BILL WATCH 44/2022
[22nd September 2022]
PVOs Amendment Bill: Speaker’s Ruling on Committee Stage:
Opposition Protests Overruled
Speaker’s Ruling Rejects Opposition Protests and
Clears Way for Bill to be Passed by National Assembly
On Tuesday 20th September 2022 the Speaker gave his ruling rejecting two attempts by Opposition MPs to seek the reopening of the Committee Stage of the Bill. [The full text of the ruling is set out below.]
The essence of the ruling is that the Committee Stage was properly conducted on the 26th July and the extensive amendments made to the Bill, therefore, were properly made.
At the end of the Committee Stage on 26th July, the Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the constitutionality of the amendments. That report was non-adverse, as announced in the National Assembly on Tuesday 16th August.
The Speaker’s ruling and the receipt of a non-adverse PLC report means that the final, essentially formal, stages of the Bill can be completed this week. The Bill, in its amended form, was on the National Assembly Order Paper for yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 21st September, but was not brought up for consideration. It remains on the Order Paper for this afternoon, Thursday 22nd September.
After being passed by the National Assembly the Bill will be sent to the Senate.
Full Text of the Speaker’s Ruling
PRIVATE VOLUNTARY ORGANISATIONS AMENDMENT BILL
[H. B. 10, 2021]
On Tuesday, 26 July, 2022, the second reading of the Private Voluntary Organisations Bill Amendment [H.B. 10, 2021] was done. Standing Order No. 147 provides that,
“Not more than one stage of a Bill must be taken at the same sitting without leave of the House”.
The Hon Minister of the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, therefore, sought leave of the House to have the Committee Stage forthwith and this was not objected to.
The House resolved itself into a Committee and the Bill was put clause by clause. On Clause 6 of the Bill, on Mushoriwa, on the virtual platform, informed the chair that he was having a technical problem. He wanted to know which Bill was being debated. The Chair advised him to come to the House but he did not oblige. Hon. Members are availed fuel to enable them to attend sittings or drive to the nearest point where internet connectivity is not a challenge. Hon. Mushoriwa raised a point of order wherein he stated that he was continuing to have internet challenges. However, he was unable to conclude what he was saying.
Subsequently, all other clauses were dealt with until concluded and no one raised any objections about the conduct of business on the Bill. The Bill was reported with amendments at the close of the Committee Stage and referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.
On Wednesday, 27 July, 2022 Hon. Mushoriwa raised a point of Privilege in the House alleging that Hon Members who had been on the virtual platform the previous day had been denied permission to debate on the Bill by the Chairperson at the instruction of the Leader of the House.
Facts of the matter are that when the Bill was put to the House clause by clause, none of the Honourable Members objected. The Bill was considered at the Committee stage and all clauses were adopted.
It was only on the following day that Hon. Mushoriwa wanted the Recommittal of the bill claiming that rights of Hon Members to debate had been violated. He further alleged that the network had been very unstable resulting in those on the Virtual Platform being prejudiced.
Having considered the matter, I rule as follows:
a) No procedural flaws were brought up to my attention to warrant the Recommittal of the Bill;
b) On the fluctuating network, it was the duty of the Hon Member to ensure that he joined the sitting at a place that had stable internet connectivity.
I must advise that this ruling applies to the Notice of Motion made by Hon I. Gonese on Wednesday, 11 August, 2022, seeking to have the Recommittal of the Private Voluntary Organizations Bill Amendment. Therefore, the Notice of Motion by Hon Gonese is, deemed inadmissible and cannot be entertained.
Comment Members of both Houses will have to take this ruling as a warning of the risks inherent in attempting to participate in important Parliamentary proceedings on the virtual platform – and the likely futility of complaining when it fails them. Paragraph b) above is reinforced by something the Speaker said earlier in his ruling:
“Hon Members are availed fuel to enable them to attend sittings or drive to the nearest point where internet connectivity is not a challenge.”
It should be noted, however, that MPS allege that they were deliberately cut off by Parliament.
Marriages Act In Force Since Friday 16th September 2022
The Marriages Act (No. 1 of 2022) [link] was published in the Government Gazette on 27th May 2022 but did not come into operation immediately – because section 1(2) of the Act, which provided that the Act would not come into operation until a day fixed by the President day in the Gazette.
That notice was published in the Gazette on 16th September 2022 as Statutory Instrument 164 of 2022 and is available on the Veritas website [link]. The notice fixed the day of publication of the notice as the date on which the Act came into operation.
Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill
We have received enquiries about this Bill, which was finally passed by Parliament, with amendments to clauses 6 and 13, on Thursday 16th June, some three months ago now. Parliament has not yet sent the Bill to the President for his assent.
Judicial Laws Amendment Bill [link]
This is a Bill from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. It was gazetted on 29th April this year. Veritas commented on the Bill in Bill Watch 34/2022 [link], which contained a detailed and lengthy analysis of the Bill against its stated objectives of allowing virtual hearings of court cases and aligning seven Acts of Parliament with the Constitution. The conclusion we reached was as follows:
“The main objective of the Bill seems to be expedite legal proceedings and to reduce legal costs. The amendments it proposes may go some way towards achieving this objective but, as we have pointed out in this Bill Watch, they will do so at the expense of fundamental human rights. The Bill needs extensive amendment to make it comply with the Constitution and with the basic concepts of fairness that lie at the heart of our procedural law. We hope it will receive those amendments.”
Minister’s Second Reading speech already delivered
The Second Reading stage began on Wednesday 21st September with the delivery of a short speech [on behalf of the responsible Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs] by Hon Paradza, the Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. The speech was presumably prepared by officials in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and is available on the Veritas website [link]. It states that the Bill is very short and gives the impression that it is, therefore, simple. But a careful reading of Bill Watch 34/2022, referred to in the previous paragraph, shows that there are serious problems with the Bill.