- The National Assembly is Sitting Again This Week
- The Senate will not Sit Again until Tuesday 21st May
Update on Bills in the National Assembly
Continuation of the Second Reading debate was item 1 on the National Assembly’s Order Paper for on Tuesday 7th May, but MPs asked for a postponement, claiming they had not known it would be coming up. The Speaker acceded to a postponement and the sitting petered out at 3.17 pm after the brief proceedings on the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill, described later. On Wednesday the Speaker expressed his concern at MPs’ apparent lack of preparedness the previous day, reminding them:
“… there are several platforms for the Members to access information on the business of the House before the sitting. These include the Order Paper itself, the Parliament website, the Veritas and Open Parly websites. Members are reminded to take their work seriously by being always ready to debate on all items on the Order Paper. The apathy that obtained during yesterday’s sitting is totally unacceptable as it is anathema to the taxpayer and the people of Zimbabwe from whom we draw authority to be in this august House and receive some remuneration which we must deserve.”
The debate was resumed on Friday afternoon, when several MPs contributed. Hon Kucaca Phulu of MDC-A pin-pointed clauses that would require further consideration during the Committee Stage and called for the deletion of clause 46, which confers powers on the Registrar of Companies and Other Business Entities to take legal action on behalf of companies after an investigation.
Yesterday [Tuesday 14th May]
Several other MPs contributed before the Minister wound up the debate with a few remarks, promising more detailed responses to the debate when the clauses concerned came up during the Committee Stage. He said he had accepted five or six amendments suggested by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which would appear on the Order Paper. The Bill was then given its Second Reading.
The Committee Stage will now follow, possibly after Private Members’ Business at the end of this afternoon, Wednesday, but more likely tomorrow, Thursday. During the Committee Stage detailed consideration of every clause can be undertaken and amendments can be proposed and adopted.
The amendments proposed by the Portfolio Committee already appear on today’s Order Paper and are available on the Veritas website; these amendments affect clauses 2 [by inserting a definition of “close relative”], 4 [correcting word order], 11 [substituting “may” by “shall” in line 14], 135(1)(c) [omission of word “instead”], 136(1) [an untidy attempt to tidy up the introductory words and paragraph (b)], 151 [insertion of a new subclause (4) allowing autographic, electronic or mechanical signatures on a share certificate], 195(4)(b)(ii) [deletion of extraneous words, obviously attributable to a typographical error], and 277 [addition of subclause (4) requiring changes to the registered “constitutive document” of a voluntarily registered “other business entity” to be filed with the Registrar, failing which civil penalties may be imposed].
No other amendments appear on the Order Paper yet, either from the Minister or the Opposition.
On Tuesday 7th May the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare started the Second Reading stage with a brief statement on the purpose of the Bill. This was followed by the Portfolio Committee’s report on the public hearings it had held on the Bill and a seminar its members had attended, at which the Bill had been unpacked. Among the issues recorded in the report was resistance by stakeholders to the Bill’s unequal tripartism – the weighting of the Forum in favour of Government with its 14 representatives as against Labour and Business with only 7 each, and the Government’s monopoly over chairing the Forum Debate was then adjourned until Wednesday to enable MPs to study the report.
Late on Wednesday afternoon continuation of the debate was thwarted by the absence of a quorum, meaning that the Bill dropped off the Order Paper and needed to be restored by a special vote, which duly occurred on Thursday. Several MPs then contributed to the debate, with the emphasis being on the unfair weighting in favour of Government, the need for the chair to rotate among the three parties instead of being reserved to Government, and the absence of provision for the informal sector. At the end of the afternoon the proceedings were adjourned to 14th May.
Yesterday [Tuesday 14th May]
The Minister’s reply to the debate was delivered on her behalf by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. He said Government representation on the Forum would be reduced to seven, the same as each of the other three parties to the Forum. This will require Committee Stage amendments, which have yet to appear on the Order Paper but may be ready for the next sitting on Thursday 16th May. Otherwise the Minister defended the Bill as it is, stressing the detailed consultation with stakeholders and the International Labour Organisation that had gone into it.
PLC returns Non-Adverse Reports on Three Bills
The Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]’s non-adverse reports on the following Bills were announced on Tuesday 7th May, meaning that no inconsistencies with the Constitution had been spotted by the Committee:
The way, therefore, became clear for these Bills to proceed to Second Reading Stage. This was reflected on the Order Papers for last Thursday and yesterday, Tuesday 14th May, but other items took precedence.
The Bill was given its First Reading on Thursday 9th May and referred to the PLC for its report on the Bill’s constitutionality. An adverse report is possible, bearing in mind that serious legal commentators have explained at length their reasons for believing much of the Bill to be inconsistent with various provisions of the Constitution’s Declaration of Rights.
The Speaker told MPs in the National Assembly yesterday that the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services and the Senate’s Thematic Committee on Peace and Security had already had a joint meeting on the Bill and would be holding joint public hearings on it in the first week of June
This important Bill was also given its First Reading on Thursday 9th May and referred to the PLC for its report on the Bill’s constitutionality.