BILL WATCH 19-2023 - Parliament Will Continue Sitting This Week

BILL WATCH 19/2023

[16th May 2023]

Both Houses of Parliament Sitting This Week

On Tuesday 9th May both Houses of Parliament resumed their sittings after their Easter/April recess.  During the week the National Assembly made promising progress on the Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [see below] but did not consider the Electoral Amendment Bill.  The Senate completed its debate on the motion of thanks for the President’s State of the Nation Address delivered in November at the beginning of the current session – but at the end of the week was still waiting for Bills to be sent across from the National Assembly. 

In the National Assembly Last Week [9th to 11th May]

As noted above, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs did not ask the House to continue with the Electoral Amendment Bill [link] which was in its Second Reading Stage before the Assembly adjourned in April.

Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [link] ­­– Committee Stage Begun

On Tuesday 9th May the report on the Bill [and the public hearings held on it ] by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was presented in the House.  The report is available on the Veritas website [link].  It details the generally favourable response to the Bill expressed at the public hearings and in written submissions by individuals and organisations.  The Committee’s conclusion is that the Bill is welcome, making “a commendable effort in legislating for the incarceration, rehabilitation, and re-integration of offenders in line with international standards and trends”, and should be passed, subject to several suggestions made by the Committee which they had put on the Order Paper.  In the non-partisan debate which followed, which continued on Thursday 11th May, both Opposition and ruling party MPs supported the Bill as progressive and commendable, but also raised several suggestions for inclusion into the Bill.

On Thursday, after MPs had finished making their contributions, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs wound up the debate, replying to points made by MPs who had debated and by the Portfolio Committee in their “very good” report. He rejected, “for now”, Hon Biti’s suggestion that prisoners’ rights should include the right to vote, saying that their right to vote was not an absolute right.  On prison conditions, including the need to improve food, infrastructure and living conditions, he agreed that they needed improvement but said these were really budgetary issues.  He assured the House that the Government desire to shift from a purely penal system to a correctional and rehabilitative one.  On parole he agreed to consider refinements; on prisoners being able to enjoy conjugal rights, he cautioned that it was premature to raise this issue before facilities had been improved.  He undertook to consider “pressing issues” during the Committee Stage when the Bill would be considered clause by clause. 

The Bill was then given its Second Reading and the House moved on to the Committee Stage and had dealt with 49 clauses before the House rose for the week.  The Committee Stage will, therefore, resume at clause 50.  Whether the resumption will on Tuesday 16th May remains to be seen.

Mines and Minerals Bill [link] – Adverse report from PLC [link]

On Tuesday 9th May the Speaker announced receipt of an adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC].  On Wednesday 10th May, PLC chairperson Hon Samukange presented the ten-page adverse report before the Committee of the Whole House [CWH] in terms of Standing Order 179 and suggested that MPs needed time to digest it before debating it with a view to deciding whether to accept it wholly or partly; this was accepted.  As things turned out, the CWH was not reconvened and, according to the Order Paper, the debate on the PLC Report is scheduled to take place this week.  After the debate, which must include a reasonable opportunity for the Minister of Mines and Mining Development to defend the constitutionality of the provisions concerned, the CWH will report to the House proper that it has considered the report.  The PLC chairperson will then move a motion that the adverse report be adopted and a vote will be taken without further debate.  If the vote is wholly or partly accepted, the House must not pass the clauses concerned – but the Minister may challenge the legal aspects involved in the Constitutional Court [Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 8(4) to (6)].   So the next step is for the CWH to debate the legal merits of the report.

The adverse report is available on the Veritas website [link].  It explains why the PLC, by a unanimous vote of its five members, views over ten of the many provisions of the Bill as inconsistent with various provisions of the Constitution.  [In addition, the report states that the PLC was unable to scrutinise the Bill comprehensively owing to missing clauses in the text of the Bill, drafting omissions, drafting errors and errors in cross-referencing – the many clauses at fault are all listed in paragraph 12 of the report.]   

Take-Note Motions on 2022 Annual Reports of NPRC and ZHRC

On Thursday 11th May the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs moved two take-note motions on the Annual Reports of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [NPRC] and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission [ZHRC] for last year (2022).  [The NPRC report is available on the Veritas website; the ZHRC’s will be uploaded as soon as it is available.]

On the report Hon Biti referred to the fact that the NPRC would come to the end of the ten years of its constitutional life in August this year and made the point that its task was not nearly complete.  The Minister agreed that the work the NPRC needed to be continued and revealed that the Government’s plan was that the critical functions of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission should be transferred to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.       

