Forest & Cyber Bills passed; Principles of new PVO Bill: Bill Watch 63/2021

Both Houses of Parliament met last week, on Tuesday 24th, Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th August. At the end of Thursday’s sittings the National Assembly adjourned until Tuesday 7th September, the Senate adjourned until Tuesday 14th September. This bulletin summarises what both Houses achieved last week, starting with the final passing of two Bills.

Two Bills Finally Passed

Between them, the two Houses made short work of completing the final passage of the following two Bills:

For both the above Bills, the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] gave non-adverse reports on 24th August on the Senate’s Committee Stage amendments; the amendments were noted in Bill Watch 61/2021. This allowed the Senate to pass both Bills the next day and send them back to the National Assembly for consideration and approval of the amendments. The National Assembly approved and passed the amended Bills on Thursday 26th August and Parliament is now preparing both Bills for the President’s signature and gazetting as Acts.

Other Business In the National Assembly Last Week [24th to 26th August]

As well as passing the Senate’s amendments to the above Bills, the National Assembly made progress on the following business.

Bills

Pension and Provident Funds Bill

The PLC’s non-adverse report the constitutionality of the Committee Stage amendments made by the House the previous week was received on 24th August. On the next day, after Question Time, the House gave its final approval to the Bill passed it and sent it to the Senate.

Progress on the Second Reading stages of three other Bills was made on Thursday 25th August:

Copper Control Amendment Bill

The Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Hon Kazembe, delivered his short Second Reading speech explaining the reasons for and content of the Bill. Hon Mayihlome, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services said the committee’s report on the Bill would be ready when the House sat next [it is hoped that the Committee has considered the undesirability of mandatory sentences]. The Second Reading stage is likely to continue when the House sits next week.

Police Amendment Bill

The Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage then started the Second Reading stage of this Bill and introduced it with a longer speech. The Portfolio Committee report on this Bill, too, was not ready, so debate is likely to continue next week.

Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill

Hon Mataranyika, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, presented the committee’s report on this Bill. The report’s concludes that the Bill is a progressive piece of legislation, which goes a long way towards aligning the Guardianship of Minors Act with the Constitution; but that it should be “fine-tuned to take into account the various issues and recommendations raised in this report”.

Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs did not bring up this Bill which was listed on the Order Paper for continuation of the Second Reading stage, which has now proceeded to the point where the Portfolio Committee has reported and MPs have started contributing to the debate.

Public Finance Management Amendment Bill

At the end of the week’s sittings, this Bill was still under consideration by the PLC; until that report is received the Second Reading stage cannot start.

Portfolio Committee Reports presented

During the week three reports were presented [these will be on the Veritas website as soon as they are available]:

  • Operations of Private Schools during the COVID-19 pandemic Lockdown Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga presented this report by the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on 24th August.
  • Inquiry into State of Waste Management in Zimbabwe Also on 24th August, Hon Chikukwa presented this report by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works, National Housing and Social Amenities.
  • Teachers’ Welfare On 26th August Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga presented a Joint Report from the Portfolio Committees on Primary and Secondary Education and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the petition received by Parliament from Teachers’ Unions on the subject of Teachers’ Welfare. The report is long and detailed and full of helpful ideas and recommendations, such as a strong suggestion that teachers should enjoy free education for their children.

Members’ motions

Condolence motion on the death of former First Lady Mrs Janet Banana: Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga, in a short but graceful speech, moved her motion expressing appreciation for the services rendered to the nation by Mrs Banana, who died on 29th July, and sympathy for the Banana family and relatives.

Question Time [Wednesday]

Age of consent to sexual intercourse and child marriage

Hon Gonese’s question to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs about the Ministry’s position about the mismatch between the age of consent [16] and the minimum age for a lawful marriage [18] sparked a number of supplementary questions referring to the problem of child marriages and the long delay in finalising the Marriages Bill. The Minister stressed the difficulties involved in both these issues.

Disparity between official auction exchange rate and parallel market rates

A question about the parallel market exchange rate being used for pricing goods and services received an assurance from the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development that SI 127, which prohibited such conduct, was being implemented and that 69 violators had been identified and fined; MPs were urged to report violators of SI 127 and those driving the parallel market to the authorities. The Minister spoke optimistically about the expected effects of the recent IMF pay-out, and the prospects of banks increasing loans to their clients from the foreign exchange reserves they hold.

