Parliament is NOT Sitting This Week
Both Houses will resume on Tuesday 17th August
This bulletin reviews last week’s business in the National Assembly, from Tuesday 3rd to Thursday 5th August, at which point the House adjourned until Tuesday 17th August – the same day to which the Senate had adjourned a week earlier. This review is followed by a brief indication of what business is likely to come up before both the National Assembly and the Senate next week, starting on Tuesday 17th August.
In the National Assembly Tuesday 3rd to Thursday 5th August
There were two Bills on the Order Paper for the week. Both came up on Thursday 5th August.
There being no further contributions from MPs to the Second Reading debate, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development wound up the debate with a short speech listing and explaining the amendments to the Bill that he would be proposing during the Committee Stage. He acknowledged that the amendments were in response to suggestions made in the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development and during public consultations on the Bill, as well as contributions from MPs during the Second Reading debate. The Minister’s brief explanation of the effect of each of the amendments is helpful. The proposed amendments and the Minister’s explanation are accessible on the Veritas website. The Bill was then given its Second Reading, and the Committee Stage is scheduled for 17th August.
The Minister’s Second Reading speech was delivered on 22nd July. The Second Reading stage continued on 5th August with the presentation of the report on the Bill by a joint committee consisting of the Portfolio Committees on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services report and the Thematic Committee on Human Rights. This report is also accessible on the Veritas website. Proceedings were then adjourned, to be continued on 17th August.
Ministerial Statement on ZINWA’s Cutting-off of Water in Gwanda and Beitbridge
On 4th August the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement delivered a detailed and lengthy statement explaining the recent cutting off of water supplies to Gwanda and Beitbridge local authorities by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority [ZINWA], thereby also cutting off the water supply to residents. He explained that by the end of July, despite previous efforts to ensure that its customers paid for their water or at least made acceptable payment plans, ZINWA had been owed ZWL $2.4 billion by defaulting customers, an unsustainable debt burden which was negatively impacting on ZINWA’s operations, crippling its ability to fund critical inputs such as chemicals, fuels, electricity, repair and maintenance costs. Defaulting customers included Government Ministries and departments from the President’s Office down, parastatals, local authorities, irrigators and domestic users. All defaulters had been warned that ZINWA would be taking this drastic measure as a last resort, to induce payments and raise awareness among Zimbabweans of the need to pay for utilities, while urging authorities to prioritise services by paying for water timely. The Minister had himself written warning letters to his Ministerial colleagues.
Only a few debtors had responded appropriately to the warnings and many customers, including Government departments, had their water supplies cut off from the end of July. The cut-offs, however, had produced positive results, with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development securing reconnection for Government customers by promising an immediate ZWL $350 million. Defaulting local authorities had paid or agreed on reasonable payment plans and had been reconnected. These included Gwanda and Beitbridge, which had been reconnected on 4th August, the day before the Minister addressed the National Assembly.
Hon Maphosa, defending Gwanda and Beitbridge councils along with other MPs, pointed out most of the amount of its debt to ZINWA was accounted for by Government departments not having paid for water supplied to them by the local authorities. He also said Gwanda was able to take over the water processing plant, but Government and ZINWA had delayed the handing over. Hon Brian Dube and Hon Khupe raised the issue that ZINWA’s action had contradicted the constitutional right to potable water, and the Minister acknowledged there was a constitutional issue – but pointed out that some local authorities had always managed to pay ZINWA consistently and that Government departments had funds voted in every annual Budget for payment of ZINWA bills but had simply neglected to pay. Comment: It seems that the big debtors were government departments and this is bitterly unfair on the residents who had to go without water.
Motion on declaration of public holiday in honour of women
Hon Madiwa, seconded by Hon Mpariwa, was at last able to move her motion calling for the Government to follow the example of other countries in the region by declaring a specific public holiday to celebrate women’s achievements in the liberation and development of Zimbabwe.
Four Bills still under consideration by the PLC as at 5th August
The following four Bills have been under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] since 21st July, when they were referred to the PLC after receiving their First Readings :
- Copper Control Amendment Bill – Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage. Veritas’s summary and critical analysis of the Bill is available on our website; the present Copper Control Act [the Act to be amended] is also available.
- Police Amendment Bill – Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage. The Bill was summarised and critically analysed in Bill Watch 55/2021.
- Public Finance Management Bill – Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
- Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill – Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. See Veritas commentary on this Bill and Veritas Model Bill. Virtual public hearings on this Bill are due to be conducted on 12th and 13th August [Details as previously notified in Committee Series 30/2012 ].
Coming up Next Week in the National Assembly
Ratification of Treaty for approval: AU Treaty for the Establishment of the African Medicines Agency
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the above Treaty, which was adopted by the African Union Summit in February 2019. The Government now wishes to become a full State Party to the Treaty. For that the approval of both Houses of Parliament is necessary under section 327 of the Constitution. The Treaty is accessible on the Veritas website.
The African Medicines Agency is a specialized agency of the African Union. Its function is to enhance the capacity of States Parties and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), to regulate medical products in order to improve access to quality, safe and efficacious medical products on the continent. The Treaty is not yet in force; for that to happen 15 AU member states need to have ratified it, and so far only 9 have done so. Zimbabwe’s ratification will, therefore, be a step towards the Treaty’s coming into force.
The Committee Stage is due to start on Tuesday 17th August. When winding up the Second Reading debate last week, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development gave notice of the amendments he will be moving and also explained each amendment [see above].
For continuation of the Second Reading stage with contributions by individual MPs, following last week’s presentation of the report on the Bill by a Joint Parliamentary Committee [see above].
Coming up Next Week in the Senate
There are three Bills on the Senate’s Order Paper for Tuesday 17th August, in the following order:
For start of Second Reading stage, with the Second Reading speech by the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry. The Senate will be considering the Bill as sent to it by the National Assembly, i.e., as it was amended by that House.
For the re-opening of the Committee Stage to correct substantive errors discovered in the Bill it had ostensibly been finally passed by the Senate on 28th July but before it had been sent to the President for his assent. The Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services will propose the deletion of clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill in order to correct the error. The error and how Parliamentary Standing Orders permit its “recommittal” for this correction were explained in Bill Watch 53/2021 of 2nd August. Senators can rest assured that clauses 5 and 6 can safely be deleted from the Bill. But the Bill, if thus amended by the Senate, will have to back to the National Assembly for its approval of the amendment.
There is no sign that a solution has been found to the impasse between the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Senator Chiefs over lobola. The delay in finalising the Bill has resulted in literally thousand of child marriages continuing. The Bill contains sorely-needed provisions penalising those responsible for child marriages. Recently there was an example of the evil inherent in child marriage in the death of a 14-year old child “wife” who had given birth to a baby at a shrine of the Vapostori sect. This sort of publicity does our country no good.