BILL WATCH 23/2023
[5th June 2023]
Both Houses of Parliament Will Resume from Tuesday 6th June
Status of Bills as at Friday 2nd June 2023
The following list summarises progress made by the National Assembly on Bills during its sittings on Tuesday 30th May, Wednesday 31st May and Thursday 1st June.
Bills passed by National Assembly and Sent to the Senate:
Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [as amended]
Electricity Amendment Bill [link] [no amendments]
Children’s Amendment Bill [link] [no amendments]
Labour Amendment Bill [as amended].
Bills Awaiting PLC Reports on Amendments made by National Assembly:
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill
Electoral Amendment Bill [The Government is proceeding with this Bill, despite the election having been called].
More details about these Bills are given in the following paragraphs. When consolidated versions of the amended Bills become available from Parliament, we hope to put them on the Veritas website.
In the National Assembly 30th May to 1st June
Fast-tracking procedure The fast-tracking of Government business continued during the week and will continue during the coming week. The House dealt with the following Bills:
Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [link]
On Thursday 18th May the House had completed the Committee Stage of this Bill. As a number of amendments had been made in the course of the Committee Stage, the Bill was referred back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the constitutionality of those amendments; this is a constitutional requirement.
On Tuesday 30th May the Deputy Speaker announced that the PLC had given a non-adverse report, meaning that in the PLC’s opinion there was nothing unconstitutional in the amendments. This was the signal for the House to finally adopt the amendments and pass the Bill by giving it its Third Reading. The Bill was then referred to the Senate for consideration.
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill (“Patriot Bill”) [link]
On Tuesday 30th May, after the House had dealt with the Prisons and Correctional Service Bill, the House proceeded with the Second Reading Stage of this Bill. The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, read out the committee’s report on the Bill and the public hearings conducted in February by two teams from the committee; this report is available on the Veritas website [link].
The presentation of the committee’s report was followed by contributions to the Second Reading debate from several Opposition MPs, as well as Hon Mliswa, the Independent MP, and Hons Nduna and Chinotimba of ZANU PF. Hon Biti was the last to speak before the Minister replied to the debate and the Bill was given its Second Reading.
The House then tackled the Committee Stage. The Minister proposed an amendment to the clause creating the crime of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” and Opposition MPs explained their objections to the wording of the clause. When the clause was put to the vote, according to Votes and Proceedings, “great disorder erupted” with disputes as to what precisely had been agreed and whether or not there should be a division. At that point the Minister moved that progress be reported [i.e. that consideration of the clause should be postponed] and the House adjourned at 6.04 pm.
The next day, Wednesday 31st May, the House resumed the Committee Stage of the Bill where it had left off. The Minister repeated the wording of his amendment and, after a formal vote, the amended clause was adopted by 99 votes to 17. The remaining clauses were all adopted without amendment. The Bill was then referred to the PLC for its report on the amendment that was made.
[Comment: Veritas analysed the Bill in Bill Watch 1/2023 of the 11th January 2023 [link] and concluded:
Clause 2 of the Bill, which creates the crime of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe, was unconstitutional in that it allows the death penalty to be imposed in violation of section 48 of the Constitution.
Clause 3 of the Bill, which introduces a mandatory minimum sentence for rape, is unconstitutional because it makes no provision for alternative sentences to be imposed in special circumstances.
Several clauses of the Bill are too vaguely worded.
These defects in the Bill have not been rectified.]
Electricity Amendment Bill [link]
On Wednesday 31st May this Bill sailed through all its stages – from the beginning of the Second Reading stage [Minister’s speech, presentation of Portfolio Committee report [link], contributions by MPs, and the Minister’s reply to the report and contributions], through the Committee Stage [without debate or amendment] and, finally, to its Third Reading. Then the Bill was sent to the Senate.
[Comment: Veritas analysed this Bill in Bill Watch 42/2022 of the 16th September 2022 [link]. We noted that at least one of the mandatory penalties introduced by the Bill is so excessive as to be unconstitutional, and that the Bill contains several drafting errors.
Again, these defects have not been rectified.]
Labour Amendment Bill [link]
On Wednesday 31st May there being no further contributions from MPs to the Second Reading debate, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs briefly wound up the debate and the Bill was given its Second Reading. The House went straight into the Committee Stage, and many clauses were adopted without debate; only two clauses were amended. The House adjourned at 10 pm when it had nearly reached the end of the Bill.
On Thursday 1st June the House completed work on the Bill and another clause was amended. The PLC gave the amendments a non-adverse report later in the sitting. The Bill was then taken quickly through its remaining stages, passed, and sent to the Senate.
Children’s Amendment Bill [link]
On Thursday 1st June this Bill was considered. There was general agreement that it was a good and progressive Bill. It was taken through the remainder of the Second Reading, went through the Committee Stage without objection or amendment and was then passed and sent to the Senate.
[Comment: We examined this Bill in Bill Watch 23/2022 of the 30th May 2022 [link] and pointed out that it fails to align the Children’s Act with the Child Justice Bill, which passed through Parliament in March. The Bill has not been amended to make the necessary alignments.]
Electoral Amendment Bill (with PLC for report on amendments made)
At the end of the previous week’s sittings, the Bill had reached its Committee Stage and all that remained to be considered were the Opposition’s “electoral reform” amendments which had been deferred for later consideration.
On Thursday 1st June the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs decided to resume the Committee Stage, even though the President had published the election proclamation the previous day. As we pointed out in Election Watch 14/2023 [link], publication of the proclamation means that the Bill’s provisions cannot apply to the mid-year general election.
In the resumed Committee Stage only two of the Opposition’s amendments were accepted:
- an amendment allowing voters inspecting the voters roll to take photographs of it, and
- an amendment stating that nomination fees should “not be exorbitant nor inhibitive but reasonable enough to allow an eligible citizen to stand for election for public office”.
All the other amendments were either resisted by the Minister or said by the Minister to be inappropriate at this time or rejected by the House. The amended Bill was then sent to the PLC for its report on the constitutionality of the amendments.
In the Senate 30th May to 1st June
On Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st May the only activity was the debate on Senator Chief Chandu’s motion calling for the improvement in the conditions of service of Government doctors and nurses.
On Thursday 1st June there was the usual Question Time, although there was only one Minister [Hon Mhona, Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development] and a few Deputy Ministers present. The Minister answered questions about rehabilitation of roads and assured Senators that the Ministry was pressing ahead with the project. The Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, in answer to a question about mass drop-outs from schools caused by poverty in certain areas, repeated what had been said many times before: that no pupil should be turned away and sent home from school for failure by the parents to pay school fees, because it was wrong and contrary to Government policy. Headmasters and schools knew it. He mentioned that disciplinary action had already been taken against offending headmasters and called on parents and MPs to report instances of sending home for failure to pay fees.
The Senate then dealt with the international agreements referred to below.
Seven International Agreements Approved by Both Houses
On Thursday 1st June both Houses managed to find time to adopt motions approving seven international agreements to which Zimbabwe should be party, given that it is already a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Some of the agreements are decades old, which gave rise to questions about the Executive’s apparent delay in processing them. The Minister of Energy and Power Development, who moved the motions in both Houses, was not able to explain the delay but assured members that becoming party to the agreements was now appropriate and would “benefit Zimbabwe developmentally”.
The agreements approved were the following:
- Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Atomic Energy Agency 
- Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage 
- Joint Protocol relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention 
- Convention on Nuclear Safety 
- Protocol to amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage .
- Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism 
- Amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material .