Bill Watch 07-2024 - Parliamentary Update- Last Week and Coming Up in Parliament This Week

BILL WATCH 7/2024

[10th March 2024]

Both Houses Will Continue Sitting on Tuesday 12th March 

This bulletin covers what happened in both Houses of Parliament last week (i.e. on the sitting days Tuesday 5th to Thursday 7th March) and what can realistically be expected to happen this week (i.e., on the sitting days Tuesday 12th to Thursday 14th March).

Swearing-in of New CCC Party-List MPs 

Last week, following Parliament’s receipt of official notification by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC], new CCC members of Parliament were sworn in.  The appointments were also published in the Government Gazette by ZEC in General Notices 292 [link] and 291 [link].  

National Assembly (5) 

Five new CCC party-list women’s quota MPs were sworn in on Tuesday 5th March:

Bulawayo Metropolitan Province – Sikhuphukile Dube, Nomvula Mguni, Lungile Ncube and Otilia Sibanda;

Matabeleland South Province – Sibongile Maphosa.

Senate (9)

Eight of the new Senators were sworn in on Tuesday 5th March and the ninth and last, Hon Mdhluri, on Wednesday 6th March:

Bulawayo Metropolitan Province – Kucaca Ivumile Phulu, Lilian Mlilo, Linda Sibanda and Collet Ndhlovu;

Manicaland Province – Maxwell Mdhluri;

Masvingo Province – Sam Chapfudza; 

Matabeleland North Province – Teresa Kabondo, Sengezo Tshabangu and Grace Mumpande.

Three Bills Read the First Time and Sent to PLC

On Thursday 7th March the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs presented a motion to suspend Standing Order 142(1) – which requires at least 14 days between the gazetting of a Bill and its introduction in the House – in respect of three Bills gazetted only three days previously.  The motion was approved.  The Bills were then introduced by the Minister, were given their First Readings and were referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] in the following order: 

·      Criminal Laws Amendment (Protection of Children and Young Persons) Bill [link];

·      Administration of Estates Amendment Bill [link];

·      Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill [link].

Comment:  The suspension of Standing Order 142(1) is normally regarded as indicating that the Government views the Bills concerned as urgent.  We have commented on the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill in Bill Watches 5/2024 [linkand 6/2024 [link].  Our analysis and comments on the other two Bills will follow shortly. 

Parliamentary Friendship Associations with Sister Parliaments

In both Houses last week there were announcements about the establishment of Parliamentary Friendship Associations with sister Parliaments in Turkiye, Russia, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, India and Egypt, and the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s call for members who wish to join the associations.  The associations will be named as ZIM-Turkey, ZIM-Russia, etc.  Membership will be limited to 15 MPs per association.

In the National Assembly from 5th to 7th March

Tuesday 5th March

New motion to improve conditions of service of local authority councillors  Hon Jere, seconded by Hon Karimetsanga-Nyamupinga, introduced this motion and pleaded for councillors, who he said were the foot soldiers of the country’s development, to be paid regular salaries and other benefits, rather than paltry allowances, although the allowances had been recently reviewed.  MPs who made contributions generally spoke in favour of councillors getting better conditions of service, pointing out that they were responsible for overseeing well-paid council officials.  One Hon Member urged councillors to start money-making projects to raise income for councils, allowing them to pay their way.  The debate was adjourned and continued on the 7th March.

Meanwhile, the long-running debate on the ZEC report on the 2023 elections continued its partisan course with frequent interruptions for points of order from both sides of the House.  The debate was adjourned and will be continued.

Wednesday 6th March – Question Time

There was the usual Wednesday afternoon problem of a long list of absentee Ministers and Deputy Ministers who had sent in their apologies in advance.  But in an unusual turn of events saw extended Question Times without Notice lasting until long after 4 pm and Written Questions with Notice lasting until the adjournment at the end of the sitting at 6 pm, which at least reduced the backlog of written questions. 

Questions without Notice featured MPs trying to get the Deputy Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to reveal the expected date of the now overdue Monetary Policy Statement [MPS] on the strength of questions about Government departments such as VID insisting on payment for services in US dollars.  The Deputy Minister said this was illegal, that – departments and parastatals that insist on payment in forex were operating outside the law.  He pointed out however that the exchange rate between the Zimbabwe dollar and foreign currencies made things problematic.  On the timing of the MPS the Deputy Minister refused to commit himself to anything more definite than “in the next few weeks”.

Thursday 7th March 

Apart from the urgent First Readings of three Bills mentioned earlier in this bulletin, the National Assembly continued a debate on the problems of substance and drug abuse by youth, a subject to which there were many contributions by MPs.  The House also continued the debate on the need for adequate conditions of service for councillors, to which there were two short contributions.  The House then adjourned for the weekend at 4.51 pm.  The debates were adjourned and will be continued.

In the Senate from 5th to 7th March

New motion on the National Clean-Up Campaign

Referring to the fact that on 5th December 2018 President Mnangagwa declared the first Friday of each month National Clean-Up Day, Senator Mavenyengwa, seconded by Senator Tongogara, on 6th March presented a motion expressing disquiet at individuals and organisations who failed to participate in the campaign and calling on local authorities to strictly enforce their by-laws on the cleaning of cities, the Government to mobilise strategies to mobilise more resources for national clean-up campaigns and all Zimbabweans and organisations to take part.  This motion was well received by Senators.  Senator Mupfumira made a speech advocating self-discipline – using decaying vegetable litter in compost heaps and recycling empty tins, plastic bottles and other recyclable waste.

Coming up in Both Houses 12th to 14th March

Presentation of the Annual Report for 2023 of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [NPRC] [link]   The presentation of the report and the take-note motion by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is item 1 on the Order Paper for Tuesday 5th March.  This was on the Order Papers of both Houses for last week but did not come up in either House.

National Assembly

Bills

Death Penalty Abolition Bill [link] – on the Order Paper for 12th March, for further consideration of the Parliamentary Legal Committee’s adverse report by the House.

Other Bills  There are three other new Bills, referred to above in more detail.  They are with the PLC for consideration of their consistency with the Constitution.  It is considered unlikely that the PLC will be ready to present its reports in time for this week’ sittings.

New motions waiting to be presented  

Hon Jere has another new motion on the Order Paper for 12th March alleging poor corporate governance in the banking sector over the last decade and calling on the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to come up with comprehensive legislation that will, among other things, compel financial institutions to compensate clients who lose savings and investments as a resultof poor governance.

There are two other new motions: (1) on the importance of security of tenure for all agricultural land held by indigenous Zimbabweans as envisaged by section 292 of the Constitution; (2) suggesting that the National Geospatial and Space Agency should have the responsibility for administering a National Cadastre System that serves as both the proposed Mining Cadastre System of the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and Electronic Cadastre System of the Ministry of Lands – this would inevitably reduce the burden on the fiscus as the Agency currently has the infrastructure and capacity to administer a National Cadastre System.  

Senate

New business for Senators will depend on whether the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – or his Deputy Minister Hon Mazungunye – is able to present the motion that the Senate should take note of the 2023 Annual Report of the NPRC [see above]. Otherwise, they will be obliged to continue debating already presented motions.

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