The National Assembly Sat Last Week, then Adjourned until Tuesday 7th July. The Senate Will Resume Sitting This Week, on Tuesday 30th June
Another “Recall” by MDC-T: This Time of Nine MPs
At the start of proceedings on Tuesday 23rd June the Speaker announced receipt of written notification on that date from the MDC-T party that the following nine MPs had ceased to be members of the party: Amos Chibaya [Mkoba constituency], Happymore Chidziva [Highfields West constituency], Bacillia Majaya [PR Mashonaland Central], Mucharairwa Mugidho [PR Masvingo], Virginia Zengeya-Muradzikwa [PR Harare], Annah Muyambo [PR Harare], Francisca Ncube [PR Matabeleland North], Nomathemba Ndlovu [PR Matabeleland South], and Murisi Zwizwai [Harare Central constituency].
The Speaker then informed the House that the nine seats concerned had fallen vacant under section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution, and that Parliament would inform the President and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission accordingly to enable the vacancies to be filled. Hansard records that when the Speaker finished speaking there were “inaudible interjections” from some MPs, prompting the Speaker to repeat his calls for order several times.
Note: On Thursday afternoon Hon Edwin Mushoriwa, raising a point of privilege, said that he had stood for and been elected as MP for Dzivaresekwa on the MDC Alliance ticket, and had signed in at Parliament as a member of the MDC Alliance. The Speaker cut him short with the following statement: “I sympathise with you Hon. Mushoriwa. Take legal advice from Hon. Sikhala. The matter is sub judice and we cannot debate it here in Parliament. It is in court.”
Legislative and other Business Last Week
The National Assembly considered two Bills last week, passed both with amendments and transmitted them to the Senate, as noted below. All the other Bills on its Order Paper were carried forward to be resumed when the House sits again, which will be from Tuesday 7th July. For an outline of other business conducted please see below, after the notes on the passing of the two Bills.
Bills Passed by the National Assembly & Sent to the Senate
The urgent nature of this Bill was explained in Bill Watch 39/2020. As predicted, the Bill was taken through its Second Reading, Committee and Third Reading stages on Tuesday 23rd June, passed without amendment and transmitted to the Senate. The Bill was supported by Hon Mhona, on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and in brief supporting contributions from other MPs.
As explained in Bill Watch 39, and by the Minister to MPs last Tuesday, the object of the Bill is to bring forward the deadline for the completion of the next National Census from 2022 to 1st July 2021, which will in turn allow the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] sufficient time to conduct the sorely-needed delimitation of constituencies and wards that must be completed in time to be used for the next harmonised elections in mid-2023. This is a simple solution to the problem posed by the Constitution’s delimitation-census linkage [Constitution, section 161], and was suggested by Veritas in Constitution Watch 3/2020 of 28th January 2020. The Government had previously proposed another solution – amending section 161 of the Constitution. This Bill will, therefore, eliminate the need for clause 12 of the Constitution Amendment (No 2) Bill.
Also on Tuesday 23rd June, the amendments proposed by the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs to this Bill were approved and the amended Bill was referred to the PLC for its report on the constitutionality of the changes. The PLC’s non-adverse report was received on Thursday 25th June, and the House immediately passed the amended Bill, which was then transmitted to the Senate.
Most of the amendments are cosmetic, and do not involve changes of substance; for instance, the term “liberation war fighter” is replaced by “war veteran” throughout the Bill, the definition of “liberation war fighter” becomes the definition of “war veteran” without any further change, and the term “temporary refugee camp” becomes “transit camp”.
Clause 3(2)(b), which originally obliged the Minister to appoint the Commander of the Defence Forces to the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board, is replaced by a paragraph obliging the Minister, after consultation with the President, to appoint “a war veteran … who shall be chairperson of the Board”. This allows the Minister and the President more latitude. [but does not, of course, prevent them from appointing the present Commander as Board chairperson].
Portfolio Committee and other Reports
The House devoted most of last week’s sitting time to the backlog of reports waiting for presentation or further debate.
Tuesday 23rd June
Four reports were presented:
Report on the Re-engagement Visit to Sweden by a Parliamentary Delegation led by the Speaker
This report was presented by Hon Paradza, seconded by Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga, both of whom had been members of the delegation.
Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs etc: – Report on Fact-finding Visits to Selected District Offices and Women Empowerment Projects
This report was presented by Hon Chido Madiwa, seconded by Hon Goodlucky Kwaramba. It presents a sorry tale of grossly inadequate office accommodation and equipment and lack of resources generally, justifying its general conclusion that though the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development has decentralised, a lot remains to be done to ensure quality service to the people. A majority of Zimbabwean women and girls especially those in the grassroots are still yet to benefit from the Government’s women economic empowerment initiatives as funds are thin on the ground.
