BILL WATCH 13-2023 - No Progress on Backlog of Bills

BILL WATCH 13/2023

[Saturday 11th March 2023]

No Progress on Backlog of Bills

The National Assembly and Senate Adjourned until 21st March  

Only the National Assembly sat this week – on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  At the end of the Thursday sitting the House then adjourned until Tuesday 21st March, when both Houses will resume sitting.  No Bills were considered.  In this bulletin we shall deal with each of the three daily sittings in turn.

Tuesday 7th March 2023

The House sat for only two hours.  The Acting Speaker, Hon Mutomba, was in the chair.  The Leader of Government Business, Hon Ziyambi, was absent, as he had been all the previous week; his absence had been caused by the need to defend Zimbabwe’s human rights record in front of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  

Petitions received and referred to portfolio committees

The Acting Speaker informed the House that two petitions had been received and referred to appropriate portfolio committees:

Petition asking Parliament to protect the rights of persons with disabilities  The petition had been lodged by several organisations representing persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe.  It cited the spirit of the Constitution and international legal instruments to which Zimbabwe is party.  It will be considered by the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Petition Parliament to amend the Pneumonoconiosis Act to cover people living near coal mines  The petition was by the Greater Hwange Residents Trust and seeks health checks for persons suffering from diseases caused by coal dust.  It will be considered by the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development.

Non-adverse PLC report on February statutory instruments  

The Acting Speaker announced receipt of a non-adverse Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] report on all statutory instruments [SIs].  This means that the PLC found nothing in SIs 10-14, 14A and 15-19 to be inconsistent with the Constitution.  The PLC’s opinion does not prevent persons who disagree with it from challenging the validity of the SIs concerned in court.

Approval of loan of US$15 million from the OPEC Fund This loan is for part-financing of the continuing Smallholder Agriculture Cluster Project in Mashonaland Central, East and West, Midlands and Matabeleland North.  Prior Parliamentary approval is for required for this type of loan by section 327(3) of the Constitution.  The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon Chiduwa, moved the motion for approval, stressing that the loan was necessary to fund what remained of the Cluster Project, reminding MPs that the first part-financing loan of US$ 35 million had been approved by Parliament last year.  The loan will still have to be approved by the Senate.

After this, the Acting Speaker, Hon Mutomba, announced that, although Deputy Minister Chiduwa was present, the Committee Stage of the Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill could not proceed because there was no-one available to preside as chairperson of the Committee of the Whole House; Hon Mutomba, as Acting Speaker, was precluded from doing so under Standing Orders.]

Report of Delegation on Bilateral Visit to Parliament of India  

Hon Shamu briefly wound up debate on the take-note motion on this report and his motion was approved.

PAC report on Increasing Failure by Local Authorities to Submit Financial Statements for Audit by Auditor-General The previously adjourned debate continued.  Hon Nyokanhete recommended stiffer penalties for defaulting accounting officers of local authorities [see also below - entry for Thursday]. 

Wednesday 8th March 2023

Wednesday afternoons – after Prayers, announcements and other formal business – are set aside under Standing Orders for two hours of Question Time, followed by time reserved for Private Members’ business. The whole sitting – which lasted nearly three hours – was devoted to Question Time, despite a long list of absentee Ministers announced by the Deputy Speaker. 

Oral questions without notice

MPs took advantage of a rare attendance by Hon Masuka, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement to ask about the conversion of agricultural land under his Ministry – which he said the Ministry was reluctant to surrender – to urban land falling under the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.  He was also questioned about the issue of 99-year leases and said there had been changes of policy involving the Land Commission and the Act under which it operates; he warned that his Ministry wanted to make amendments to the Act to streamline the procedure. 

Hon Chasi asked the Minister of Energy and Power Development whether Zimbabwe had contingency plans against the possibility that ESKOM in South Africa would soon be forced be to cease supplying Zimbabwe with power.  The Minister acknowledged that ESKOM was still supplying 180 megawatts to Zimbabwe, but said that Hwange Unit 7 and 8 would in this month and June, respectively, be producing 300 megawatts each, totalling 600, and that plans to restore Hwange Units 1 to 6 to their full capacity of 920 megawatts were underway.  He promised that ZESA would re-introduce load shedding time-tables once Hwange Units 7 and 8 were functional.  He predicted that by 2030 there would be universal access to electricity for everyone in Zimbabwe.

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Hon Mhona, was asked several questions about the emergency road rehabilitation programme and faulty work by the contractors; and on rehabilitated road surfaces not lasting for long, he agreed with Hon Mayihlome that this was caused by excessive use by heavily laden trucks whose loads should ideally be carried by the National Railways of Zimbabwe, which presently lacked capacity to do so. 

Written questions with notice

Hon Markham’s questions about Kuvimba Mining, ZAMCO and the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe  The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon Chiduwa, was ready with his “answers” to Hon Markham’s seven questions. 

