Opening of Fourth Parliamentary Session – Thursday 7th October: Bill Watch 67/2021

President’s State of the Nation Address [SONA] & Opening of the Fourth Session of Parliament

President Mnangagwa will deliver his State of the Nation Address [SONA] and open the Fourth Session of the present Parliament at 12 noon tomorrow. The President will also set out the Legislative Agenda for the new session.

As was the case last year, the restrictions on gatherings to counter the COVID-19 pandemic have dictated the abandonment of the trappings of the traditional opening ceremony. There will be no military parade and fly-past. The President will deliver his address virtually from State House. Members of the National Assembly and Senators in strictly limited numbers will assemble in a physical joint sitting to hear the address; other members of both Houses will be present virtually.

What follows below outlines the effect of the ending of the Third Session on business left unfinished at the last sittings of the session on Thursday 16th September – the 63rd of the session for the Senate and the 86th for the National Assembly during a session lasting just under a year. Also outlined is what the Houses achieved during the sittings on 14th, 15th and 16th September.

Effect of the End of the Third Session

All unfinished business will lapse in terms of Standing Orders

On 16th September both Houses adjourned, with unfinished business, particularly the National Assembly. At the end of the session just before midday tomorrow, all this unfinished business will lapse – including uncompleted Bills [see lists below], partly-debated motions, motions waiting to be moved for the first time. Each House will, therefore, start the Fourth Session with an Order Paper uncluttered by business carried forward from the Third Session.

Lapsed business can be restored in the Fourth Session

Standing Orders also, however, provide for each House to vote in favour of restoring any lapsed Bill [or any other item of lapsed business] to its Order Paper at the point reached previously. For instance, the Minister responsible for a lapsed Bill may move a motion that the Bill be restored to the Order Paper at the point reached in the last session. If the House concerned agrees to the motion, consideration of the Bill will continue as if the Bill had never lapsed.

Bills already passed will not lapse

The lapsing rule does not apply to Bills that have been passed by both Houses but not yet been gazetted as Acts, i.e., the Forest Amendment Bill and the Cyber & Data Protection Bill.

Both Bills were substantially amended during their passage through Parliament. The amended versions are still being prepared for submission to the President for his assent and gazetting as Acts.

In the National Assembly 14th to 16th September]

Bills

There was no movement on the five Bills on the National Assembly’s Order Paper:

Bills undergoing Second Reading debate

Ministerial Statement

Road carnage and mechanisms to integrate road infrastructure in Zimbabwe On 16th September Hon Mhona, Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, presented a lengthy and comprehensive statement in response to a request by Hon Nduna made on 18th August. The Minister’s statement and his responses to numerous requests from MPs for clarification on various points are available on the Veritas website.

Committee Reports adopted

The following Portfolio Committee reports were adopted, having been thoroughly debated previously:

  • Report on Post-Budget Feedback Meetings [Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development]
  • Report on Petition by Youth Broadcasting FM (Y-FM) on Issuance of Community Radio Station Licences [Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services]
  • 2020 Budget Performance Reports for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Hon Shamu [Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade].

Motion on the President’s speech at the opening of the Third Session

Debate on this motion was wound up and the motion adopted. The motion expresses MPs’ loyalty to Zimbabwe and thanks to President Mnangagwa for his speech on the occasion of the opening of the Third Session on 22nd October last year.

Members’ motions adopted

Debates on the following motions by MPs were wound up and the motions adopted:

  • Need for Public Holiday Honouring Women’s Achievements in Zimbabwe Hon Madiwa’s motion was adopted on 15th September.
  • Need for exploitation of untapped Lupane coal-bed methane gas resources and joining Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative [EITA] Hon Khupe’s motion was adopted on 15th September.
  • Need to promote youth inclusion and influence on public policy in order to enhance their participation in the broader economic sphere Hon Mavetera’s motion was adopted on 16th September.
  • Condolence motion re-late Hon Lisa Singo MP The motion was adopted on 16th September. Hon Singo was a women’s quota proportional representation ZANU PF MP from Masvingo Province. She died in February.

In the Senate 14th to 16th September

Bills

Marriages Bill: The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs brought up this Bill, which had stalled during the Committee Stage, with clause 16 objected to by Senators concerned about lobola not being made an essential element of a customary law marriage. The Minister invited Senator Chiefs to move whatever amendments they liked to the clause and to the Bill. He pointed out they had had several months in which to make up their minds whether to accept or reject the Bill, that the end of the session was imminent, and that he had so far refrained from invoking the constitutional procedure provided for overcoming undue delay by the Senate [see note below]. Senator Chiefs were unmoved and said they had arranged a meeting with the Minister’s officials for the following week. The Minister placed it on record that he would not accept responsibility for delaying the Bill. The Senate then turned to other business. The result is that the Bill will lapse at the end of the session, having reached only clause 16 of 54 clauses to be considered during the Committee Stage.

Delay on a Bill by the Senate The Constitution provides that if the Senate has not passed a National Assembly Bill within 90 days after its introduction in the Senate, the National Assembly may have the Bill sent to the President in the form in which it was passed by the National Assembly [Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 6]. The Marriages Bill was passed by the National Assembly and sent to the Senate in 4th May last year. The Senate started the Second Reading stage on 10th June – well over 90 days after its introduction in the Senate.

Pension and Provident Funds Bill: The Senate did not begin the Second Reading stage of the Bill, which was passed with amendments by the National Assembly on 25th August. This Bill, too, will lapse.

Other business concluded during the week

Senators used the rest of the week to wind up several debates and adopt the following motions and Thematic Committee reports:

  • Need for strengthening of the health delivery system [motion by Senator Chimbudzi that, among other things, calls for adequate resources to be allocated for procurement of medical services and ambulances, the subsidisation of kidney dialysis and decent accommodation for Government doctors].
  • Praise for Government on honouring Mbuya Nehanda with a statue [Senator Kambizi]
  • Need for material and financial support for SADC initiatives for development of liberation history modules [Senator Tongogara]
  • Need for Government to monitor adherence to official exchange rates and pricing of goods and services [Senator Tongogara]
  • Need for Parliament to (1) implement the Gender Policy of Parliament and the Inter-Parliamentary Union Gender-Sensitive Toolkit and (2) enact legislation on all forms of sexual harassment [Senator Mupfumira]
  • Joint Report on age of consent for accessing reproductive health services by adolescents and young people [Hon Kambizi].

PLC Adverse Report on New High Court Rules

On 14th and 15th September it was announced in the National Assembly and Senate, respectively, that the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] had returned an adverse report on the High Court Rules published in SI 202 of 2021. The adverse report has not been published. The reason for the PLC’s opinion that a provision or provisions in SI 202 is inconsistent with the Constitution and/or ultra vires will become public when the PLC chairperson formally presents the report to one or other of the Houses and asks for the inconsistent provision to be nullified. The Constitution allows the PLC to withdraw the adverse report if the SI is meanwhile amended to its satisfaction.

Source: Veritas

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