BILL WATCH 60/2022
[17th December 2022]
In Parliament 13th to 16th December:
Assembly Finishes Budget Business Passes PVO Bill
Senate meets Tuesday 20th December to Pass Budget Bills [& PVO Bill?]
National Assembly Passes PVO Amendment Bill
In a surprising development at the very end of the National Assembly’s sitting on Friday 16th December, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs suddenly brought up the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill for final approval of the Committee Stage amendments and the non-adverse Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] report on the amendments and then the Third Reading of the Bill as amended.
Hon Ziyambi did not offer an explanation for the timing of his action, coming as it did after nearly three months of Government inaction on the Bill after the Speaker’s ruling of 20th September had cleared the way for the final stages of the Bill by confirming the validity of Parliament’s conduct of the Committee Stage [i.e., in the absence of Opposition MPs who had wished to speak against the amendments and were unable for some reason to connect virtually].
Hon Mushoriwa, apparently the only Opposition MP present, protested at this development, saying that the Opposition still wished to debate the Bill – which he asserted the Speaker himself had conceded was possible, even at this late stage of the proceedings. He accordingly asked for the proceedings to be delayed until the Hon Mudenda [who had left when the House went into Committee [the Speaker does not chair when the House is in Committee] and had not then returned] could be in the chair instead of Hon M. Khumalo who was standing in as Temporary Speaker]. This request was brushed aside. When he pointed out that there was no quorum, a quorum was hastily formed, and the House proceeded to vote for the adoption of the amended Bill and gave it its Third Reading. It was then sent to the Senate.
In the National Assembly This Week
Tuesday 13th December [2.15 pm to 5.25 pm]
The Speaker, Hon Advocate Mudenda – back from leading a Parliamentary delegation on a visit to the Indian Parliament the previous week –was back in the chair from Tuesday 13th December.
MPs, apparently for the record, brought the Speaker up to date on the problems caused by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development’s sudden disappearance from the Chamber late on Tuesday afternoon 6th December [in response to a call from the President] and his continued absence from the sittings on the two following days. It had been agreed between the whips and the Leader of Government Business, Hon Ziyambi, that in the Minister’s absence, portfolio committee reports would continue to be presented and this had led to early adjournments on Wednesday [4.20 pm] and Thursday [3.48 pm]. The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development informed the House that the Minister would not return until Thursday.
The Speaker decided that, as all portfolio committee reports had been presented last week, the debate should continue with contributions by individual MPs. He encouraged MPs to come up with suggestions for raising revenues from new sources for extra expenditure recommended. Several MPs did so, with Hon Mliswa making a good speech. Several MPs raised the point that the President had recently promised free basic education with effect from the beginning of 2023 but that there was no provision in the Budget for this.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Leader of Government Business, Hon Ziyambi, having adjourned the Budget debate, attempted to resume the Second Reading stage of the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill – but when Hon Gonese said he wished to debate and offered to do so immediately, Hon Ziyambi chose instead to move the adjournment of the House until Wednesday, without saying anything about the PVO Amendment Bill.
Wednesday 14th December [2.15 pm to 6.20 pm]
No Budget business was done. No Bills were brought up. Two items of other business were tackled instead.
Approval of AU Malabo Protocol of 2014 Relating to the Pan-African Parliament [PAP]
Hon Ziyambi proposed a motion for the approval of the 2014 Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union Relating to the Pan-African Parliament, also called the Malabo Protocol. MPs were enthusiastic in their approval, giving rise to some noteworthy speeches lauding pan-African ideals. They called for expediting the delays between signature of an international agreement by or on behalf of the President, its approval by Parliament and its eventual ratification by the President on behalf of Zimbabwe [the point at which an agreement becomes binding on Zimbabwe under international law and our own Constitution]. In the case of this Protocol President Mnangagwa signed it at his first AU Summit in early 2018 and it has taken over four years to reach Parliament for approval. MPs remarked that it must have been embarrassing for Senator Chief Charumbira to be elected President of PAP in June 2022 when his own country had not even ratified the Protocol.
Note: Minister Ziyambi was asked how many of the 55 African states had ratified the Malabo Protocol. His answer was 34. According to the AU website, however, only 14 States have ratified and the Protocol is not even in force, as ratification by at least 28 States is required [half of the 55 AU member States]; pending the Malabo Protocol coming into force, the PAP continues to operate under a previous Protocol.
Ministerial Statement on the State of Affairs in the Electricity Sector in light of prevailing power cuts The Minister of Energy and Power Development, Hon Soda, presented this detailed statement. His statement – and subsequent clarifications in response to probing questions by MPs – lasted for well over two hours until the House adjourned at 6.20 pm. Before the adjournment the Temporary Speaker, Hon Mavetera [the Speaker was again temporarily absent from the House] thanked Minister Soda for his elaborate and extensive responses to his grilling by MPs.
