BILL WATCH 15-2022 - Parliament is Sitting this Week

BILL WATCH 15/2022

[5th April 2022]

Both Houses are sitting this Week After being in Recess since 18th March

Bills Dealt with Before the Recess

Error in Bill Watch 13/2022

Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill [link]   In an unfortunate oversight, Bill Watch 13/2022 wrongly stated that the Committee Stage of this Bill would likely come up on Thursday 17th March.  In fact the Committee Stage of the Bill was completed on Thursday 10th March in the National Assembly.  On that occasion the House took only a few minutes to conclude the Committee Stage and approved, without debate or questions, two amendments the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had put on the Order Paper some time before [link].  The two clauses amended were: 

·        Clause 6(1)(a) [changed so that the President must appoint the Commission chairperson from a list of candidates compiled by  Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Order and after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission];and

·        Clause 13 [changed to allow the Security Service concerned to complete an internal disciplinary process already initiated by it – subject to the Commission’s right itself to entertain the complaint if the internal process is, in the view of the Commission, taking too long].

The Bill was immediately referred back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the constitutionality of these two amendments.  The PLC report is expected this week.

8th to 16th March: Reminder –Progress on Three Bills

Bill Watch 13/2022 of 17th March [link] – covered Parliamentary progress on Bills during its sittings from Tuesday 8th March to close of business of Wednesday 16th March, namely:

·        the completion of two Bills – the Marriages Bill and the Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill – still awaiting sending to the President for his assent and gazetting as Acts;

·        the Senate’s completion of the Second Reading Stage of the Pension and Provident Funds Bill on 6th March..

The Committee Stage of the Pension and Provident Funds did not come up for consideration.

Coming up in the National Assembly This Week

Bills for continuation of Second Reading debate

Copper Control Amendment Bill [link]

Police Amendment Bill [link]   A Veritas commentary is available [link].  Committee Stage amendments proposed by Hon Mayihlome, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services appear on the Order Paper for 5th April – and are available on the Veritas website [link].  They propose that:

·        Section 35 of the Police Act  [which deals with procedure at disciplinary trials or members of the Police Force under the Act] be amended to allow for the officer or board of officers conducting a trial to issue a warrant of arrest if the accused member fails without just cause to attend a hearing of which he has had notice.

·        A new section be added to the Police Act after section 61 to deal with the subject of Protection of Police Property is directed at the fraudulent or unlawful use or defacement or possession, receipt of police property denoted as such by a mark or marks which have been gazetted by the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage.  The property covered by the clause includes arms, clothing, equipment, animals, vehicles, aircraft and boats.  Note:  A possible constitutional snag for consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee, should the amendment be approved, is found in the new subsection (3) which shifts the onus of proving lawfulness or absence of fraudulent intent to the accused person.

·        Section 66 of the Police Act [Wearing of uniforms, badges etc of the Police Force by persons not authorised to do so] be replaced by a new and broader section dealing with the same subject, but extending the prohibited acts to possession, manufacture, trade, and sale of such articles as well as wearing them.  The new section will also, like the existing section, cover anything which might reasonably be mistaken for a police uniform, badge etc.. 

·        Section 72(2) of the Police Act [the enabling power for the making of regulations by the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage].  An additional paragraph for section 72(2) will allow the making of regulations providing for the appeals procedure from decisions made by a delegate of the Commissioner-General "on matters regarding any policy, directive, Standing Orders or regulations".

Bills for start of Second Reading Stage

The first three Bills in the list below are Bills from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development:

Public Finance Management Amendment Bill [link]. 

Insurance Bill [link]

Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill [link] – see Veritas comments [link].  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 [link] – see Veritas comments [link].  This is a Bill from the Ministry of Health and Child Care.  The public hearings on the Bills have already been held in mid-March.

Bill awaiting PLC report on Committee Stage Amendments

Zimbabwe Independent  Complaints Commission Bill  As already stated at the start of this bulletin, this Bill went through its Committee Stage on 10th March.  A non-adverse report is expected.

Other Bills awaiting PLC Initial Reports after their First Readings

All five of the following Bills were presented and given their First Readings on 17th February.  They were then referred to the PLC.  Their Second Reading stages will not start until the PLC has reported on their consistency, or otherwise, with the Constitution:

Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill [link] – see Veritas comments [link].  The public hearings on the Bill have already been held.  The relevant Portfolio Committee was due to consider the draft report on Monday 4th April.  A recording of the Harare public hearing is available on the Veritas Facebook page [link].

Child Justice Bill [linkThe public hearings on this Bill are being held all this week around Zimbabwe.

Children’s Amendment Bill [link]

Amendment of State Universities Statutes Bill [link] – see Veritas comments [link].  The public hearings by the Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development have already been held and the portfolio committee was due to consider its draft report on Monday 4th April.

Labour Amendment Bill [link]  

Other business

Need for a Parliamentary Caucus to deal directly with issues affecting persons with disabilities   Hon J. Sithole’s motion has is relatively high on the Order Paper.

Need for measures to be taken against those Zimbabweans who advocate for sanctions against Zimbabwe  Hon Togarepi has a motion on the Order Paper calling for condemnation of those who continue to call for sanctions, banning the holding of Government Office Positions and the prohibition of the swearing-into office of such people.

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Bill for Committee Stage

Pension and Provident Funds Bill    This Bill went through its Second Reading on Wednesday 16th March, with the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development standing in for his Minister.  The Committee Stage is item 1 on the Senate Order Paper for Tuesday 5th April.  There are no proposed amendments on the Order Paper.

Other Business

Other business on the Senate Order Paper consists of motions that have been presented and partly debated, including:

·        the need for deterrent sentences for those convicted of corruption;

·        the report on the implementation of the ART roll out programme by the Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS;

·        the condolence motion for the late Senator Simon Khaya Moyo;

·        the devastating effects of drug abuse by youths and the need for rehabilitation centres for addicts and legislation for stiffer penalties for those importing the substances that give rise to drug abuse.

Final Draft of Prisons and Correctional Services Bill Approved

At its Sixth Meeting of 2022 on 22nd March Cabinet approved the final draft of the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill.  This cleared the way for the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to send the Bill to Parliament for printing and eventual presentation for enactment.  Parliament has not yet received the Bill.

Principles of Two New Bills Approved by Cabinet

Note: Approval of the principles of a Bill means that the Minister responsible for it can send the Bill to the Attorney-General’s Office for drafting.  The final draft agreed between the Minister and the Attorney-General must then go back to Cabinet for approval before it can be taken to Parliament and gazetted by the Clerk of Parliament.  Only after its gazetting will copies be available from Veritas and on the Veritas website.

Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistle Blowers) Bill At its Seventh Meeting of 2022 on 29th March Cabinet the principles of this Bill as presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs were approved.  Currently, Zimbabwe does not have specific legislation that provides for the protection of individuals who report (“whistle blow”) illicit activities within organisations in which they are employed.  This gap is affecting the fight against corruption, as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission [ZACC] chairperson has been saying for some time.  According to Cabinet the Bill will promote a whole-of-society approach in the fight against corruption by protecting genuine witnesses who raise issues of public interest.  Among other provisions, it will provide for disclosure of conduct averse to public interest in the public and private sectors; protection of whistle blowers by prohibiting detrimental treatment of any whistle blower by reason of his or her whistle blowing; and a framework within which public interest disclosures shall be dealt with.  The Bill will implement international agreements to which Zimbabwe is already a party, such as the SADC Protocol against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption, and the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Witness Protection Bill  The principles of this Bill were approved at the Cabinet’s Sixth Meeting of 2022 on 22nd March.  The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of an Office that caters for the protection and placement of witnesses under temporary, interim and permanent protection.  The Bill seeks to regulate the powers, functions and duties of the Office.  At present witness protection measures are the responsibility of the Police Force.  It remains to be seen how this and the Whistle Blower Bill will complement each other.

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