Both Houses Sat Last Week and Will Continue This Week, Only Two Bills Dealt With Last Week
In the Senate
Marriages Bill passed and sent back to National Assembly
As expected, the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] returned a non-adverse report on the Senate’s Committee Stage amendments on Tuesday 1st March, clearing the way for the Senate’s final adoption of the amendments. The next day the Senate adopted the amendments, gave the Bill its Third Reading and returned it to the National Assembly for reconsideration of the changes made to the Bill by the Senate. It is on the National Assembly Order Paper for this week [see below].
The only other Bill on the Senate’s Order Paper was the Pension and Provident Funds Bill. As the Minister of Finance and Economic Development did not bring the Bill up, it was carried forward to this week.
In the National Assembly
Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill
On Wednesday 2nd March the PLC returned a non-adverse report on the Assembly’s Committee Stage amendments and on the next day MPs finally adopted the amendments, gave the Bill its Third Reading and it was transmitted to the Senate. As the several other Bills awaiting attention were not brought up, no progress was made and they were all carried forward to this week [see below]. There was no further movement on Hon Murire’s motion for leave to present a Private Member’s Bill to provide for the Establishment of an Institute of Chartered Loss Control Management.
Other Business in the National Assembly Last Week
Receipt of petitions
On Wednesday 2nd March the Speaker announced the receipt of four petitions and their referral to appropriate committees:
- From Residents of Coalition for Electoral Reforms – asking Parliament to request the Registrar-General to expedite the issuing of identity documents for the purposes of voter registration [referred to PC on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services].
- From Deaf Zimbabwe Trust – asking Parliament to protect the rights of pupils with disability and finalise the inclusive Education Policy, in draft since 2019 [referred to PC on Primary and Secondary Education and TC on Human Rights].
- From Fight Inequality Alliance Zimbabwe – asking Parliament to redress the current regressive tax regime, enact legislation for redistributive wealth tax, review downwards the withholding tax and expedite the finalisation of the Mines and Minerals Bill before the end of 2022 [referred to the PCs on Budget, Finance and Economic Development and Mines and Mining Development ]
- From Ms Nyasha Mpame – asking Parliament to engage the Ministry of Health and Child Care to increase the number of machines for cancer patients, recruit more personnel to attend to them and decentralise cancer services to all districts by end of 2022 [referred to PC on Health and Child Care].
International agreement approved
Bilateral Air Services Agreement [BASA] with United Arab Emirates [UAE] The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Hon Mhona, secured the House’s approval of this agreement, which was concluded in 2014. Questioned about the delay in seeking Parliament’s approval, he blamed the lackadaisical approach in his Ministry under the First Republic before he became Minister in the Second Republic; he also warned MPs that there were several other unapproved BASAs coming.
Two important Portfolio Committee reports presented
The presentation of both the following reports sparked animated contributions to debate by many MPs. Both debates were adjourned for continuation. The state of affairs revealed by both reports calls for responses from several Ministers.
State of Service Delivery and Infrastructure in ZRP Establishments. On Tuesday 1st March Hon Mayihlome presented this report by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Defence and Security Services, which paints a picture of a police force across the whole country with dilapidated institutional and residential accommodation, poor ablution facilities resulting in officers opting for the bush system, obsolete office furniture, inadequate tools of trade, use of ineffective policing equipment which is inconsistent with contemporary policing technology, inadequate transport and fuel supplies. The committee concludes that the morale of officers across the entire Police Service was at its lowest ebb despite their demonstration of resilience and patriotism and that procrastination of redress of the various challenges in the entire organisation has the potential of collapsing the policing system due to increased indiscipline and poor service delivery. The majority of the challenges faced by the ZRP, the committee says, are a result of underfunding and delayed release of funds by the Treasury. To remedy this the committee recommends that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development must allocate adequate financial resources to ZRP and immediately authorise ZRP to use “retention funds” [revenue collected by police by such means as fines].
PAC Report on the Special Maize Programme/Command Agriculture [2017-2018]. This Public Accounts Committee [PAC] report from the Third Session was ready for presentation in August last year and is part of the considerable backlog of undone work that lapsed at the end of that session, despite its importance. On Tuesday 1st March the House approved a motion restoring the relevant motion to the Order Paper. On Thursday 3rd March PAC chairperson Hon Brian Dube presented the report, which reveals serious breaches of the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Procurement legislation and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act in the way in which the Special Maize Programme was financed, managed and accounted for – including expenditure of US$ 1.5 billion not authorised by Parliament. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development [and its then Minister, Patrick Chinamasa] and the Reserve Bank come in for severe criticism.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
For Committee Stage
- 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
- Copper Control Amendment Bill
- Police Amendment Bill – a Veritas commentary is available
For the start of the Second Reading stage
- Public Finance Management Amendment Bill .
- Insurance Bill
- Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill – see Veritas comments . Note that the Minister has taken the unusual step of having a Notice of Amendment included on the Order Paper at this early stage. The notice envisages the insertion of a new clause 4 providing for Delegation of functions by Commissioner (of Insurance), which will entail the renumbering of every clause from there onwards.
- Health Services Amendment Bill – see Veritas comments .
For consideration of amendments made by the Senate
- Marriages Bill
Bills still with the PLC for its initial report
There are five more Bills with the PLC following their First Readings last month. These Bills will not come up for their Second Reading stages until the PLC has reported on their consistency with the Constitution:
- Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill – see Veritas comments . Note that public hearings were conducted last week, so this Bill is apparently being prioritised.
- Child Justice Bill
- Children’s Amendment Bill
- Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill – see Veritas comments
- Labour Amendment Bill .
Business Coming up in the Senate This Week
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.
Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill : This was transmitted to the Senate last week, clauses 1, 3 and 5 having been amended.
Approval of International Agreement
Bilateral Air Services Agreement [BASA] with United Arab Emirates [UAE] This is the agreement that the National Assembly approved last Thursday 3rd March. As Minister Mhona mentioned on that occasion, Parliament’s approval is urgently needed because President Mnangagwa is due to visit the UAE from 13th to 16th March.