Both Houses of Parliament Will Resume on Tuesday 7th May
The National Assembly and the Senate will resume sittings tomorrow after long recesses. The National Assembly last sat on Thursday 21st March, the Senate on Thursday 28th March. The parliamentary sitting calendar shows that both Houses are scheduled to sit nine times from Tuesday 7th to Thursday 23rd May.
The current parliamentary session began on 18th September, when President Mnangagwa presented his State of the Nation address and the Government’s legislative agenda for the session. So far this session the National Assembly has sat on 45 days and the Senate on 39. As pointed out in Bill Watch 19/2019 of 11th April, only the two routine Budget Bills have been passed in that time. This leaves all 30 Bills on the legislative agenda to be completed in the next three months.
This bulletin aims to inform readers about the seven Bills that are likely to come up for attention in May – five of them were on the legislative agenda, the other two were not, but are nevertheless very important Bills. That five of the Bills are from the legislative agenda is encouraging, but as pointed out in previous bulletins, the government is running out of time to pass the other twenty-five Bills on its agenda by the end of this Parliamentary session.
Status of Bills in the National Assembly
Parliament Status of Bills list contains seven Bills received from Ministers for consideration. All seven have been gazetted and are at various stages in the Parliamentary legislative production line. We list them below under three headings, according to the stage reached:
Bills at Second Reading Stage [2 Bills]
Companies and Other Business Entities Bill Companies and Other Business Entities Bill
The House has already heard the Second Reading speech by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the report by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the public hearings it held on the Bill. Several MPs have already made their contributions to the debate, and more may wish to do so. After that the Minister will reply to the debate and the House will decide whether the Bill can proceed to the Committee Stage for clause-by-clause consideration.
Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill
The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has started the Second Reading Stage of this Bill with a speech outlining why the Bill is considered necessary by Government and how the Bill will achieve its objectives. Public hearings have already been held, and the House is waiting for the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to report on the public reaction to the Bill. MPs will then make their contributions to the debate.
Bills awaiting PLC reports on constitutionality [3 Bills]
When the House rose on 21st March, three Bills were under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC], having been presented on 14th March. The PLC is expected to return its reports when the House resumes. This will clear the way for the responsible Ministers to start the Second Reading stages by delivering their speeches explaining the Bills in principle. Also awaited before there can be further progress, are reports from the appropriate portfolio committees on the public hearings already conducted on these Bills.
Consumer Protection Bill – to protect consumers of goods and services by establishing the Consumer Protection Agency, to regulate Consumer Advocacy Organisations, and also to repeal the Consumer Contracts Act. Public hearings were conducted from 25th February to 1st March.
Microfinance Amendment Bill – to (1) reduce the variety of institutions that can carry on microfinance business from four to two; and (2) extend the supervisory powers of the Reserve Bank and its officials to cover not only microfinance institutions themselves, but also their “associates”, a new term defined in clause 2 of the Bill.
Education Amendment Bill – to align the Education Act with the Constitution, and in so doing to put an end to corporal punishment [see Bill Watch 20/2019 of 15th April ]. The Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education has already conducted public hearings on the Bill outside Harare, and will hold the final public hearing at Parliament in Harare on Thursday 9th May at 8.30 am – more details will be sent out shortly when they are available.
Bills awaiting Presentation and First Reading
Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency Bill
The Bill provides for the new Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency [ZIDA] which will replace and take over the functions presently entrusted to the Zimbabwe Investment Authority and the Special Economic Zones Authority [both statutory corporations] and the Joint Venture Unit in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, which advises Government on Public Private Partnerships. This take-over will entail the repeal of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Act, Special Economic Zones Act and Joint Venture Act and the amendment of the Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act to align it with the new arrangements for Public Private Partnerships.
The Bill’s ten parts deal with: the establishment, management and finances of ZIDA and its One Stop Investment Services Centre [OSISC]; investor guarantees and non-discriminatory treatment; investor obligations, including social responsibility; provisions common to investors in and outside Special Economic Zones; investment and other activities in Special Economic Zones [details in the Third Schedule]; Public Private Partnerships [details in Fourth Schedule]; and dispute settlement.
Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill
This is the Government’s much-hyped Bill to replace POSA. We have already commented extensively on the Bill in two bulletins: (1) Bill Watch 22/2019 of 17th April, showing how little the Bill differs from POSA; and (2) Bill Watch 24/2019 of 2nd May, in which we concluded that some provisions of the Bill may be, and some most certainly are, unconstitutional. When the PLC comes to consider this Bill, these provisions should, in our opinion, attract an adverse report necessitating amendments to be made to the Bill before it can be finally passed by Parliament.
Other Business Coming Up in the National Assembly
The Order Paper for tomorrow lists plenty of work for MPs apart from the above Bills.
New motions awaiting presentation
There are twenty-three motions awaiting presentation by their movers and seconders. Subjects raised include: welfare of war veterans, war collaborators and ex-detainees; enabling local authorities to maintain roads by decentralising vehicle licence fees from ZINARA to local authorities; economic empowerment of Zimbabwe’s youth; a call for an amendment to section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution to regulate the right of political parties to “recall” their MPs [Hon Mliswa and Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga]; and the need for an Act to establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate complaints about sexual misconduct by members of the security forces.
Question Time [Wednesday]
116 written questions with notice remained unanswered when the House adjourned on 21st March. No doubt that number will grow. And MPs must have many policy questions to put to Ministers during the first hour of Question Time, when notice is not required.
Coming up in the Senate
Until the National Assembly sends them some Bills, Senators will have to spend their time on business carried over from their last sitting in March. There are several adjourned debates on motions, but no new motions to be presented. Question Time on Thursday has 11 written questions with notice awaiting Ministerial replies. Questions range include: whether Chinese businesses in the mining sector are paying royalties to Government and, if so, what was the total amount of royalties received in 2017; what progress has been made by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development on fencing the Bulawayo-Beitbridge road to keep wild animals away; when people living in shanty houses under high-voltage power lines in Kariba’s Mahombekombe Township will be relocated; and when the Government will produce a Bill to ensure equal gender representation all Government institutions and agencies.
Adverse PLC report on Command Agriculture Regulations
Going by what they said on this subject before the recess, Senators look set to pass a motion approving the PLC’s adverse report on sections 5, 6 and 7 of SI 247/2018, which provide for criminal penalties for breaches of contract. The PLC found little difference between these provisions and the similar provisions in the previous regulations that had also attracted an adverse report from the PLC. The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement will, however, have a final opportunity this week to persuade Senators to change their minds. If he fails to do so and they vote to support the adverse report by resolving that the section is inconsistent with the Constitution, the Clerk of Parliament must formally notify the Minister, who will then have 21 days in which to apply to the Constitutional Court to overrule the Senate decision. Failing that, the Clerk of Parliament will gazette a notice that the sections pinpointed by the PLC have ceased to have legal effect – as happened in the cases noted in Bill Watch 21/2019 of 16th April [in those cases the PLC reported adversely on criminal penalties in statutory instruments that were beyond the limits set by enabling Acts].