[Bill-Watch] Bill Watch 13/2024 of 16th April [Parliament Is Now in Recess until Tuesday 7th May]

Source: [Bill-Watch] Bill Watch 13/2024 of 16th April [Parliament Is Now in Recess until Tuesday 7th May]

Parliament is Now in Recess until Tuesday 7th May

BILL WATCH 13/2024

[18th April 2024]

Both Houses of Parliament sat for three days last week, from Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th April.  Both Houses then adjourned until Tuesday 7th May for a three-week recess.  This means both Houses will not be sitting for the next three weeks.

There will also be no committee meetings until further notice by Parliament.

This week the nation will be celebrating the 44th anniversary of its Independence on Thursday 18th April, which is a public holiday.  It is the turn of Manicaland to host this year‘s national ceremony, which will be presided over by President Mnangagwa and take place at Murambinda in Buhera District, preceded by the customary children’s party and football match on 17th April.

From 23rd to 27th April the focus will shift to Bulawayo for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), to be opened by Kenyan President William Ruto.   Finally, in Harare on Saturday 27th April, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will conduct two National Assembly by-elections for the Mount Pleasant and Harare East constituencies; the seats were previously held by Fadzai Mahere and Allen Markham both of CCC who resigned from Parliament at the end of January 2024.

No Progress on Bills Last Week

No movement on three Bills

There was no progress made on the following Bills, which are therefore carried forward for consideration in May:

  • Criminal Laws Amendment (Protection of Children and Young Persons) Bill [link];
  • Administration of Estates Amendment Bill [link];
  • Death Penalty Abolition Bill [link].

Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill [link]

According to Parliament’s Status of Bills list, this Bill is still under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its initial report on its consistency or otherwise with the Constitution.  This is a revised Bill from the last Parliament, which was returned to Parliament by the President with reservations.  It then lapsed on the dissolution of the last Parliament and has now been presented as a new Bill.  Veritas has identified several inconsistencies between the Bill and the Constitution; see Bill Watches 5/2024 [linkand 6/2024 [link].  Veritas has also challenged the Government’s claim that the Bill is justified by the recommendations of the Financial Action Taskforce [FATF], an international organisation combating the financing of terrorism through non-profit organisations; we have demonstrated that the Bill goes far beyond the FATF recommendations; see Bill Watch 9/2024 [link].

Gazetted Bills awaiting presentation

  • Persons with Disabilities Bill [link]   This Bill was gazetted on 9th February 2024.  It is a Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Bill.

Other Bills awaiting gazetting

Parliament has sent the following Bills to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting.  Soft copies will not be available until the Bills are gazetted:

  • Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [sent to printer on Monday 8th April 2024];
  • Parks and Wildlife Amendment Bill [Bill proof sent to Parliamentary Counsel’s Office 9th April 2024];
  • Civil Aviation Amendment Bill [Bill proof sent to Attorney-General’s Office 10th November 2023].

In the National Assembly Last Week

Tuesday 9th April

Matters of national interest – the new currency and how it is going to work  Hon Matewu, CCC member for Marondera Central constituency requested that the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion come to the House and explain how the new currency is going to work – particularly whether payment of fees for Government services (such as passports, motor vehicle licences etc) would be accepted in the new currency, the ZiG.  The Speaker agreed with the request and said the Minister would be invited to respond [for the Minister’s resulting statement on Wednesday 10th April, see below].

Matter of national importance – Need for Zimbabwe to accede to Convention on Enforced Disappearances  Hon Mutseyami, CCC MP for Dangamvura, drew attention to the fact that Zimbabwe had neither signed nor acceded to this International Convention and appealed to the Speaker, through his office, to assist in motivating the Government  to accede to the Convention.  The Speaker agreed to engage the relevant Minister on how to handle his request.

Continuing debate on take-note motion on 2023 Annual Report of NPRC  Most of the afternoon’s sitting was occupied by the continuing debate on this report of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [NPRC].  Both governing party and opposition MPs contributed, which made for lively debate with interruptions for points of order when members strayed from the report into controversial matters not covered in the report.  Debate was adjourned to continue on another day.

Take-note motion approved – Report of Delegation to Inter-Parliament Union Assembly  At the end of the sitting at 5 pm there was one brief contribution to the debate on this report, by the this delegation to the 147th Assembly of the IPU in Luanda in October 2023.  Hon Karikoga then rounded off the debate on his motion, which was put and agreed to.