Report on the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women [CSW63] – UN Headquarters, New York, 11 to 23 March 2019
Parliament’s delegation to CSW63 was led by the President of the Senate, Hon Mabel Chinomona, and included the chairperson and vice-chairperson of the Zimbabwe Women’s Parliamentary Caucus [Hon Goodlucky Kwaramba, Hon Sibusisiwe Budha] and several Parliamentary officials. The CSW63 theme was Social Protection Systems, Access to Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls. The report was presented by Hon Kwaramba. It ends with recommendations for Zimbabwe on social protection, infrastructure, and use and access to public services from a gender perspective.
Report on the 74th Session of the Executive Committee of the African Parliamentary Union [APU]
This was a report on a two-day APU Executive Committee session in June 2019 held in Bangui, Central African Republic. Parliament’s delegation was led by the President of the Senate, Hon Chinomona [who is chairperson of the APU’s Committee of Women Parliamentarians] and included three MPs who are members of the Executive Committee: Hon Senator Theresa Makone and Hon Spiwe Mukunyaidze and Hon Tafanana Zhou from the National Assembly. Only Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe of all the SADC states are APU members, and the report recommends that Parliament should informally encourage other Southern African legislatures to become members. Parliament is some 4 years behind in payment of its annual APU subscription, a fact which embarrassed the delegation in Bangui when other members called for strict implementation of the APU’s rule suspending members in arrears for more than 2 years. The report, therefore, recommends prompt clearance of the arrears.
Wednesday 24th June
Report on Familiarisation Tour to Zimbabwe’s Border Posts
This tour was conducted in two phases of several days each in June and July 2019 by the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development. The concluding paragraph sums up as follows: “The Committee strongly believes that ZIMRA as the sole government agent mandated to collect revenue on behalf of Government must be adequately funded. Zimbabwe as a country, is losing a lot of revenue due to challenges that can be easily addressed if there is political will and commitment. The Committee believes that it is better to invest more in ZIMRA and in turn harvest more returns than to let the status quo remain, or even deteriorate, thereby losing revenue through illicit means. Thus, the Committee tables this report with the hope that the 2020 budget will address the major concerns raised therein.”
Thursday 25th June
Report on ZESN’s Petition to Parliament on Electoral Reforms
Hon Mataranyika, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, presented this important report on the petition, which concludes with a long list of observations and recommendations before summing up as follows:
“The Committee implores the Executive, to urgently review the electoral law in compliance not only with the government’s national and international undertakings, but also with the provisions of the Constitution. The Committee sincerely hopes that the suggested recommendations and the attached Electoral Model Bill will be seriously considered in crafting of the new electoral law as this will certainly improve future electoral processes.”
Adoption of Report on Wetland Management
Hon Concilia Chinanzvavana, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism, wound up debate on this report by thanking the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry for his detailed Ministerial statement delivered last week responding to the report [see Bill Watch 39/2020]. The House then approved her motion that the House take note of the report, before adjourning at 5.13 pm until Tuesday 7th July.
These Reports will be posted on the Veritas website as soon as we have them.
Bills Coming up in the Senate This Week
This week, the Senate will be taking its turn to use the National Assembly’s chamber for a few days, and will have three Bills on its Order Paper:
Marriages Bill – which is going through its Second Reading debate, with Senators having had time to digest the Minister’s introductory speech and explanation of the National Assembly’s amendments to the Bill.
Census and Statistics Amendment Bill, as passed by the National Assembly last week, which Senators will be expected to pass before the end of the week in view of its urgent nature.
Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill, as passed by the National Assembly last week.
Repeat of the Third Reading Vote on the Constitution Amendment (No. 1) Bill of 2017
This unprecedented item is still on the Senate Order Paper and still has not been dealt with, although it has appeared every sitting day since Parliamentary sittings resumed on 5th May. Its stems from a Constitutional Court decision of 30th March this year that the Bill had not been passed by the Senate in the manner required by the Constitution, i.e., by at least 54 affirmative votes instead of the 53 accepted by Parliament as sufficient. The court, however, considered that the circumstances justified an order that the final Senate vote on it be taken again to see whether a two-thirds majority for the Bill could be achieved this time. The Senate was allowed six months from 30th March to approve the Bill’s Third Reading by at least 54 affirmative votes, failing which the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Act, 2017, will be regarded as null and void. Bill Watch 27/2020 has more detail on this matter.