Both Houses of Parliament Will Sit This Week, The National Assembly and the Senate will resume sittings today, Tuesday 15th February.
The present parliamentary session, which is the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe, began on 8th October 2021, The session still has roughly eight and a half months to run. The National Assembly’s sitting today will be its 20th sitting since 8th October, and the Senate’s sitting will be its 19th. Their Order Papers for the sittings give an idea of the Bills now facing members of Parliament. As the Order Papers were prepared in December last year, when the Houses adjourned on the 9th and 15th December respectively, they necessarily focus on what needs to be done to complete Bills left unfinished then. But before turning to reminding our readers of matters on the Order Papers, we shall attempt to forecast non-agenda matters likely to arise now in in both Houses in the light of developments while they were in recess.
Likely Non-agenda Items of Business
Announcement of recalls by MDC [Mwonzora]
In the last two and a half weeks, there have been media reports that the MDC party headed by Senator Mwonzora has recalled three members of the National Assembly by giving written notice to the Speaker in terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution that the following MPs have ceased to belong to the party:
- Hon Thokozani Khupe, proportional representation [PR] MP for Bulawayo province
- Hon Novella Mguni, PR MP for Bulawayo
- Hon Daniel Molokele, MP for Hwange Central constituency.
Dr Khupe is reported to have challenged her recall in the Bulawayo High Court. In the light of the practice invariably followed by Parliament in such cases, the Speaker is expected to make an early announcement in the National Assembly clarifying the situation.
[Although a notice of recall takes effect immediately on receipt by the Speaker [or in the case of a Senator, on receipt by the President of the Senate], the practice invariably followed in both Houses is for the presiding officer concerned to make an formal announcement when the House concerned meets next. The announcement states the name of the recalling party, the name of the recalled member of Parliament and the date of receipt of the written notice – and usually a statement that the seat of the recalled member is now vacant and that Parliament will inform the President and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] accordingly.]
Bills already gazetted and ready for presentation
The following Bills have already been gazetted by Parliament – in some cases, months ago and in all cases more than 14 days ago. Each of these Bills accordingly qualifies in terms of Standing Order 142 for presentation by its responsible Minister, but only after the Minister has given a notice of presentation appearing on the Order Paper:
- Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill – and Veritas comments
- Child Justice Bill
- Children’s Amendment Bill
- Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill – and Veritas comments
- Labour Amendment Bill .
One-minute statements on matters of public importance
National Assembly Standing Order 62(1) is as follows:
“A Member who is not a Minister may make a statement for one minute on (a) matter of public importance.”
These statements must be made in the first 20 minutes on every day on which the House sits, i.e., before 2.35 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and 9.35 am on a Friday. [There is a corresponding provision in Senate Standing Orders.] Backbenchers in the National Assembly have been making increasing use of this Standing Order in recent months. After so long a recess they are probably ready with a backlog of new one-minute statements on matters of public importance. Questions on matters of public importance concerning Government policy may also, of course, be raised during the time allotted to questions without notice during the weekly Question Time – on Wednesday in the National Assembly and Thursday in the Senate.
Bills on the National Assembly Order Paper
For Committee Stage
- Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill – a Veritas commentary is available. Also available is a document setting out amendments to the Bill proposed by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
- Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill – a Veritas commentary is available . Also available is a document setting out amendments to the Bill proposed by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
For continuation of the Second Reading debate
For the start of the Second Reading stage
Bills on the Senate Order Paper
There are only two Bills on the Senate Order Paper, both carried over from the previous session:
Marriages Bill [please note that this link is to the Bill as amended by the National Assembly and transmitted to the Senate, i.e., it is the one that Senators should have before them when the Committee Stage resumes] The Bill is less than halfway through its Committee Stage. Senator Chief Charumbira has had his proposed amendments on the Order Paper since 9th November; the amendments are to clauses 16 [Solemnisation of customary marriages], 17 [Unregistered customary unions] and 42 [Civil partnerships]. The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has had his proposed amendments to the same clauses on the Order Paper for months now.
Will this be the week in which the long-running stand-off between Senators and the Minister is at last resolved? The competing amendments create a great deal of scope for confusion and call for skilled chairing of the resumed Committee Stage. Another point to be made is that any amendments made by the Senate will require the agreement of the National Assembly. As Senators have already made one amendment and further amendments seem inevitable, the Bill will have go back to the National Assembly.
Pension and Provident Funds Bill – Senators are waiting for the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to start the Second Reading stage of this Bill with his introductory speech.