Thursday 15th December [2.15 pm to 9.20 pm]
Although the Minister of Finance and Economic Development was present, the Speaker made several various announcements before the resumption of Budget business in a marathon sitting:
PLC non-adverse reports on Bills
Unusually quickly, the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] returned non-adverse reports on two Bills that received their First Readings only last week: the Prisons and Correctional Service Bill [H.B. 6, 2022] [link] and the Electoral Amendment Bill [H.B. 11, 2022] [link]. Veritas has already commented on the latter Bill in a Bill Watch bulletin [link].
This announcement clears the way for the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to deliver his start the Second Reading stages at any time. Public hearings will have to be conducted on both these important Bills by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
PLC non-adverse reports on November Statutory Instruments
The PLC also returned non-adverse reports on SIs 187 to 204 of 2022, i.e. all the SIs published in the Government Gazette during November.
Referral of petitions to Portfolio Committees
1. Petition for amendment of Trafficking in Persons Act to incorporate a better definition of “trafficking in persons” – from Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe [Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services].
2. Petition for amendment of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act to incorporate, define and operationalise constitutional provisions for respect, honour and recognition of veterans – from Children of Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association [Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs].
3. Petition for legislation to professionalise driving and compel employers to employ drivers who are members of the Drivers Association to ensure competence and ethical behaviour – from Drivers Association of Zimbabwe [Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development].
Resumption of Budget debate
Several more MPs expressed their views on the Minister’s Budget presentation. Recurring themes in the afternoon’s contributions to the debate, as in previous speeches, were: the need for a wealth tax – a tax on the many very wealthy individuals in Zimbabwe who manage to avoid paying income tax; and the crying need for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to make timeous disbursements of allocated funds instead of being niggardly with most Ministries and overpaying three or four favoured ones.
The Minister responded at length to points made in the Portfolio Committee reports on the Budget and by individual MPs, after which the House approved his Budget motion for leave to present the Bill to implement his taxation proposals.
Presentation of the Finance (No. 2) Bill The Minister then presented this Bill and it received its First Reading and was immediately referred to the PLC. The Bill is labelled “No. 2”, because it is the second Finance Bill of 2022, having been preceded a few months ago by the first Finance Bill giving effect to the Supplementary Budget.
Committee of Supply [Estimates of Expenditure for 2023] Next, the House turned to the Estimates, consideration of which took up the rest of the sitting. The Estimates contained 35 parts, called “Votes”, each of which has to be approved by the House in Committee of Supply, a committee of the whole House. Vote No. 1 is for the Office of the President and Cabinet, Vote No. 2 is for Parliament, Vote No. 3 is for the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and so on through the list of Ministries and other separate Budget entities down to Vote No. 35 for the Zimbabwe Media Commission. By the end of the sitting at 9.20 pm, the House had deferred Budget vote 5 [Ministry of Finance and Economic Development] and passed the other 12 having agreed to MPs’ demands to increase three of them by the following additional amounts:
Vote No. 2: Parliament – ZWL$ 1.5 billion towards the Constituency Development Fund
Vote No. 3: Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare – ZWL$ 1 billion towards supporting the elderly and disabled.
Vote No. 6: Office of the Auditor-General – ZWL$ 500 million.
At 6.20 pm, having reached Vote 14, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the House adjourned until 9.30 am the next morning, Friday 16th December, in accordance with the fast-tracking resolution. This left the remaining 21 votes of the Estimates of Expenditure to be completed on Friday, followed by the various stages of the two Budget Bills.
Friday 16th December [9.30 am to 3.55 pm]
In spite of criticisms of Vote No. 14, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Minister did not agree to increase the Vote. Instead, he suggested a solution to the problem of late and inadequate disbursements which had previously worked with the Ministries of Agriculture and Transport – the setting-up of a coordination process between the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Health Ministry under which technical teams from both Ministries would meet every week to track progress on disbursements and programmes, with the respective Ministers attending when necessary. The Vote was then approved without amendment.
Discussion of the Estimates continued in the civilised manner that had characterised most of Budget business, with the Minister resisting pleas from MPs for extra funds, except for the following votes:
Vote No. 19: Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – which the Minister agreed would receive an extra ZWL$ 500 million for prison services.
Vote No. 20: Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services – where the Minister volunteered an unprompted additional ZWL$ 1.5 billion
Vote No. 21: Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation – an additional amount of ZWL$ 200 million for Empower Bank.
MPs, failed however, to persuade the Minister to abandon his proposed VAT increase [from 14.5% to its pre-COVID rate of 15% with effect from 1st January 2023] although they tried hard.
The Minister had throughout the debate insisted on sticking to his ZWL$ 4.5 trillion Budget “envelope”. The additional amounts approved for a fortunate few Ministries were not, therefore, added to the grand total of the Estimates but would come from his Ministry’s Unallocated Reserves. Accordingly, the Minister returned to deferred Vote No. 5 [Ministry of Finance and Economic Development] and proposed that the figure for Unallocated Reserves be reduced by ZWL$ 4.7 billion. MPs agreed, leaving the Minister with about ZWL$ 70 billion in his Unallocated Reserves for unspecified contingencies of all sorts.
