BILL WATCH 31/2017
[12th September 2017]
Official Opening of Fifth and Final Session of Parliament
Tuesday 12th September
The ceremonial opening of the Fifth Session of the present Parliament will take place at Parliament tomorrow, Tuesday 12th September. President Mugabe will perform the opening ceremony at a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament starting at 12 noon [see the President’s Proclamation 5/2017 as gazetted on 8th September, available on the Veritas website [link].
The previous Parliamentary session began on 6th October and effectively ended on Thursday 3rd August. At the beginning of the session President outlined an ambitious legislative programme, starting with a request to reconsider one aspect of the Special Economic Zones Bill and listing over thirty other Bills covering a wide range of subjects from further alignment of existing laws with the Constitution, to ease of doing business, the financial, mining and manufacturing sectors, reform of State enterprises, labour law, economic empowerment and indigenisation and cybercrime. Not much of this was accomplished.
The Programme for Tomorrow
The proceedings in Parliament will be preceded by traditional pomp and ceremony associated with the occasion – a mounted escort for the Presidential limousine, an inspection of the guard of honour and a 21-gun salute and flypast before the President enters Parliament building and takes his seat in the National Assembly chamber. Judges, chiefs, civic dignitaries and ambassadors will be invited guests.
Immediately after the President’s speech, both Houses will follow usual practice by adjourning to enable MPs to study the President’s speech and to prepare for what promises to be a busy session. The adjournment is expected to be until 26th September.
The President’s address to MPs is expected to include the customary outline of the Government’s legislative agenda for the session.
Outcomes of the Legislative Agenda for the Last Session
Bills (relatively few) that were on the agenda, and passed and are now Acts
· Special Economic Zones Act [Act 7/2016]
· Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act [Chapter 22:23] [Act 5/2017] not yet in force
· National Competitiveness Commission Act [Chapter 14:36] [Act 6/2017]
· Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Act, 2017 [Act 7/2017]
· Deeds Registries Amendment Act [Act 8/2017]
· Movable Property Security Interests Act [Chapter 14:15] [Act 9/2017]
Other Bills that were passed and are now Acts
· Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Act, 2017 [Act 1/2017] [This was not on the agenda but was a carry-over from the previous session.]
· Finance Act, 2017 [Act 2/2017] [The Bills for this Act and the related Appropriation Act, below, were not on the agenda but they are routine Bills that have to be passed every year.]
· Appropriation Act, 2017 [Act 3/2017]
Bills on the agenda that were started on but not finished
· National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [this Bill is near the end of its passage through the National Assembly which is awaiting the PLC’s report on the amendments made to the Bill during the Committee Stage – see Bill Watch 30/2017 of 4th September [link] for a detailed update on the amendments. The Bill still needs to go to the Senate.]
· ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill [see note under previous heading and Bill Watch 27/2017 of 9th August link]
· Estate Administrators Amendment Bill [link] [awaiting its Committee Stage in the National Assembly, as it has been since early June]
· Land Commission Bill [link] [after considerable delay, the Senate overrode an adverse PLC report on its amendments to the Bill, passed the Bill with those amendments. The amended Bill was sent back to the National Assembly for approval on 19th July, but had not been dealt with by the end of the session.]
· Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [link] [under consideration by PLC since 1st Reading on 11th May]
· Insolvency Bill [link] [under consideration by PLC since 1st Reading on 20th July]
· Shop Licences Amendment Bill [link] [also under consideration by PLC]
Bills on the agenda that never reached Parliament at all
· Constitutional Court Bill
· Rural District Councils Bill
· Traditional Leaders Bill
· Prisons Bill
· Marriage Bill
· Companies Bill
· Zimbabwe Investment Authority Amendment Bill
· Insurance Amendment Bill and Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill
· Microfinance Amendment Bill
· Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill
· Occupational Safety and Health Bill
· Regional, Town and Country Planning Bill
· Labour Amendment Bill
· Children's Amendment Bill
· Public Health Bill
· Medical Aid Societies Bill
· Manpower Development Amendment Bill
· State Universities Amendment Bill [to amend the enabling statutes of all such institutions]
· Zimbabwe Youth Council Bill
· Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Amendment Bill [a Bill that has been promised since April 2016, long before the beginning of the last session in October]
· Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill
· Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill
· Coroner’s Office Bill.
It will be interesting to see how many of these Bills on the last session’s agenda that were not produced will be repeated on this year’s list. This coming session will be the last session before the general election which must be held before the 22nd August next year.
Of interest to note was that the President did not automatically and immediately assent to all Bills passed by Parliament
Using section 131(6) of the Constitution, the President returned two Bills to Parliament for reconsideration:-
· Special Economic Zones Bill [the National Assembly quickly attended to the President’s reservations about the exclusion of the Labour Act in special economic zones by deleting the offending provision. The President then assented to the revised Bill and gazetted it as an Act – see above list]
· ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill [the President’s reservations about the preamble to the Bill were dealt with by an amendment that was cleared by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] in a non-adverse report received on 31st July but not finally approved by the National Assembly, so this item will have to be carried forward to the new session].
Unfortunately, although a question mark is handing over the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill, the President did not send it back [see below].
Unplanned Legislative Output during the Previous Session
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Act
The announcement of the Bill for this Act in December 2016 was a surprise. The Bill was sent to the President for his assent and signature on 23rd August after a controversial progress through Parliament. Bill Watch 26/2017 of 3rd August [Was the Constitution Amendment Bill Passed?] indicated the doubts raised about the final votes on the Bill in both the National Assembly and the Senate [link]. The Act was gazetted on Thursday 7th September as Act No. 10 of 2017, after the President had assented to and signed it. The validity of the Parliamentary votes passing the Bill has been challenged in legal proceedings lodged last week in the Constitutional Court.