In Parliament 17th to 19th August: Senate Sends Amended Forest and Cyber Bills to PLC, Assembly Sends Amended Pensions Bill to PLC
Both Houses of Parliament met last week and will continue sitting this week, from today. This bulletin gives a brief summary of what was achieved last week and what business faces both Houses this week.
In the National Assembly Last Week [17th – 19th August]
The Committee Stage was taken as scheduled on Tuesday 17th August, with Hon Chiduwa, the Deputy Minister, standing in for the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. It lasted for well over half of a sitting that itself lasted just under three and a half hours, and it proved to be a model of what a Committee Stage should be – a careful, non-partisan scrutiny of the wording of the Bill with a common aim of improving it. Hon Mushoriwa was the main – but not the only – backbencher contributor to the discussion. He showed an impressive knowledge of the detail of the Bill and the effect of the Minister’s proposed amendments; most of his suggestions for changes to those amendments were accepted by Hon Chiduwa. The amended Bill was then sent to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the constitutionality of the amendments.
The Second Reading stage continued on Thursday 19th August with contributions by individual MPs, who had previously heard the Minister’s introductory Second Reading speech on 22nd July and, on 5th August, the joint report by three Committees. The new rule limiting MPs to contributions of only 10 minutes to prevent late sittings was applied.
PLC Non-Adverse Reports on three Bills
On Tuesday 27th August three non-adverse reports on Bills were announced:
Although the reports cleared the way for the Second Reading stages of all three Bills, the House did not return to the Bills during the week and they were, therefore, carried forward to this week [see below under Coming up Next Week in the National Assembly for further information on each of the Bills].
Treaty for the Establishment of the African Medicines Agency approved
The House approved this 2019 Treaty on 17th August. Once the Senate does likewise, Zimbabwe’s ratification of the Treaty can go ahead, thereby contributing to its eventual coming into force. MPs praised the Treaty’s likely impact on the promotion of African traditional medicines.
PLC reports on July 2021 Statutory Instruments On 17th and 18th August it was announced that the PLC that had issued non-adverse reports on all statutory instruments gazetted during July, with the exception of the new High Court Rules published in SI 202/2021, which was so long that it that its examination required more time.
Portfolio Committee Reports
Fact-Finding Visit to Areas Affected by Mining Accidents
Hon Mkaratigwa, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development, presented the committee’s report on 18th August.
Coloured community’s petition on Use of Double Zero  Classification on ID cards
The report of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services on this petition was presented. The petition claimed that this ID classification was the cause of the community’s continued alienation and marginalisation. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and the Registrar-General had undertaken to consider replacing or ceasing to use the 00 code.
Report on Dinde Community’s complaint of lack of consultation before EMA approval of grant of mining rights
This previously debated report was adopted 19th August after a lengthy response from the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
Private members’ motions
New motion on measures and programmes for youths Hon Mavetera presented her motion on 19th August, after which MPs adjourned for the weekend.
Note: Reports will be posted on our website as they become available to us.
In the Senate Last Week [17th – 19th August]
The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry took the Bill successfully through both Second Reading and Committee Stages on 17th August. Senator Chiefs, with the support of other Senators, complained about the lack of provision in the Bill for a chiefs’ representative on the Forestry Commission Board, and requested that the chiefs’ special interest in forests be recognised by having two chiefs, nominated by the Council of Chiefs, on the Board. The Minister said he was prepared to accept one chief and, after discussion, that was agreed and the Bill amended accordingly. The Bill then referred to the PLC for its report on the constitutionality of the amendment.
The re-opened Committee Stage of this Bill also started on 17th August, its purpose being to correct an error in the Bill that had been discovered after the Senate had ostensibly finally passed the Bill on 28th July but before it had been sent to the President for his assent. See Bill Watch 53/2021 for more on how this procedure is permitted by Standing Orders.
The Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services duly proposed the deletion of clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill – which had apparently been erroneously retained from an earlier draft of the Bill and now served no purpose – and Senators agreed.
But another, similar, error had been discovered in the Bill, and the Committee Stage was adjourned until the next day for this to be corrected. On 18th August, therefore, the Minister requested the deletion from clause 37 of the Bill of the definitions of “remote forensic tool” and the related definition of “utilise”, which was defined solely in relation to the use of a remote forensic tool. Senators agreed. The Minister did not offer, and Senators did not request, an explanation for the deletions, which are unobjectionable, there being no use of either defined term elsewhere in the Bill. In other words, the two definitions served no purpose in the Bill, except to mystify the unwary reader.
Once again, for what seems like the umpteenth week in a row, this Bill was not brought up by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. It was carried forward to this week.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
for continuation of the Second Reading stage with further contributions from MPs, and possibly a response by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to the joint committee’s report and MPs’ contributions.
Bills for start of Second Reading stage
The three Bills that received non-adverse reports from the PLC last week head the Order Paper for Tuesday 24th August and await the start of the Second Reading stage. Note; The Second Reading stage of a Bill begins with the introductory speech explaining the objectives of the Bill by the responsible Minister and is followed by presentation of the report on public consultations on the Bill by from the appropriate Portfolio Committee/s, contributions from backbenchers and, finally, by the Minister’s closing speech responding to points raised during the debate.
The above Bills are the responsibility of the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage. As the final committee reports were due to be considered at a committee meeting yesterday, progress this week is possible.
The Minister responsible for this Bill is the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. The committee report is due to be considered by the Portfolio Committee of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs today.
Two Bills awaiting reports from the PLC
Pension and Provident Funds Bill
This Bill is with the PLC for consideration of the constitutionality of the Committee Stage amendments made by the House on 17th August [see above]. If a non-adverse PLC report is received during the week, the House could give its final approval to the Bill and send it on to the Senate.
Public Finance Management Amendment Bill
This Bill has been with the PLC since 21st July for its initial report on the constitutionality of the whole Bill after its First Reading. This report is required before the Second Reading stage can begin.
Motion for Parliamentary Caucus on Persons with Disabilities
Hon Josiah Sithole’s motion is yet to be presented.
Coming up in the Senate This Week
There has been no indication that the fundamental disagreement over lobola between the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Senator Chiefs has been resolved. Veritas, therefore, revives the suggestion we made in Bill Watch 36/2019 when commenting on the original Bill just over two years ago. The Government might consider introducing a shorter Bill which will simply abolish child marriages and do nothing more. After Veritas’ successful Constitutional Court case we drafted a Bill for the Ministry of Justice which would do just that. Perhaps the Minister should consider proceeding with that draft Bill.”
It is now five and a half years since the Constitutional Court declared child marriage illegal – without the necessary legislative follow-up becoming law. The evil of child marriage has, as illustrated by a recent tragedy and its aftermath, remained with us. The need for implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision is more urgent than ever. A short Bill focussing on child marriage would meet that need.
Amended Bills with the PLC
The PLC is considering the amendments to the Forest Amendment Bill and the Cyber & Data Protection Bill made by the Senate last week [see above]. If the PLC issues non-adverse reports, as expected, the Senate will be able to pass these Bills, but will have to send them back to the National Assembly for final approval.