th August
Tuesday 23rd August
Judicial Laws Amendment Bill [link] – Non-Adverse Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] Report An announcement was made at the start of the day’s proceedings that this non-adverse report had been received. The Second Reading stage of this Bill can now start at a time chosen by the responsible Minister, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Condolence motion: Death of Hon Leonard Chikomba With the agreement of the House, several MPs made their contributions to the debate on the motion lamenting the death of the late MP for Gokwe-Kabuyuni. The debate on the condolence motion will continue.
Wednesday 24th August
Health Service Amendment Bill [link] After Question Time but before resumption of Supplementary Business, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Hon Dr Mangwiro, delivered a detailed reply to the report of the Portfolio Committee – which had recommended that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted after full consultations with stakeholders, so as to overcome “its overwhelming rejection by the interested and affected stakeholders” during the public hearings conducted by the committee. The report also provided the following guidance on what the redrafted Bill should strive to achieve:
“… a good law must serve the interest of the people and it must be reasonable, it should not be too harsh or rigid. Thus, the Health Services [sic] Amendment Bill should be recrafted in such a way that it protects the health workers, boosts their morale at work by creating good platforms for negotiations and cordial work relations between the employee and the employer as well as creating an enabling environment for quality health care services in the country.”
The Deputy Minister rejected any suggestion that the Bill had been prepared without consulting stakeholders, saying that consultations with stakeholders had occurred in the first half of 2017 [circumstances have changed since then]. He also said that the Bill sought to align the Health Service Act with section 65(3) of the Constitution, which deals with the right of every employee, except for members of the security services, to participate in “collective job action”, but allows a law to “restrict the exercise of this right in order to maintain an essential service”, and claiming that the Bill merely restricts how long collective job action, e.g. a strike, may last. [Veritas view on this constitutional aspect is referred to in our critical analysis of the Bill in Bill Watch 2/2022 [link].]
The Bill was given its Second Reading immediately after the Deputy Minister’s speech. This means that the Committee Stage may be started at any time, including this week.
Question Time Asked about when Bills providing for devolution could be expected, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs cited the shortage of drafters in the Attorney-General’s Office and said the Attorney-General had been authorised to hire part-time contract drafters to expedite the production of several urgent Bills by the end of the year, mentioning, not only the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils and Urban Councils Bills, but also an Electoral Amendment Bill. [In a press interview published on Sunday 28th August the Minister confirmed his inclusion of the Electoral Amendment Bill among the urgent Bills.]
Thursday 25th August
Petition by the Centre for National Resources Governance [CNRG] about the Environment Management Agency [EMA] monitoring of environmental compliance at Redwing Mine. The Deputy Speaker informed the House that this petition had been deemed admissible and referred to the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development. In it the CNRG asks Parliament to exercise its oversight role on whether EMA is properly executing its statutory mandate of monitoring environmental management and compliance with regulations at the mine.
Budget Business in the National Assembly 23rd to 25th August
Consideration of Supplementary Estimates [link] continued
Not all the Votes are described but they can be read in the Supplementary Estimates at the link above.
Bill Watch 40/2022 [link] ended with MPs having on Thursday the previous week approved Vote No. 1, Office of the President and Cabinet without discussion – and proceedings on Vote 2, Parliament having stalled just before the adjournment at 6.53 pm, with MPs in rebellious mood.
Tuesday 23rd August until 6.53 m There was a late start to the resumption of Budget business – consideration of the Estimates of Expenditure. When it resumed, MPs agreed that Vote 2, Parliament be deferred to give the Minister of Finance and Economic Development time to come up with specific increases in the allocation for Parliament.
Votes 3 , 4 and Votes 5 were approved without amendment.
Vote 6, Office of the Auditor-General increased The Minister agreed to an increase of ZW$ 300 million, taking the supplementary vote to ZW$ 3. 059 billon.
