BILL WATCH 60/2020
The Senate Passed Four Bills Last Week
Both Houses will Sit This Week
The Senate had its turn in Parliament last week. It sat from Tuesday 15th to Thursday 17th September and then adjourned until Tuesday 22nd September. As the National Assembly was already in recess until 22nd September, both Houses will be sitting this coming week [presumably not all MPs and Senators will be present in person, but some will join in virtually]. The end of 2019/2020 Parliamentary session is approaching.
This bulletin deals focuses on Senate business conducted last week. A separate bulletin will deal with business due to come up in both Houses this week.
Tuesday 15th September
Receipt of Bills from National Assembly
The President of the Senate announced that three Bills had been received from the National Assembly: the Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill; the Finance Bill; and the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill.
2020 Edition of Standing Orders approved again after reconsideration
On 9th June the Senate had approved the 2020 Edition of Senate Standing Orders subject to the deletion of Standing Order 79(d), which prohibited any singing whatsoever during proceedings in the Senate – Bill Watch 36/2020 [link]. The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had agreed to the deletion on that occasion. Now, however, the Minister moved a motion for Standing Order 79(d) to be restored, “to allow synchronisation with the corresponding National Assembly Standing Order which bans singing in the Chamber”. Senators approved the motion without debate, apparently abandoning their previous desire to feel free to break into song when appropriate.
Constitutional Court Bill [link]
This had been amended by the National Assembly. The Bill as amended went through the Committee Stage and Third Reading completely without debate, enabling Senators to disband for the day just before 3 pm after a 29-minute sitting.
Wednesday 16th September
Appointment of Leader of Government Business in the Senate
The President of the Senate announced that the President had appointed Hon Senator Monica Mutsvangwa to be the Leader of Government Business in the Senate with immediate effect. This will probably lighten the workload of Hon Ziyambi Ziyambi who is Leader of Government Business in Parliament.
Teething Troubles with Electronic Gadgets and Virtual Attendance
The following remarks delivered by the President of the Senate will give an idea of how Parliament is slowly adapting its procedures to cope with COVID-19 restrictions:
“In order to maintain social distancing, Hon. Senators can make their contributions from wherever they are connected. For this reason, Hon. Senators are advised to bring and speak into their gadgets [Note: All MPs have been issued with iPads] to enable those Senators who are not in the Chamber to follow proceedings. Consequently, any Member who does not bring his/her ICT gadget will not be allowed to speak. In the same vein, members who are not contributing must put their gadgets on mute to avoid interferences in the House.”
Fast-tracking resolution approved
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs secured approval of a motion for fast-tracking all Government business, including Bills, for the afternoon and for the next series of sittings. He had already secured approval from the National Assembly. So fast-tracking will be applicable in both Houses during the next few days.
Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill
After the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ Second Reading speech those Senators who contributed all acclaimed the Bill. The Committee Stage was completed without debate and the Bill finally passed by being given its Third Reading.
National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill
The same happened with this Bill, also piloted by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.