BILL WATCH 24-2023 - Six Bills Now Passed by Parliament Last Week

BILL WATCH 24/2023

[12th June 2023]

Both Houses of Parliament Will Sit This Week

In Parliament 6th to 8th June : Bills Passed by Both Houses

  1. Electricity Amendment Bill
  2. Prisons and Correctional Service Bill
  3. Children’s Amendment Bill
  4. Labour Amendment Bill
  5. Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill
  6. Electoral Amendment Bill


This looks like an impressive number of Bills that the Government managed to get through Parliament in the last three fast-tracking/fast-moving weeks.  Unfortunately, however, this feat was achieved at the expense of constitutionalism and the rule of law.  All six Bills, as passed, are marred by defects which could and should have been attended to by Parliament much earlier – but the Bills were left until the closing weeks of the session [and this Parliament] for reasons known only to Ministers and, perhaps the Chief Whips.  As a result one is left with the impression that all the Bills have been passed with less than the required attention.

Electricity Amendment Bill [not amended by National Assembly] [link]

On Tuesday 6th June this Bill sailed through all its stages in the Senate and was passed.  Senators were enthusiastic about the mandatory penalties.

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.  These defects were eloquently pointed out in the National Assembly to no avail.  They were not even raised in the Senate, which disposed of the Committee Stage without objection or debate.

Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [amended by National Assembly] [link]

On Tuesday 6th June this Bill was taken through all its stages in the Senate.  One of its notable features, mentioned by Senators during the Second Reading debate, is the availability of parole, to be conducted under the supervision of the State Parole Board, to all prisoners except for those under sentence of death, instead of being limited to prisoners serving extended imprisonment only.

Comment:  In view of its greatly extended functions, it is unfortunate that there is a single Parole Board for the whole country.  Bill Watch 16/2023 [link] suggested that each province should have a Parole Board.  [This may have prevented the unfortunate release of some dangerous prisoners under the last Amnesty.]  The same Bill Watch also identified  other defects which were not corrected during the Committee Stage in the National Assembly, including an inconsistency with the Constitution that allows the Minister to make regulations on a subject reserved to the Prisons and Correctional Service Commission.

Children’s Amendment Bill [not amended by National Assembly] [link]

On Wednesday 7th June this Bill sailed easily through all its stages in the Senate.  

Comment:  As in the National Assembly there was no attempt by Senators to remedy the defect that it fails to align the Children’s Act with the Child Justice Bill, which passed through Parliament in March. Veritas drew attention to the implications of this defect in Bill Watch 23/2022 of the 30th May 2022 [link].  

Labour Amendment Bill [amended by National Assembly] [link]

On Wednesday 7th June, this Bill also went through all its stages and was passed without objection from Senators.

An important amendment made to the Bill by the National Assembly was to abolish the right of an employer to terminate a contract of employment by giving notice in terms of section 12(4) of the Labour Act.  It is odd that it was left so long - it was introduced in January 2022 - and was then rushed through.

Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill (“Patriot Bill”) [amended by the National Assembly] [link]

This Bill appeared for the first time on the Senate Order Paper for Wednesday 7th June.  No attempt was made during the Committee Stage to propose remedying the various defects in the Bill listed in Bill Watch 23/2023 [link] and referring to our full analysis of the Bill in Bill Watch 1/2023 of the 11th January 2023 [link].  

Comment:  The Bill that was passed differed only slightly from the original Bill as the result of the minor changes made by the National Assembly to clause 2(3) at the instance of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.  It remains a bad Bill and will become a bad Act if the President assents to it – unconstitutional, in its specification of the death penalty for the new crime of unpatriotic behaviour [Clause 2] and the mandatory sentences for rape without provision for the cases in which “special circumstances” justifying departure from the mandatory minimums are present.  It will curtail freedom of speech and other civil liberties essential to democracy.  The Bill is critiqued in Bill Watch 1/2023 [link].

Electoral Amendment Bill as amended [link]

In the National Assembly  This Bill had ended the previous week under consideration by the PLC for its report on the amendments made by the National Assembly during the Committee Stage.  The PLC’s non-adverse report was announced at the beginning of the sitting on Tuesday 6th June.  But in the absence of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – who was fully occupied in the Senate – there was no further action that afternoon.  

On Wednesday 7th June, however, the Minister was present and the Bill was taken through its final stages, passed and transmitted to the Senate.

In the Senate  The Minister took the Bill through all its stages in the Senate on Thursday 8th June.   Senators did not attempt to propose any amendments during the Committee Stage.  

Comment:  The result of the Government’s handling of this Bill is extremely disappointing.  After an initial rush in mid-December 2022 [First Reading of Bill and non-adverse PLC report] which was cut short by the Christmas and January recess, there were two hasty virtual public hearings on 30th and 31st January followed on 2nd February by the Minister’s Second Reading speech and the presentation of  Portfolio Committee’s report on the public hearings. Then there was a break of over three months until 18th May, when the Minister chose to resume getting the Bill passed by the National Assembly.  Only 5 or 6 of the 40-odd electoral reform amendments that MPs had proposed during the Committee Stage succeeded in being accepted by the Minister and the governing party.  

The Bill contains few, if any, of the electoral reforms recommended by the observer missions that reported on the 2018 elections or the Motlanthe Commission Report into the violence that followed them.

Air Services Agreements with 13 States approved proved by Both Houses

On the motion of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, acting on behalf of the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, both Houses approved Bilateral Air Service Agreements concluded by Zimbabwe with Qatar. Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Mozambique, Jordan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Gambia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Ethiopia and Iran.  Parliament’s approval in terms of section 327 of the Constitution is necessary for the agreements to become binding on Zimbabwe.



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