Vote 7 was then completed
Vote 8 a start was made on this vote before the adjournment at 6.53 pm.
Wednesday 24th August until 6.53 pm Having made another late start on the Estimates, MPs approved Votes 8 to 12 before they adjourned, once again at 6.53 pm
Thursday 25th August
Fast-tracking motion approved The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs moved a suspension of Standing Orders that would enable the Government to fast-track the passage of the remainder of Supplementary Budget business, including the Estimates, by sitting after the normal prescribed times, by taking Budget business instead of Question Time on Wednesday, dealing with two or more stages of Bills on the same day, and shortening the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]’s reporting deadlines. The motion was approved, but it proved unnecessary, at least for approval of the Estimates.
Votes 9 to 18 Resuming consideration of the Estimates, MPs made relatively short work of approving these.
Vote 19, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs increased The Minister of Finance and Economic Development conceded an additional ZW$ 1 billion, taking its supplementary vote to ZW$ 19.187 billion. The increase was mainly for improvements to prisons.
Votes 20 to 35 were then approved without amendment.
That left only the deferred vote for Parliament, on which MPs had locked horns with the Minister on Tuesday afternoon. The Minister indulged in some bargaining with MPs but eventually – after consulting his accountants – conceded a massive increase in Parliament’s supplementary vote from the original ZW$ 2.8 billion to ZW$ 15 billion.
Vote 2, Parliament increased
Because the Minister had resolutely refused to increase the total “envelope” for the Supplementary Estimates, it then became necessary to make consequential deductions elsewhere in the Estimates to compensate for the increases for Parliament, the Auditor-General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. He chose to deduct from the contingency provision [unallocated reserve] in his own Vote, thereby reducing his Ministry’s overall vote to ZW$ 111.348 billion. MPs agreed.
Vote 5, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development reduced
Then the necessary Parliamentary formalities followed, culminating in the Minister’s introduction of the Appropriation (Supplementary) (2022) Bill, the Bill’s referral to the PLC, and an early adjournment at 4.20 pm.
In the Senate 23rd to 25th August
There was no Government business for the Senate to consider. Senators, however, filled most of their time on Tuesday and Wednesday debating two reports produced by the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development:
Report on benchmarking visit to Rwanda about women’s participation in public life Senators continued their discussion of this report, which was presented last week.
New report on Status and Welfare of Children Accompanying Incarcerated Mothers in Prisons and Ante-Natal Care for Pregnant Women in Prisons The report deals with the far from satisfactory situation prevailing in prisons and recommends, not only that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, through its Social Welfare Department, should supply suitable food, clothing and sanitary wear for such children, but also that they should have more suitable accommodation, including areas for playing and less crowded cells. [Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service [ZCPS] policy, backed up by the Prisons Act, allows children to stay with mothers until the age of 2 years but where there is no alternative they have been allowed until 4 years old.]
Coming up in Parliament This Week
Budget Bills It is understood that non-adverse PLC reports on the Finance Bill [link] and the Appropriation (Supplementary) (2022) Bill are ready for presentation. The fast-tracking resolution for Supplementary Budget business is still in force. It is possible, therefore, that the Government will want to fast-track both Bills through the National Assembly, leaving the Senate to play its very limited role with regard to these “Money Bills” on Wednesday and Thursday. [
Other Bills The status of the PVO Amendment Bill is as described at the beginning of this bulletin. Several other waiting Bills are listed for consideration in the same order as given in Bill Watch 33/2022 [link].
It is possible that the Health Service Amendment Bill – often wrongly called the Health Services Amendment Bill [there is only one Health Service] – having been given its Second Reading last week, may jump the queue of other Bills.
Assuming the rapid passage of the two Budget Bills by the National Assembly, it is possible that the Senate may be called on to deal with the Bills on Wednesday and Thursday. The Senate cannot amend “Money Bills” like these; it is limited to suggesting amendments for consideration by the National Assembly, and that seldom happens.