BILL WATCH 45/2022
[23rd September 2022]
Status of PVO Bill
Judicial Laws Amendment Bill – Second Reading Stage
Finance Bill – Further Amendments Approved
Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill
Bill Watch 44/2022 of 22nd September [link] covered the Speaker’s ruling on the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill delivered on Tuesday 20th September, which cleared the way for the Bill to be passed [i.e. for the Third Reading Stage] and then sent to the Senate.
On Wednesday and Thursday, however, the Bill was not dealt with. The delay may have been caused by the need to produce a consolidated version of the Bill, with the extensive amendments made by a depleted National Assembly on 26th July. Whatever the explanation for the delay, the Bill remains on the next National Assembly Order Paper, for Tuesday 27th September.
Comment: In both the National Assembly and the Senate, the Third Reading of a Bill is usually a pure formality. Very occasionally there is a bit of debate, with Members summing up their views on the Bill, but usually the Bill is read – i.e. a clerk reads out its title – without any debate at all. It is not, however, against Standing Orders for Members to move amendments to a Bill at the Third Reading stage.
Judicial Laws Amendment Bill
The Second Reading stage of this Bill continued on Thursday 22nd September, the Minister’s Second Reading speech having been presented the previous day as described in Bill Watch 44/2022 [link].
The Report on the public hearings by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was presented by its chairperson, Hon Mutamangira, on Thursday 22nd September. It is a sound report [link], recording all the objections lodged against the Bill by the Law Society and others, including ZLHR and Veritas, which pointed out inconsistencies with the Constitution and calls for clarity on the feasibility of the proposals for virtual hearings of court proceedings in both civil and criminal cases.
Members of the National Assembly then started making their contributions on the Bill. Several had time to make weighty contributions before the House adjourned the debate and turned to other business. MPs who spoke included Hons Mashakada, Mliswa, Togarepi, Biti, Ndebele, Nyathi and Markham, who all raised important points of how it might adversely affect the delivery of justice. The general feeling seemed to be that the Bill is premature, given the uncertain state of connectivity in Zimbabwe. Debate was then adjourned to Tuesday 27th September.
The circumstances that caused the Senate to return the Bill to the National Assembly have already been explained in Bill Watch 43/2022 of 20th September [link] i.e. that the Minister of Finance had requested the Senate to return the Bill to the National Assembly as he wanted to alter clauses dealing with tax bands. This was queried vehemently by MPs and only eventually approved after it became apparent that MPs had misunderstood the nature of the amendments because they had been furnished with the wrong version of Bill. The amended Bill was then sent to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for its report on the constitutionality of the amendments, as required by the Constitution. The Committee had not reported by the end of Thursday’s sitting. The expectation is that it will be a non-adverse report following which the Bill will be immediately passed. It does not in these unusual circumstances have to go back to the Senate. Once passed again by the National Assembly it can be sent to the President for his assent and gazetting as an Act.