Kuvimba Mining House

Hon Chiduwa revealed that the State’s shareholding in Kuvimba Mining House (Pvt) Ltd totalled 65% through various public entities, including the Government [21.5%] and the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe [6.5%] – which appeared to contradict his later statement [see below] that the Fund was not operational.  The remaining 35% were owned by unnamed private shareholders.  He did not reveal the names of Kuvimba’s directors, but admitted that two unnamed directors had resigned.  As to how Kuvimba had apparently acquired substantial mining assets from the State, Hon Chiduwa admitted that there had been no tender process, but claimed that the acquisition of the assets by Kuvimba had been achieved legally under the “Joint Ventures Act following the provisions of ZIDA”; Hon Markham interjected that the Deputy Minister was merely “sugar-coating” a disposal of assets that should have come to Parliament for approval.  As to the net asset value of Kuvimba and other financial details, he said this information would be available when Kuvimba held its annual general meeting.  These vague answers clearly did not satisfy Hon Markham, but they were all he received.

ZAMCO

This is the subsidiary established by the Reserve Bank several years ago as its special purpose vehicle to acquire non-performing loans [NPLs] from banks in order to rescue the banking sector from collapse.  It was funded by Treasury Bills issued by the Government.  Mr Markham wanted to know the identity of the “ultimate beneficiaries”, i.e., the individuals and companies whose loans/bad debts had been acquired by ZAMCO.  Hon Chiduwa divulged that ZAMCO had ceased operations on completion of its mandate; had fully paid for the Treasury Bills that had funded its operations; 95% of its staff had left; and it was in the process of being finally audited and wound up in terms of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act.  Finally, on the identity of the bank’s customers with the NPLs, he claimed the banks’ “fiduciary relationship” with the customers had been inherited by ZAMCO when it acquired the NPLs.  The identity of the ultimate beneficiaries was, therefore, privileged information which could not be disclosed.  Hon Mushoriwa pointed out both the Counsel to Parliament and the Attorney-General had provided legal opinions to the PAC that ZAMCO was not bound by any such fiduciary relationship and that there was no prohibition on their identity being disclosed 

Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe

Hon Markham’s questions about the Sovereign Wealth Fund were based on the assumption that it was operational.  Hon Chiduwa said that it was not operational, so he could not answer all the questions:

“The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe is established by the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Act [Chapter 22:20] which was gazetted in 2014 and became effective in 2015 through a Statutory Instrument 71 of 2015. Ever since its establishment, the Fund has been relatively dormant with no operational activities or ongoing investments in place. Further, the Fund had not benefitted nor procured any public funds as it has been non-operational.“

On the future of the Fund he said:

“Going forward, Government will work with the Fund to strengthen its operations. Currently, Government is in the process of appointing the Board and Management to enable Operationalisation of the Fund.”

Note:  this seems a contradiction to the answer he gave on Kuvimba shareholders – one of which he said was the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Hon Markham’s question about non-publication of Uchena Report on Urban Land

This question was directed to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who was present but refused to answer it, disclaiming responsibility, and suggested that the question be re-directed to the Minister of Local Government and Public Works instead.  Hon Markham protested in vain and the Temporary Speaker cut short Written Questions with Notice in terms of Standing Order 68, which requires an end to such questions and answers at 5.15 pm.  The House then adjourned until Thursday. 

Comment: It looks as if the Uchena Report is a “hot potato” that no Minister is prepared to handle.  MPs have for some time been calling for a Presidential Question Time, which is allowed [“may”] but not made compulsory [“must”] by section 140(3) of the Constitution. 

Thursday 9th March 2023

The Thursday sitting was even shorter than Tuesday’s.  The adjournment until Tuesday 21st March was at 3.55 pm, 20 minutes short of two hours. 

Electoral Amendment Bill [link] was item 1 on the Order Paper for continuation of the Second Reading debate but debate had to be postponed with the agreement of the House – presumably because the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was not present.

Presentation of Report on Visits to Flagship Infrastructure Projects by Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development

Hon Dr Nyashanu, chairperson of the committee, seconded by Hon Madzimure, presented this report.  It tells of the committee’s visits to the following infrastructure projects:  Beitbridge Modernization Project, Bulawayo Water Works, Gwai Shangani dam and Hwange 7 and 8 Thermal Expansion project.  The report – which is available on the Veritas website [link] – was praised as excellent by Hon Biti during the ensuing debate; he elaborated on the theme in the report that infrastructure projects were costing the country much more than they should be, giving figures to back up his contentions.

Two PAC Reports adopted

Before adjourning until 21st March, the House made short work of the adoption of the PAC reports on the following subjects:

1.   Increasing Failure by Local Authorities to Submit Financial Statements for Audit by Auditor-General;

2.   Analysis of the Auditor-General’s 2020 Report on the Harare City Council [link] – the analysis which highlights that Harare City Council was – and still is – operating without an adequate accounting system.

Bills Still Awaiting Consideration on 21st March 2023

National Assembly

In the light of this week “no progress” on Bills, the list of stalled Bills remains the same as the list as the list given at the end of Bill Watch 12/2023 [link]

Mines and Minerals Bill [linkThe PLC, as at 10th March, had not yet reported on the constitutionality of this Bill, which received its First Reading on 16th February and was immediately referred to the PLC.  This report is required before the Bill may proceed to the Second Reading stage.

Senate

The Senate at the moment has only two Bills listed on its Order Paper, both the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs:

Judicial Laws Amendment Bill as amended [link] – for the continuation of the Committee Stage from clause 4;

Child Justice Bill [link] – for the Minister to start the Second Reading Stage with his speech explaining the Bill, which was not amended at all by the National Assembly.

Download Document: 

Tags: