Assembly Starts on PVO Bill, Sends State Universities Bill to Senate: Bill Watch 16/2022

Both Houses Sat on Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th April, They are Now in Recess until Tuesday 3rd May

Both Houses sat on Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th April. They then adjourned until Tuesday 3rd May, to allow members a break for the Easter weekend, Independence Day and the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair [ZITF] which will run from 26th to 30th April. Both Houses will resume sittings on Tuesday 3rd May. Committee meetings will start on Tuesday 3 May.

In the National Assembly 12th and 13th April

Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill: Sent to Senate

On Tuesday 12th April the Second Reading stage of this Bill was completed. The detailed Portfolio Committee report was presented on the six public hearings that took place in selected universities round Zimbabwe, with recommendations for amendments, including the insertion of express provisions for academic freedom in all the State Universities Statutes affected by the Bill and an increase [from 1 to 3] in students on University Councils. Several MPs then made contributions to the debate, with at least one MP underlining the recommended need for an academic freedom provision in all the Acts. The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, Hon Prof Murwira wound up the debate with a detailed response. On academic freedom, the Minister seemed to think provision for academic freedom could be left to subsidiary legislation, e.g., University Ordinances – although the Portfolio Committee had expressly stated it must be in the individual Acts, not in subsidiary legislation. On Wednesday 13th April the Bill sailed through its Committee Stage without amendments or discussion. It was then given its Third Reading and transmitted to the Senate.

Comment: This Bill appears to have been rushed through, with insufficient time being afforded to consider a very thorough Portfolio Committee report raising the need for several Committee Stage amendments. And once again key recommendations by a Parliamentary Committee are ignored. Academic freedom is the keystone to all academic life and should not be left to the whim of individual University’s Ordinances.

Second Reading speeches on three Bills

On Tuesday 12th April three Ministerial speeches were delivered on the following Bills:

Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill

The Minister’s Second Reading speech was delivered by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Ziyambi, who seems to have taken over the Bill from the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Minister Ziyambi acknowledged the good work done by those PVOs “which operate lawfully within Zimbabwe” and “provide support for communities in a wide range of areas where the national or local Government for want of resources or expertise has been deficient for any reason”. He cited “support and assistance in the form of programmes, projects, services, goods and money in such sectors as health and education provision, assistance to widows and orphans, the relief of poverty and hunger and the empowerment of women, youth and disabled”. On behalf of the Government he thanked such PVOs and said that they should keep up their good work.

He assured MPs that the Bill “does not speak to those law-abiding PVOs but to the few who may be tempted to use the guise of charity to carry out undesirable, harmful and even criminal activities”. He gave examples of such activities: he claimed communication had been received from the Financial Action Task Force that “some charitable trusts are being misused as a means for channelling funds to fund terrorism and other criminal activities, or to launder the proceeds of criminal activities by, for instance, buying up properties in Zimbabwe and other countries; further, the Government was aware that “some so-called charities act in a politically partisan manner by directing money to favoured political parties or candidates at the expense of other political parties or candidates”. [Comment – none of the FATF’s published reports have mentioned this activity by Zimbabwean PVOs. If any such report has indeed been received by the Government, the Minister should in the interests of transparency make this available to Parliament.]

The Minister ended his speech by expressing willingness to work with stakeholders to improve the Bill. He said that on 11th April he had met with CSO representatives to discuss the Bill and would consider their suggested amendments to key aspects of the Bill, such as: the composition of the PVO Board; to reframe the Minister’s powers under the Act to intervene in PVO affairs in a manner more consistent with the provisions of the Constitution; and the reformulation of clause 6 of the Bill which seeks “criminalise the politicisation of charitable activities”. [Comment: this initiative will be appreciated.] He stressed, however, that “we look with extreme disfavour upon PVOs that abuse their resources by acting in a partisan manner, for instance by favouring communities on the basis of their supposed or expected political affiliation”. As the Portfolio Committee report was not ready, proceedings were adjourned.

Insurance Bill

The Second Reading speech was delivered by the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon Chiduwa. Again, as the Portfolio Committee report was not ready, proceedings were adjourned.

Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill

This Second Reading speech, too, was delivered by Deputy Minister Hon Chiduwa, and proceedings were then adjourned, this Portfolio Committee report, too, being not ready for presentation.

Labour Amendment Bill : Non-Adverse PLC Report Received

On Tuesday 12th April the Speaker announced the receipt of a non-adverse PLC report on this Bill. This report clears the way for the Second Reading stage to start with the delivery of the Minister’s Second Reading speech. Further progress on the Second Reading stage are likely to be delayed until Parliament has held public hearings and the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has reported on those public hearings.

Motion for Leave for a Private Member’s Bill to regulate Loss Control Management Practitioners

Also on Tuesday 12th April the adjourned debate on a motion put forward recently by Hon Murire was resumed. Two or three contributions in favour of granting leave were made before debate was adjourned again. One MP suggested the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage should take over the Bill.

Ministerial Statement on 2022 University Fees

There have been recent complaints about the new university fees. On Wednesday 13th April the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development delivered a lengthy Ministerial Statement explaining (1) the fees approval process for higher and tertiary education institutions, the financial state of the institutions and what it takes to run universities and colleges, and (2) the rationale behind the current fees levels in State universities, colleges, polytechnics and industrial training colleges since two years ago. He said that the new tuition fees in real terms are far lower than in neighbouring countries, citing figures to show this. MPs followed this statement with requests for clarification, to which the Minister replied.

In the Senate 12th and 13th April

Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill

Although the President of the Senate announced on Tuesday 12th April that this Bill had been received from the National Assembly, the Bill was not brought up for its Second Reading on either that day or the next. The Bill has reached the Senate with amendments made by the National Assembly noted in Bill Watch 15/2022 .

Reminder: Weekly Post-Cabinet Press Briefings Are Available on the Veritas Website

Every weekly Cabinet meeting is followed by a Post-Cabinet Press Briefing by or on behalf of the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. Every week an official version of the Press Briefing is promptly posted on the Veritas website in the folder entitled Post-Cabinet Meeting Briefings [this folder is on the Home Page under the heading GOVERNANCE]. Although the briefings do not constitute minutes of the Cabinet meetings, they are a source of information about what the Government has been doing. For instance, if the Cabinet has approved the principles of a Bill for drafting by the Attorney-General’s Office or the final draft of a Bill produced by that office, a briefing will say so; and, when the final draft produced by the Attorney-General’s Office is approved, that will also be recorded in a briefing. Another example of useful information is the weekly update on Zimbabwe’s position in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the progress of the vaccination programme.

Examples taken from the briefing given on 12th April  are that as of 11th April national coverage of first dose vaccination stood at 51% and that universities and colleges would be closed from 18th to 30th April to allow students to be at their normal places of residence during the National Census, which started on 21st April and runs to 30th April. Cabinet also approved: Zimbabwe’s State Party Report under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the 2021 Second Half–Year Performance Report of the National Development Strategy 1: 2021-2025 (NDS); and the 2022 Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) for 2022 [summaries of all three documents are given in the briefing].

The briefing given after the 20th April meeting shows that the national coverage of first dose vaccination against COVID-19 had risen from 51% to 52%; that Cabinet approved the Zimbabwe Public Service Sexual Harassment Policy and a report on the Hosting of the National Languages Conference from 7th to 9th June, 2022 at Victoria Falls. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade made a presentation on the proposed strategies to engage the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora so that they can contribute towards the country’s economic development. Cabinet resolved that an Inter-Ministerial Committee be put in place [chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and deputised by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development] with a mandate to review the National Diaspora Policy. It was also decided that Consular Services abroad will be strengthened in order to issue civil registration documents, visas and work permits. Finally, an update was presented on preparations for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair [ZITF], to be opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya on Friday 29th April. [The latest news is that he will not be coming because of the recent death of ex-Kenyan President Kibaki.]

Source: Veritas

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