Coming Up in the Senate this Week: Marriages Bill? – Bill Watch 47/2021

The Senate Will Resume Sitting on Tuesday 6th July
The National Assembly is Now in Recess Until Tuesday 20th July

Last week, after a ten-day recess, the National Assembly met for three days from Tuesday 29th June. They completed the Committee Stages of the Forest Amendment Bill and the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill. Both Bills, having been subjected to many amendments during the Committee Stages, were referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] on 1st July for reports on the consistency of the amendments with the Constitution. The House then adjourned until 20th July, so there will be further delays on these Bills – until the 20th July at least – before they can be passed by the National Assembly and sent to the Senate. Fuller coverage of last week’s National Assembly sittings will be given in a separate bulletin.

The Senate, on the other hand, will be sitting this week – having been in recess since 17th June. This bulletin lists the work awaiting Senators this week.

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Given the lack of Bills coming from the National Assembly, the Senate faces much the same Order Paper as it faced when beginning its last sitting. Apart from the only Bill on the agenda, there are several new motions and larger number of adjourned debates on motions previously presented.

Marriages Bill – for continuation of the Committee Stage?

Apology there was an error in our summing-up of the earlier part of the Committee Stage on 21st April in Bill Watch 25/2021 of 26th April. We stated that that the Minister’s proposed amendment to Clause 16 had been approved, when in fact it had not been approved and was strongly objected to by Senator Chiefs. It remains to be seen – perhaps this week – whether or not whether or not the Minister and the Chiefs have been able to reach an agreement on the way forward on this and other points in the Bill.

The Committee Stage of the Bill in the Senate started on 21st April, and clauses 1 to 15 were approved, with an amendment by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to clause 9 [see link below]. Then the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs moved on to clause 16 and proposed replacing subclause (5) with the following new subclause:

“(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, and 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].

Senator Chiefs strongly objected to this proposal. They insisted the subclause be amended to substitute “must” for “may” and further amended by the insertion of words making it clear that lobola remains an essential part of every customary marriage, not an option. They refused to accept the Minister’s insertion of a mere reference to lobola or roora as an optional part of a customary marriage. Eventually, the Minister accepted Senator Chief Charumbira’s suggestion that the Committee Stage be paused to allow the Minister and the Chiefs to have further discussions, not only on this particular clause, but also “to look at the whole Bill, even the other clauses that we have not debated, because we still have two or three proposed amendments that we have not discussed. It is better that we look at the whole Bill.”

The Minister and the Chiefs have had over two months to reach agreement. Meanwhile, as the Order Paper stands at the moment, the position remains unchanged, i.e., as it was when proceedings ended on 21st April – which suggests that the apparent impasse has not been resolved. The Order Paper still shows that clauses 16 to 54 remain to be approved. And the Minister’s original Notice of Amendments remains unchanged, i.e., showing his proposed amendments to the following clauses:

The Minister’s amendments to the remaining clauses can be accessed on our website and were summarised in Bill Watch 22/2021.

Motions

Take-note motions on Commission Reports

Two take-note motions by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs appear ahead of the Marriages Bill on the Order Paper:

Take-note motion on Committee Report on Progress in Flood-affected areas and on construction of COVID-19 Treatment, Quarantine and Isolation Facilities

Senator Parirenyatwa’s motion invites the Senate to take note of the joint report of the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security and the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.

Motion on strengthening the Health Delivery System

Senator Chimbudzi’s motion calls upon Government to partner with the private sector in a concerted bid to strengthen the health delivery system, allocate adequate resources for procurement of medical supplies and ambulances for health service delivery, consider subsidising kidney dialysis and providing decent accommodation to doctors.

Motion on enforcement of official exchange rates

Senator Tongogara’s motion calls on the Government to deploy teams to monitor adherence to official exchange rates and, in view of unscrupulous overcharging by manufacturers and service providers, to monitor pricing of goods and services countrywide.

Source: Veritas

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