Only the Senate is sitting this week
The National Assembly will resume on 4th May
Constitution Amendment (No. 2) passed by House with amendments and Sent to Senate to be Dealt with This Week
On Tuesday 20th April the House considered and agreed to the amendments to the Bill made during the Committee Stage, and formally adopted the Bill, as amended. This cleared the way for the Third Reading vote. The Speaker reminded MPs that section 328(5) of the Constitution provides that a Constitutional Bill must be passed at its last reading in the National Assembly and the Senate by the affirmative votes of two-thirds of the membership of each House. He then directed that MPs would have to be physically present for their votes to be recorded and the division bells would be rung throughout the Parliament building to give MPs time to ensure their physical presence for the vote [Standing Orders require that the bells ring for seven minutes].
When the votes were counted, the Speaker announced the results: 191 votes (Ayes) in favour of the Bill and 22 against it (Noes). He then declared the Bill to have been duly passed in accordance with section 328(5) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The 191 affirmative votes included 15 cast by MDC-T MPs; Dr Thokozani Khupe was not among the 15 – she was one of the 22 MPs who voted against the Bill.
Comment: It seems bizarre that so many opposition MDC MPs who claim they are constitutionalists voted with the Government, without their vote the Government would not have had the required two-thirds majority [180 votes].
After that the Bill was read for the third time and transmitted to the Senate,
Comment: See Constitution Watch 1/2021 of 20th April for Veritas’ opinion that passing the Bill with substantive amendments that had not gone through preliminary constitutional and Parliamentary procedures was invalid.
Other Business in the National Assembly Last Week
Centre for Education, Innovation, Research and Development Bill
After Question Time on Wednesday 21st April, in a continuation of the Second Reading stage of this Bill, the Portfolio Committee’s report on the Bill and the public reaction to it, as gleaned from submissions received and public hearings conducted, was presented by Hon L. Maphosa. The report concluded that:
“The establishment of the centre is a positive development in Zimbabwe’s higher and tertiary education sector. This will provide a framework that will expedite the process of innovation-led industrialisation through higher and tertiary education in line with the new trajectory of Education 5.0.”
The report also made several recommendations for changes to the Bill. Several MPs then contributed to the debate and the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development wound up the debate, after which the Bill was read for the Second Time.
The Committee Stage was taken the following day, 22nd April. Hon Maphosa proposed only one amendment, providing for one additional member to the Centre’s Council, a person to represent the Small and Medium Enterprises sector, which was accepted by the Minister and approved by MPs. On other points raised, the Minister assured MPs that they would be covered in regulations to be made under the Act. The Bill was then sent to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the constitutionality of the sole amendment. The PLC should be able to report back when the National Assembly resumes on 4th May; if the report is favourable, as expected, the Bill can be given its Third Reading and sent to the Senate.
Ministerial Statement on DDF Recapitalisation Programme
The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Hon Joram Gumbo, gave a Ministerial statement on the District Development Fund’s Recapitalisation programme. After the statement several MPs asked for clarification on certain points.
Two Portfolio Committee Reports presented
Veritas hopes to have copies of the following two reports posted soon on our website www.veritaszim.net.
Public Accounts Committee: Report on ZINARA’s Audited 2017 and 2018 Accounts and 2017 Forensic Audit Report
This damning report was presented by Hon Brian Dube, who recently took over as chairperson of this committee, the previous chairperson, Hon Tendai Biti, having recently become a victim to a controversial “recall” from Parliament. The report’s nature can be gauged from the following extracts from the executive summary appearing at the beginning:
“The Committee makes the finding that there was no corporate governance at ZINARA, that there were no systems, no manuals and no sound procedures for the running of the organisation. The Committee makes the finding that ZINARA was totally and absolutely misrun and totally mismanaged. As a result, there was gross abuse of resources, no corporate governance culture and no corporate compliance. The Anti-Corruption Commission must investigate the abuse of office by current and former ZINARA officials as covered in this report. The Committee recommends that disciplinary action should be taken within a period of six months upon adoption of this report, against all concerned employees at ZINARA from senior and middle management to lower case staff that were operating during the period under discussion. Where employees have left or resigned, we recommend the institution of criminal proceedings for abuse of office or corruption. ZINARA must develop financial and human resources manuals, with the aid and assistance of experts. The current and former Board of Directors who were unlawfully paid allowances outside the terms of reference and contracts should be asked to refund and pay back what was paid to them within six (6) months of the adoption of this report. In the event of failure, legal action should be instituted.” The Committee made a finding that unqualified people were nepotistically recruited without a process of public interviews, public scrutiny and public competition. As a result, ZINARA ended up being saddled with incompetent individuals who unfortunately were controlling and running budgets that ran into millions of United States dollars. The Committee also makes the finding that corruption at ZINARA, amply demonstrated in this report was as a result of unqualified persons deliberately recruited to emasculate the institution. ZINARA represents a classic example of the capture of a public institution by nefarious individuals whose sole purpose was to loot public resources.”
Portfolio Committee Report on Quality Assurance in the Higher and Tertiary Education Sector
Hon Maphosa presented this report by the Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development.
In the Senate Last Week
Marriages Bill Committee Stage partly completed On Wednesday 21st April the House, sitting in Committee of the whole House, started work on the Committee Stage of this Bill, as amended by the National Assembly last year. Clauses 1 to 8 were agreed to without amendment.
On clause 9 Hon Senator Chief Charumbira successfully proposed the deletion of subclause (1) and its replacement by:
“(1) Every chief shall, by virtue of his or her office and so long as he or she holds such office, be a marriage officer for a customary law marriage in the district in which he or she holds office.”
and clause 9, as so amended, was agreed to.
Clauses 10-15 were then agreed to without amendment.
On clause 16 the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs successfully proposed that sub-clause (5) be replaced by:
“(5) A marriage officer in a customary law marriage may put to either of the parties to a proposed marriage or to the witnesses any questions relevant to the identity of the parties to the proposed marriage, to the agreements relating to marriage consideration (lobola or roora), if any, and to the existence of impediments to the marriage.” [the underlining is by Veritas, to emphasise the new words the Minister has agreed to accept following Senators’ objections to the failure to even mention lobola or roora in the original Bill].
With clause 16 amended and the amended clause agreed to, the Senate adjourned to 27th April, when the Committee Stage will resume and the rest of the Bill be dealt with. Any amendments made will have to be checked by the PLC for constitutionality before the Bill is finally passed by the Senate and sent back to the National Assembly for its approval.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill
Although this Bill was passed by the National Assembly and sent to the Senate on 20th April, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs did not ask the Senate to deal with it last week.
Coming up in the Senate This Week
Two important Bills dominate the Senate’s Order Paper for Tuesday 27th April:
Marriages Bill – for continuation of Committee Stage
Having dealt with clauses 1-16 last Thursday [see below], the Senate still has to consider clauses 17 onwards. The Minister’s Notice of Amendments, which is available on the Veritas website, shows two amendments remaining to be dealt with:
Clause 17 (Unregistered customary law unions)
Clause 41 (Civil partnerships).
The amendments were summarised in Bill Watch 22/2021.
The Second Reading stage of this Bill will come first, to be followed by the Committee Stage and Third Reading.