BILL WATCH 15-2023 - Two Bills Passed by Senate, None by National Assembly

BILL WATCH 15/2023

[2nd April 2023]

The National Assembly Will Sit this Week from Tuesday 4th April

The Senate Will be in Recess until Tuesday 9th May 2023

Both Houses of Parliament sat last week.  The Senate completed the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill and the Child Justice Bill, both of which were passed without amendments.  At the end of the week’s sittings, the Senate adjourned to Tuesday 9th May. 

In the National Assembly no progress was made on any of the Bills on its fairly long list of waiting Billssee list in Bill Watch 14/2023 [link]Some of these Bills have been carried over from the last session of Parliament.  This coming week, it is to be hoped, it will be possible to return to those Bills, especially the Electoral Amendment Bill, despite the looming Easter Weekend’s public holidays and Independence Day on Tuesday 18th April. 

We start this bulletin with the passing of Bills by the Senate.  After that we deal with the disappointing performance of the National Assembly.

In the Senate Last Week [28th to 30th March]


Judicial Laws Amendment Bill as amended by the National Assembly [link].  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was present to steer the Bill through its remaining stages.  This is the Bill which provides for court cases to be dealt with virtually, subject to appropriate safeguards;  it had been amended in several respects by the National Assembly.  Senators had already given the Bill its Second Reading and started on the Committee Stage.   The Senate resumed the Committee Stage from where it had left off, which was having completed clause 4.  There were no questions or debate and no amendments were made during the remainder of the Committee Stage.  The Third Reading was then given.  This means that Parliament will send the Bill to the President for his assent.  After that it will be gazetted as an Act. 

Child Justice Bill [link]  Next, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs turned to this Bill – which had been passed by the National Assembly entirely without amendment and sent to the Senate in its original form on 15th February.  The Minister started off the Second Reading Stage with a speech carefully explaining the objectives of the Bill: to establish a separate system of child justice that would deal with children from 12 years to 18 years in conflict with the law, with the age of criminal responsibility raised from the present 7 years to 12 years.  

Senators who contributed to the debate which then followed – including Senators Chief Charumbira, Komichi and Moeketsi – expressed fears that the Bill would be importing ideas alien to Zimbabwean culture and might prohibit corporal punishment by parents, saying this would be unacceptable to Zimbabweans.  The Minister then suggested the adjournment of the Second Reading debate to the next day, having assured Senators that the Bill would not interfere with Zimbabwean culture, particularly in respect of reprimanding and/or corporal punishment undisciplined or errant children.  An adjournment would allow Senators time to consider the Bill, which Senator Chief Charumbira said had taken him by surprise – although, as the Minister pointed out, it had been on the Senate Order Paper since 28th February. 

On Wednesday 29th March, Senators continued their contributions to the Second Reading debate – with those who spoke still focussing on the subject of corporal punishment of errant children and the general lack of respect for elders from present-day children.  Senator Chief Chifamba even regretted that the age of majority had ever been lowered from 21 years to 18 years.  The Minister patiently but briefly replied to the debate, repeating his clarification on what the Bill is about:

“It is not about child delinquency but instead, we are saying children should have their own courts different from those subjected to adults. That is what the Bill is all about. There is another Bill coming that is the Children’s Amendment Bill. On that one you can express yourselves as you are doing now.”

The Bill was then given its Second Reading without demur, followed by the Committee Stage devoid of questions and debate and, finally, the Third Reading.  At least Senators had the opportunity to let off steam about the shortcomings of modern children, although this was irrelevant.  The Bill has, therefore, been passed by both Houses of Parliament entirely without amendment and will go to the President for his assent and gazetting as an Act unchanged.  

Other business – motions

Motion on Early Childhood Development [ECD] adopted

On Wednesday 29th March the Senate adopted Senator Mabika’s motion calling on (1) the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to prioritise construction of school infrastructure and recruitment of teachers for ECD and (2) the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to provide adequate financial resources for ECD programmes.

In the National Assembly Last Week [28th to 30th March]

Although the House did not actually tackle any Bills during the week’s sittings, two pieces of business were attended to which may affect progress on Bills:

Mines and Minerals Bill [link] Extension of deadline for PLC report

On Wednesday 29th March the Speaker, back in the chair from his latest visit to Moscow, announced that the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] had requested and granted an extension of the period of 26 business days allowed by Standing Order 33 in which to consider and report on the constitutionality of the Bill.  [A “business day” is defined in Standing Orders as ”any day of the week other than a Saturday, a Sunday or a public holiday”.]  The Bill received its First Reading on 16th February and was immediately referred to the PLC.  The extension means that the PLC has up to an extra 26 business days to complete its report.  The new deadline is Thursday 26th AprilThe Second Reading debate cannot start until the Portfolio Committee Report is available.

Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [link]Committee Stage Amendments

Also on the 29th March amendments proposed to this Bill by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs were detailed in Votes and Proceedings [link].  This suggests that the Portfolio Committee is now ready to report on the public hearings, opening the way for the Second Reading stage to proceed next week. 

Other business

MPs’ accommodation allowance while attending Parliament

Among the points of national interest raised at the beginning of proceedings on Tuesday 28th March was one by Hon Madzimure which has featured as a regular complaint – that of failure to provide MPs with their accommodation allowances, leading to embarrassment when turned away from hotels and some MPs having to sleep in their vehicles.  Hon Madzimure said that this failure explained why the House was empty and explained why provision for virtual sittings was not a workable solution.  The Deputy Speaker agreed that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development should come to the House with a Ministerial statement explaining the situation.

Motion on the President’s SONA at the Opening of the Fifth Session  On Tuesday 28th March, after announcements, members of the National Assembly debated Hon Togarepi’s motion of thanks to the President for his November State of the Nation Address until an earlier than usual adjournment at 3.45 pm.   

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, etc. on Its Benchmarking Visit to Namibia on the Subject of Welfare of Liberation Struggle Liberation Veterans [link]

The whole of the sitting on Thursday 30th March, which lasted until after 5.30 pm, was devoted to the presentation of this report and debate on its recommendations for the improvement of the lot of Zimbabwean war veterans and collaborators.  MPs from all sides of the House praised the report and its recommendations.  Hon Biti in particular was among several Opposition MPs who extolled the report and called for greater respect for veterans of the liberation struggle, including giving them title deeds to the land they were allocated under the land reform programme, payment of pensions in a stable currency, a National Liberation Museum and permanent representation in Parliament through a quota system of seats reserved for veterans

Coming Up in the National Assembly Next Week


The list of Bills awaiting consideration remains the same as the list given at the end of Bill Watch 12/2023 of 7th March [link]

Electoral Amendment Bill [link] for continuation/completion of Second Reading debate.  The Minister’s Second Reading speech and the Portfolio Committee’s report [link] were presented on 2nd February; see Bill Watch 6/2023 [link]The proposed amendments on the Order Paper by Hons Gonese, Hwende and Mushoriwa have been rearranged in the customary clause-by-clause order by Parliament [link].  Comments by Veritas are available [link]. 

Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill [“Patriot Bill”] [link] – for the start of Second Reading stage with the delivery of the Second Reading speech by Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.  The Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was scheduled to adopt its report on this Bill on the morning of Thursday 9th March and it should be ready for presentation to the House after the Minister’s speech.

Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [link] – for continuation of the Second Reading debate.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs delivered his Second Reading speech on 31st January.  As noted above, the report on the Bill’s public hearings by Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ report is likely to be ready for presentation this week.  MPs will be able to make their contributions to the debate on the Bill after the report has been presented.  

Medical Services Amendment Bill [link] – for continuation of Second Reading debate.  There are Committee Stage amendments already on the Order Paper by Hon Dr Labode [link].  The report of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care is on the Veritas website [link].

Insurance and Pensions Commission [IPEC] Amendment Bill [link] – for continuation of Committee Stage from clause 4 and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development has further amendments on the Order Paper [link].

Insurance Bill [link] – for start of the Committee Stage.  There are as yet no proposed amendments on the Order Paper, but proposals are expected on the strength of what was said by MPs during the Second Reading debate.

Public Finance Management Amendment Bill [link] – for start of Second Reading stage.  

Children’s Amendment Bill [link] – for continuation of Second Reading debate.  Veritas commented on this Bill in Bill Watch 23/2022 [link] and drew attention to the probable need to align its provisions to the Child Justice Bill.  As the Child Justice Bill has now been passed by Parliament without amendment [see above], this comment remains applicable.

Labour Amendment Bill [link] – for continuation of MPs contributions to the Second Reading debate.  The Portfolio Committee report on the public hearings was presented in July 2022 and is available on the Veritas website [link].

Electricity Amendment Bill [link] – for start of Second Reading stage.  Veritas has commented twice, in Bill Watch 42/2022 [link] and “further thoughts” in Bill Watch 52/2022 [link].

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