BILL WATCH 16-2024 - In Parliament Last Week & Coming up This Week

BILL WATCH 16/2024

[14th May 2024]

In Parliament Last Week & Coming up This Week

After a three-week recess starting on Monday 15th April, both Houses of Parliament sat for three days last week, from Tuesday 7th to Thursday 9th May.  Both Houses then adjourned to today for this week’s sittings and are also expected to sit next week. 

Swearing-in of New MPs

During the recess both Houses gained new members by reason of: 

·      the two National Assembly by-elections held on 27th April to fill vacancies left by two CCC MPs who resigned at the end of January 2024 following the resignation of Nelson Chamisa from the CCC – Alan Markham (Harare East) and Fadzayi Mahere (Mount Pleasant).  ZANU PF candidates won both the by-elections;

·      appointments of new party-list members of the National Assembly and Senate by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] to fill vacancies created by “recalls” of CCC members by Mr Tshabangu – six vacancies in the National Assembly and five in the Senate – in terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution.  The persons appointed by ZEC must be nominees of the party that made the recalls.

All the thirteen new members of Parliament were sworn in on either Tuesday 7th May (the two constituency MPs) or Thursday 9th May (all the rest).  The new MPs will be the subject of a separate bulletin to be issued shortly.  Suffice it to say there was an increase in the ZANU PF majority in the National Assembly, which had already reached two-thirds.

Tuesday 7th May in the National Assembly

Petition for legislation giving effect to constitutional property rights and the right to shelter   This petition was received from the Coalition of Market and Liberal Solutions (COMALISO) and has been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, which is taking oral evidence from the petitioner at its meeting this week.

Take-note motion: Report of Delegation on the Election Observation Mission to Russia  This report was prepared by a delegation led by Hon. Shamu from 13th to 20th March 2024 on the conduct of the Russian presidential elections.  It is a glowing report on the way the Russian counterpart of ZEC administers an electoral system that facilitates both the traditional form of voting, with ballot papers and ballot boxes, and digital voting using the most modern technology.  The report recommends consultation between ZEC and its Russian counterpart with a view to adopting Russian technology for the next harmonised elections due in 2028.  Debate on the report was adjourned to make way for next item.

Continuing debate on Hon Hlatywayo’s motion on security of tenure for land, including Communal Land  This debate was resumed and took up the rest of the sitting.  Contributions differed in their attitude towards security of tenure for Communal Land, with MPs suggesting lessons could be learned from the land tenure system adopted in Rwanda.  Hon Engineer Mhangwa delivered an enthusiastic speech calling for innovative forms of tenure, claiming that with security of tenure “growth points by now would have been grown points”, calling for chiefs and communities to play a greater part in land administration. 

Continuing debate on the President’s SONA  The Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs then spoke briefly on the delay in Bills having come to Parliament, saying this had been mainly due to he blamed this high staff turnover in the Attorney-General’s Drafting Division and assuring MPs that “interventions have been made to address drafting challenges and more Bills are going to be introduced to Parliament”.

Wednesday 8th May in the National Assembly

Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill [link]

The Parliamentary Legal Committee presented a non-adverse report on this Bill.  Veritas finds this surprising because we have identified very serious inconsistencies between the Bill and the Constitution; see Bill Watches 5/2024 [linkand 6/2024 [link].  Veritas has also challenged the Government’s claim that the Bill is justified by the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force [FATF], an international organisation combating the financing of terrorism.  We have demonstrated that the Bill goes far beyond the FATF recommendations:  see Bill Watch 9/2024 [link].

Other business

The first few hours on Wednesday afternoons is normally reserved by Standing Orders for Question Time and other Private Members’ business.  

On this Wednesday after Questions without Notice, however, the governing party’s Chief Whip interrupted proceedings to allow the Deputy Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to present an extremely urgent motion approving a draft amendment of the Schedule to the Exchange Control Act in terms of section 11(2) of the Act.  The Deputy Minister briefly described the main objectives of the amendments, which were to:

(1)   repeal the provision in the Schedule that allowed sellers of goods and services to sell at a 10% margin above the exchange rate,

(2)   provide that sellers of goods and services will be guilty of a civil infringement if they offer their goods and services at a price above the official exchange rate as published by the Reserve Bank, and 

(3)   put a fixed penalty of ZiG 200 000 for the infringement.

After some debate and further explanation by the Deputy Minister the draft amendment was approved.  It was gazetted as SI 81A/2024 the next day, 9th May, in a Government Gazette Extraordinary.

Thursday 9th May in the National Assembly

Continuing debates on motions already moved  Debate continued on Hon Jere’s motion on the need to protect investments in banks and deposits in banks and on Hon Hlatshwayo’s motion on security of tenure for owners or occupiers of agricultural land, including Communal Land.

New motion on Assigning Responsibility for a National Cadastre System

Hon Mhuri, seconded by Hon Togarepi, were at last was given the opportunity to present their motion on merging the two separate cadastre systems proposed for the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and the Ministry of Lands, under the aegis of the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA).

To Be Continued

In subsequent bulletins we shall deal with the Senate’s business last week and the business on both Houses’ Order Papers for this week

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