Wednesday 10th April

Code of Code of Conduct Ethics for Members of Parliament  The Speaker announced that there were hard copies of this document available for collection at Parliament’s Journals Office.  Veritas will feature soft copies of the document on our website as soon as we have a copy.

Questions without notice  Hon Nyabani started Question Time by highlighting that, although there was a minimum sentence of imprisonment for theft of cattle, theft of goats and chickens was prevalent, which was usually punished by a fine or community service; he suggested stiffer penalties.  The Acting Leader of Government Business, Hon Murwira, Minister of Higher Education agreed that the suggestion was good, because goats were as much treasured as cattle.  Hon Mhangwa asked the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Hon Kabikira, when provincial councils will become operational – a question which is also a subject of a motion in the Senate by Senator Zwizwai – and when provincial councillors will be paid; Hon Kabikira said a workshop was currently in progress between lawyers in the Ministry and the Attorney-General’s Office, with orders to produce a Bill as soon as possible.

Written questions with notice  The Minister of Environment, Climate and Wildlife, Hon Nyoni, answered several questions about human-wildlife conflict in the vicinity of game reserves and conservancies, saying the Parks and Wildlife Amendment Bill – currently awaiting gazetting [see above] – would establish a  Human-Wildlife Conflict Relief Fund relief for the remaining family members of those killed and relief for those injured and maimed, to be funded partly from moneys voted by Parliament as part of the Budget, partly from trophy hunting fees and partly from carbon credits; the Fund would not, however, compensate for loss of life.  The Minister also answered a question about mining companies polluting the Deka River by toxic discharges, saying current mining companies were not responsible.  It was a legacy issue of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) from old workings at Hwange Colliery Co Ltd [HCCL], which had been known since at least 1997; HCCL interventions had fallen short apart from one discharge point where action had been successful.  The Ministry was now involved and an action plan had been formulated, including collaborative research; the Minister assured MPs that the problem would be controlled.

Ministerial Statement on Launch of a New Currency [ZiG]

After Question Time the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion delivered his Ministerial Statement as requested the previous day; the statement is available on the Veritas website [link] and includes questions by MPs and the Minister’s answers to those questions.  Also on the website is the Monetary Policy Statement of Friday 5th April [link] by the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the supporting regulations made by the President on the same date: the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act and Issue of Zimbabwe Gold Notes and Coins) Regulations, 2024 [link], published in SI 60/2024.  [Note: Unless confirmed by Act of Parliament, these regulations will expire after 180 days, that is, at midnight on Wednesday 2nd October, because they are only temporary measures in terms of the enabling Act.] 

Questioned about related fiscal measures, such as whether fees for Government services and taxes would be payable in ZiG, the Minister confirmed that 50% of corporate taxes would be payable in ZiG but said other fiscal measures would be announced “gradually over time”; this applied also to the lifting of the suspension of trading in Stock Exchange counters listed on foreign exchanges.  On price increases coinciding with the change-over to the new currency, such as US dollar prices of sugar and bread, he said the 13.56 swop-rate should have been followed without any rounding up of US dollar prices; this was a price increase and Government would be taking this up with business organisations.  The overall message was: the public will have to wait and see what happens but meanwhile should have confidence in the ZiG.

Thursday 11th April

The National Assembly spent the whole afternoon continuing, without concluding, the emotional debates on the motions by Hon C. Hlatywayo on land tenure and title deeds and Hon Jere on  protection of investors in banks.  The adjournment on Tuesday 7th May came at 5.42 pm.

In the Senate Last Week

The week saw the motion on drug and substance by youth finally put to the vote and agreed to by the Senate.

There was also a new motion by Senator Tongogara, seconded by Senator Rungani, on street children, calling on the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to allocate more resources to the Department of Social Welfare to enable rehabilitation centres and the employment of more social workers, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Community to invest in programmes that reduce poverty at the household level and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to promote family integration in all its programmes.

Thursday afternoon should have been Question Time, but this was cancelled so that Senators could hear the Deputy Minister of Finance, Hon D. Mnangagwa, on the new ZiG currency.  “Technical challenges” however thwarted this plan and there was a premature adjournment until 7th May.