He then suggested that debate be postponed in order to give members a chance to read both reports.

In the Senate Last Week [9th to 11th May]

The Senate had a quiet week, there being no Bills for Senators to work on. 

On Tuesday 9th May Senator Tongogara moved the motion on honouring the Abuja Declaration and having a sustainable health care system. 

Also on Tuesday a new Senator Godfrey GIJIMA was sworn in.  After his nomination by ZANU PF to fill the vacancy left by the death of Senator Oliver CHIDAWU, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission appointed him as a Senator with effect from 21st March 2023 in terms of the Constitution and section 39 of the Electoral Act.  The swearing-in required by the Constitution by was delayed by the Senate’s recent six-week recess.

On the following day 10th May Senator S. Mpofu wound up debate on the long-running motion of thanks to the President for November 2022 SONA.  The motion was immediately approved.  The entire sitting lasted only 15 minutes without any debate taking place on any of the several motions on the Order Paper. 

On Thursday 11th May, however, Senators enjoyed a lively Question Time that lasted for nearly two hours.


On the National Assembly Order Paper This Week


The is list follows the Order Paper circulated in advance of last week’s sittings:

Mines and Minerals Bill [link]for debate on the PLC’s Adverse Report in Committee of the Whole House.  This item heads the list of Bills on the Order Paper for consideration.  Whether it is actually accorded priority will depend on the relative urgency attached to the other Bills competing for attention, particularly the Electoral Amendment Bill which is which is the very next item. 

Electoral Amendment Bill [link] for continuation of the Second Reading debate and, probably, the response to the debate by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.  If the Bill is then given its Second Reading, as expected, the Committee Stage is likely to follow immediately or the next day.  Indeed, the Minister may well move that the Bill be fast-tracked in view of its urgency.  The Bill is undoubtedly really urgent because it must be gazetted as an Act before the President formally calls the election  by publishing his election proclamation in the Government Gazette.  The Constitution,  section 157(5) provides that:

After an election has been called, no change to the Electoral Law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purpose of that election.”

The President has said that he will publish the election proclamation before the end of May.  Time is, therefore, very short.

Detailed comments on and criticism of the Bill by Veritas are available on the Veritas website in Election Watch 7/2022 [link] dated 23rd November 2022.

There are proposed Opposition amendments [link] on the Order Paper by Hons Gonese, Hwende and Mushoriwa for the Committee Stage.  Hon Gonese’s amendments have been there since mid-February; Hon Hwende’s and Hon Mushoriwa’s amendments followed a little later.  So the Opposition cannot be accused of delaying the Bill until now.  On the other hand, the Opposition will have justification for complaining if the Government rushes the Bill through Parliament.

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

Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [link] – for continuation of the Committee Stage, going through the Bill clause by clause from where the House left off at the end of last week [see above]

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 proposed amendments are expected, judging by 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, 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].

Take-Note Motions on Annual Reports NPRC and ZHRC for  2022

These items are  items 1 and 2 on the Order Paper for Tuesday 16th May but whether MPs will be ready to debate them is considered unlikely.

On the Senate Order Paper for This Week

There are no Bills on the Order Paper for Tuesday 16th May.

There are, however, two motions that have not previously been moved:

Delegation Report on SADC Parliamentary Forum  in Democratic Republic of Congo
This motion related to the 52nd Plenary Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum held in the DRC from 3rd to 11th December 2022.  It is to be presented by Senator Mohadi, seconded Senator Chief Siansali.

Call for immediate abandonment of current governance system, particularly the electoral system

This motion by Senator Komichi, seconded by Senator Dr Mavetera, challenges the “current divisive and conflictual Western Electoral Systems which created a dualised political landscape” for being an “alien system in both Africa generally and Zimbabwe in particular.  The motion requests the following far-reaching action:

a)     Calls upon the three arms of Government to recommend a Government of National Unity before the 2023 election;

b)     Calls upon Parliament to introduce far reaching reforms in our governance system as a matter of urgency so that political and economic injustices are addressed.

Veritas Bill Tracker

This is a to remind our readers about the “Bill Tracker” feature on the Veritas website. It may be accessed via the menu bar between “Subscribe”  and “Veritas Women” and it gives details of the stages of all Bills with links to relevant documents – texts of Bills, Portfolio Committee Reports – and the progress of Bills through Parliament.



Download Document: