Both Houses of Parliament Sat Last Week, the National Assembly is Sitting this Week
In the National Assembly Last Week
Speaker’s announcement of recalls by MDC [Mwonzora]
At the start of business on Wednesday 15th February the Speaker announced Parliament’s receipt on 24th January of written notice in terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution in respect of two MPs, both of them women’s quota/party list/ proportional representation [PR] MPs for Bulawayo province: Hon Thokozani Khupe and Hon Novella Mguni.
The written notice, the Speaker said, had been from “the Movement for Democratic–Tsvangirai Party (MDC-T) and the MDC Alliance”, and notified Parliament that both MPs had ceased to be members of both the Party and the Alliance. The Speaker reminded MPs that the vacancies had arisen in the National Assembly by operation of the law. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] had also been informed of the existence of the vacancies and the members in question had been duly notified. [Note: Both vacancies are with effect from the date Parliament received the written notices – 24th January.]
Note: No announcement was made about Hon Daniel Molokele, who was recently rumoured to have been recalled.
No resulting by-elections required The filling of these vacancies does not require by-elections; the recalling party has the right to nominate qualified replacements for appointment by ZEC. Section 39(3) to (8) of the Electoral Act lays down the procedure ZEC must follow once it is has been informed of the vacancies. In this case ZEC has started the procedure relatively promptly by publishing in the Government Gazette General Notice [GN] 325 of 2022 of 18th February giving public notice of the existence of the vacancies. ZEC must also by now have invited the MDC-T Party and the MDC Alliance to nominate qualified persons to fill the vacancies, as required by section 39 of the Act. The next step expected from ZEC is a GN notifying the nominees and allowing a period for the lodging of public objections to their appointment by ZEC as PR MPs.
One-minute statements on matter of public importance [Standing Order 62]
Situation in schools Hon T. Moyo raised concerns about the current situation, the industrial action by teachers and the disruption in learning activities, the need to pay teachers an appropriate wage, and asked for a Ministerial Statement in the House. The Speaker said the Minister would be advised to make a statement.
Destructive effect of illicit alcoholic brews in rural communities Hon Nyabani briefly raised this problem, saying these illicit brews were being sold cheaply everywhere in the rural areas, including to school children. Responding, the Speaker agreed that it was a “critically important matter” and recommended that Hon Nyabani put down a substantive motion to enable a full debate to occur.
The House did not consider any of the Bills listed on the Order Paper for their Committee Stage or Second Reading. But on Thursday 16th February, after the responsible Ministers had given notices of presentation listed in the previous day’s Order Paper, five Bills were presented, given their First Readings and immediately referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its reports on their consistency with the Constitution:
- Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill – see Veritas comments
- Child Justice Bill
- Children’s Amendment Bill
- Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill – see Veritas comments
- Labour Amendment Bill.
The PLC still has to report on three Bills presented in November last year:
- Health Services Amendment Bill – see Veritas comments
- Insurance Bill
- Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill– see Veritas comments .
Future progress on all the Bills listed above will have to wait, not only for the PLC reports on their constitutionality, but also for the Portfolio Committee reports on the public consultations still to be conducted on all of them. Standing Orders make the PLC report necessary for the next stage of a Bill – the Second Reading Stage – to start with the responsible Minister’s introductory Second Reading speech; and the Portfolio Committee report on public consultations must be presented next, before MPs can begin their contributions to debate.
No public hearings this week No public hearings on Bills are scheduled for the week ending 25th February.
Petitions Received and Referred to Committees for Reports
The Speaker informed MPs that the following petitions had been accepted on the following subjects and referred to appropriate Parliamentary committees:
- Protection of Mutoroshanga Green Pools from mining activities This had been received from three individuals in Mutoroshanga on 14th December. Referred to three portfolio committees:
- Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services; Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry; and Mines and Mining Development.
- Call for a Free Menstrual Products and Services Act benefiting underprivileged women and girls Petitioner: Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe Trust.
- Call for enactment of laws and policies protecting rights of people with albinism Petitioner: Noble Hands Zimbabwe Trust. Referred to the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the Thematic Committee on Human Rights.
- Call for City of Harare to summoned to explain mass resignation and exodus of midwives and nurses from Council clinics and hospitals Petitioner: Combined Harare Residents Association [CHRA]. Referred to: Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Public Works, National Housing and Social Amenities.
- Protection of rights of learners with disabilities Petitioner: Deaf Zimbabwe Trust. Referred to: the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education.
[The Speaker also announced the rejection of six other petitions deemed inadmissible for non-compliance with the requirements laid down by Standing Orders.]
Portfolio Committee reports presented [15th February]
Implementation of Devolution in Zimbabwe
Hon Chikukwa presented the report of the Portfolio Committee on Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Public Works, National Housing and Social Amenities. The Speaker and MPs who contributed to the ensuing debate commended the excellent report but pointed out that the months’ long interval between its preparation and presentation rendered recommendations calling for action by end of 2021 outdated. The report is largely about the use by some local authorities of the 5% of Budget funds constitutionally allocated to local authorities under recent Budgets; this use had to be for Government-specified purposes, which one MP pointed out was contrary to the constitutional principle of devolution. The report explained the challenges experienced by local authorities in complying with complex procurement requirements and late disbursement of funds by Treasury and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. Also clear from the report is the serious problem caused by the Government’s apparent inability to produce the complete package of Bills to enable proper implementation of devolution as envisaged by the Constitution: only a seriously inadequate Bill to amend the Provincial Councils and Administration Act has been gazetted, but the Urban Councils Act, the Rural District Councils Act and the Traditional Leaders Act must also be amended.
Report on Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s Budget Performance for 2021, First Quarter
Hon Svuure presented this report by the Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce. Although out of date the report usefully records the difficulties Portfolio Committees have been experiencing with Ministries failing to submit their Budget Performance Reports as they are obliged to do under the Public Finance Management Act, requiring reminders to do so. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development is also censured for its “erratic” release of budget funds, a common complaint from Ministries that was also repeatedly mentioned during the 2022 Budget debate in December.
In the Senate Last Week
Marriages Bill amended and amendments now under consideration by PLC
This Bill was transmitted to the Senate in early June 2020, as amended by the National Assembly, including the insertion of an additional clause 10; this necessitated the renumbering of clauses 10 of the original Bill onwards. So the Senate has for well over eighteen months been considering the amended Bill numbered H.B. 7A, 2019 [hereinafter referred as “Bill H.B. 7A”] in which the numbering of clauses 10 onwards differs from the original Bill H.B. 7, 2019. The references to the Bill’s clauses that follow are, therefore, references to clauses of Bill H.B. 7A. The Senate had made a start on the Bill’s Committee Stage and approved clauses 1 to 15 on 21st April 2021 [making one amendment to clause 9]; but it then got stuck on clause 16 [Solemnisation of customary law marriages] because Senator Chiefs, with support from other Senators, were unhappy with that clause’s failure to mention lobola. The Committee Stage stayed at that point until last week, when in Wednesday’s Senate Votes and Proceedings there appeared a new Notice of Amendments proposed by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, replacing the previous Notice of Amendments proposed by both the Minister and Senator Chief Charumbira. This replacement indicated that there had been discussions and a reaching of consensus between the Ministry and representatives of Senator Chiefs.
The next day, Thursday 17th February, the Senate resumed the Committee Stage of the Bill, started with the re-consideration of clause 9 [Chiefs as marriage officers] and approving the Minister’s new clause 9 with one change conceded by the Minister at the insistence of Senator Chiefs. Senators then approved the rest of the Bill, making the changes proposed by the Minister to clauses 16 [Solemnisation of customary law marriages], 17 [Unregistered customary law unions] and 43 [Recognition of foreign marriages] and adding an entirely new clause 45 [Application of Act to certain marriages other than civil or customary marriages] providing for registration of marriages solemnised according to Islamic rites as “qualified civil marriages”. The Minister explained that this lengthy clause had been prepared in consultation with the Muslim community.
The amendments approved by the Senate have been referred to the PLC for a report on their constitutionality. If the report is non-adverse and the amendments are finally approved by the Senate when it resumes sitting next week, the Bill must then be returned to the National Assembly for it to consider the amendments made and whether to accept them. The Senate then adjourned until Tuesday 1st March.
Bills on the National Assembly’s Order Paper This Week
The list is the same as last week’s, because none of the Bills on it were considered last week:
For Committee Stage
- Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill – a Veritas commentary is available .
- 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
Last Week’s Post-Cabinet Meeting Briefing
Note: This briefing and previous briefings can be accessed via the Post-Cabinet Meeting Briefings webpage on the Veritas website,
- Update on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Vaccination Situation indications are that community transmission has gone down. It was resolved that because the pandemic is not yet over, the vaccination programme should be strengthened and strict enforcement of all COVID-19 regulations must continue, along with more effective communication of pandemic-related risks.
- Update on the 2021/2022 Summer Production Season – details of: deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board of maize, soya beans, wheat and traditional grains; hectarage under tobacco and cotton, both having been affected by the late start of the rainy season; and the start of tobacco sales at the end of March. In view of the increased demand for maize, Cabinet resolved that importation of maize with free funds would be allowed.
- Pomona Waste Management Facility and Waste-to-Energy Plant Project Cabinet approved the Joint Venture Agreement between the City of Harare and Geogenix B.V. This is a Design, Build, Operate and Transfer project, under which the Dutch investor will design, build and operate the plant for 30 years before transferring it to the City of Harare. Electricity will be generated for the national grid.
- Gold Service Centres and Gold Buying Centres Cabinet approved proposals presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development for the strengthening of 5 existing Gold Service Centres and the immediate establishment of four Gold Buying Centres. A warning was given to “influential and Government officials involved in illegal mining activities” that “stern action” would be taken. Cabinet also demanded that “the Mines and Minerals (Amendment) Bill be finalised as a matter of urgency”.
- Dysfunctional, illegal and irregular settlements Vice-President Chiwenga updated Cabinet the aerial mapping of the settlements and presented a report on the progress on their regularisation. The briefing includes details on the construction of flats in Dzivaresekwa and prioritisation of the wetlands problem.
- Update on Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2 A progress report was presented. ZWL$1 billion had since been released from the 2022 Budget to ERRP 2. Measures were being taken to address complaints of poor workmanship. ZWL$500 million had been released to DDF to respond to weather-related emergencies.
Update On The Expo 2020 Dubai
- Update On The Situation At Schools Stern action would be taken against teachers absenting themselves from their schools and those attending but refusing to teach classes. Teachers not participating in industrial action were commended.
- The briefing concluded with an announcement of the President’s forthcoming attendance at the 6th AU-EU Summit, Brussels, Belgium, 17 -18 February 2022.