In the Senate Last Week [24th – 26th August]

Bills

The Senate’s role in Parliament’s final passing of the Forest Amendment Bill and the Cyber and Data Protection Bill has already been described at the beginning of this bulletin.

Pension and Provident Funds Bill

On 25th August this Bill week was received from the Senate, but consideration of the Bill did not start before the end of the week’s sittings. Question Time took up all Senators’ time on 26th August.

Marriages Bill

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs did not request Senators to resume consideration of this Bill. His proposed amendments, including the one that Senator Chiefs and other Senators found unacceptable when the Bill was last discussed, are still on the Order Paper. [Note: On 25th August, during Question Time in the National Assembly, the Minister explained that there had been negotiations to overcome the Senator Chiefs’ problems with the Bill; he intended, and that the Bill would be finalised before the end of the present Parliamentary session.]

Thematic Committee Report presented

Study Visit to Uganda on HIV and AIDS Management and Financing On 25th August Hon Senator Chief Ngungumbane presented this report by the Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS.

Senators’ motions

Strengthening the health delivery system: On 24th August most of the Senate’s short sitting was taken up with the presentation of Hon Senator Chimbudzi of her comprehensive motion on the need to strengthen the present inadequate health delivery system and the ensuing debate.

Question Time [Thursday]

The re-opening of schools prompted a number of questions about whether parents would be expected to pay fees for two full terms, examination dates and related matters. The Leader of the House undertook to have these questions answered in a Ministerial statement by the responsible Minister.

Non-availability of fuel for ZWL dollars The Minister of Energy and Power Development was grilled by Senators about the apparently insoluble problem of fuel being sold for US dollars by the majority of filling stations when it should be sold for ZWL dollars.

Re-engagement with the Western world The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Hon Musabayana, detailed a number of developments, including the recent IMF allocation of special drawing rights, and American investments in infrastructure projects, and he said that it showed that the President’s vision of re-engagements with the West was bearing fruit.

Coming up in the National Assembly Next Week

Note: Only the National Assembly will be sitting next week. The Senate will not sit again until Tuesday 14th September.

Bills

The Second Reading stages of the following Bills are listed in the Order Paper for Tuesday 7th September. Debates will continue from the point previously reached [see above]:

Bill awaiting PLC’s Initial Report

Public Finance Management Amendment Bill: This report is required before the Second Reading stage can begin.

Motion of Thanks for the President’s speech

Ministers have been replying to points made by MPs during this long-running debate which started nearly a year ago. The aim is for the motion to be approved before the end of the present Parliamentary session.

PVO Amendment Bill

The final draft Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill was approved by the Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday 31st August. In the normal course of events this approval means that the Minister responsible for the Bill now has authority to send the Bill to Parliament for printing and eventual publication in the Government Gazette. Veritas does not, at this stage, possess a copy of the text of the Bill, but the post-Cabinet briefing by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services has the following summary:

“The amendments seek to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism by any individual or institution in Zimbabwe operating under the Private Voluntary Organisations banner. The amendments also seek to streamline the administrative procedures for Private Voluntary Organisations in order to ensure their efficient registration, regulation and the combating of the financing of terrorism. The Registrar of PVOs is also being accorded powers to penalize non-compliant organizations. The PVO Amendment Bill was necessitated by growing regional and global concerns about money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. It is now known that terrorist activities can be committed using seemingly authentic transactions, either as humanitarian aid or as development assistance. Since the current PVO Act was silent in this regard, the Bill seeks to close the loophole and ensure that all PVO activities are transparent and are conducted in the national interest. As a member of the International Financial Action Task Force, Zimbabwe is obligated to ensure compliance by all PVOs operating in the country, without exception. Whereas registration has all along been free, the Registrar is now empowered to collect registration fees from all PVOs.

The Bill prohibits PVOs from political involvement, and requires them to discharge their mandate for the benefit of society’s most vulnerable. PVOs are therefore prohibited from undertaking political lobbying on behalf of any individual, organisation or political party, and the Bill stipulates penalties for those PVOs that violate the Act. The Registrar can also impose civil penalty orders on PVOs which break the law, with high risk PVOs being placed under monitoring. The Executive Committee of a PVO can be suspended for either maladministration or failure to discharge the declared mandate.”

Source: Veritas

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