Appropriation (2023) Bill introduced After completion of the Estimates, the Minister introduced this Bill to give effect to the Estimates as amended. It was immediately, like the Finance (No. 2) Bill, sent to the PLC for a report on its constitutionality.
Finance (No. 2) Bill [link] On receipt of a prompt non-adverse report from the PLC, the Second Reading was a mere formality, without debate, and the House proceeded to the Committee Stage, during which several clauses were amended The following clauses were amended:
clause 3; clauses 4 and 5 to increase the ZWL$ tax threshold from the ZWL$ 900,000 introduced by the Supplementary Budget to ZWL$ 1,1 million, and consequential amendments to the tax bands. [This was only reluctantly accepted by the Minister after a period of hard bargaining];
clause 10 date of starting the use of point of sale machines to enable the collection of VAT from the informal sector postponed for one year until 1st January 2024;
clause 11 [deferred because Hon Biti criticised it as mumbo jumbo and later replaced by more acceptable wording].
a new clause 23 proposed by the Minister was added at the end of the Bill. This was to allow long-serving MPs who reach 65 years of age to draw the pension to which they are entitled and cease making pension contributions. MPs then persuaded the Minister to amend this new clause to provide for pensions to be based on salaries paid to serving MPs both now and in the future – to the delight of those MPs present.
The amended Bill was then referred back to the PLC for a report on the constitutionality of the amendments.
Both Bills passed and sent to the Senate The PLC reported promptly and non-adversely on the Appropriation (2023) Bill and the amended Finance (No. 2) Bill. The National Assembly then finalised both Bills, passed them and sent them to the Senate to be dealt with on Tuesday 20th December.
Then came the brief proceedings on the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill described at the beginning of this bulletin.
Finally, at 3.55 pm and the end of another marathon sitting, the National Assembly adjourned until Tuesday 24th January.
In the Senate 13th to 15th December
Tuesday 13th December [2.30 pm to 3.02 pm]
New Senator sworn in Senator Ishumael Zhou was sworn in as the male Senator representing persons living with disabilities. He was elected by the Electoral College for persons living disabilities with effect from 19th November 2022 and fills the seat left vacant by the late Senator Watson Khupe.
New motion on Early Child Development [ECD] Senator Mabika moved a new motion on Early Child Development, stressing its importance and calling for greater resources to be allocated to it by the Government for the construction of buildings and recruitment of teachers.
Wednesday 14th December [2.30 pm to 3.17 pm]
Fast-tracking for Budget business approved Senators approved a motion for the fast-tracking of Budget business in the Senate, similar to the one approved by members of the National Assembly for the same business in the National Assembly.
Adjourned debates on previously moved motions Senators continued to debate the motion of thanks for the President’s SONA and Senator Mabika’s motion on ECD.
Thursday 15th December [2.30 pm to 3.36 pm]
Adjourned debate on ECD Until Hon Ziyambi arrived for the Order paper item below, Senators made several brief contributions to the debate on Senator Mabika’s motion on ECD.
Approval of Malabo Protocol on PAP [link] When Hon Ziyambi arrived from the National Assembly, the Senate approved his motion approving the Malabo Protocol which had been before the National Assembly the previous day. Like their counterparts in the other House, Senators called for the speeding-up of the approval and ratification process, but Hon Ziyambi defended the Executive by saying the process required careful consideration of every treaty and pointing out that the Government had initiated regulation of the subject in the form of the International Treaties Act of 2020 [link]. The Senate then adjourned until Tuesday 20th December, hoping to be able to deal with the two Budget Bills on that date.
Coming Up on Tuesday 20th December
The first two items on the Senate Order Paper for the afternoon are the Finance (No. 2) Bill and the Appropriation (2023) Bill. Because both Bills are what the Constitution calls “money Bills”, the Senate cannot amend either of them. The Constitution does not allow the Senate to amend Bills certified by the Speaker as Money Bills, but restricts Senators to recommending changes to the National Assembly, which that House is not obliged to accept. This severely limits the Senate’s role, leaving the final responsibility for Money Bills to the National Assembly.
Both Bills will probably be gazetted as Acts before the end of the year – which would be appropriate because both Bills are designed to come into force with effect from 1st January 2023.
Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill?
This Bill was passed by the National Assembly and sent to the Senate immediately after the two Budget Bills had been passed. It is not on the order paper, but could be added. Whether the Senate will be asked to deal with the Bill hastily, in an effort to pass it before the end of the year is an open question. In our opinion, the Bill is just the sort of Bill that should not be rushed and requires careful further consideration.
Cabinet Approves Two Media Bills in Principle
At its Thirty-Seventh Meeting on Tuesday 13th December Cabinet approved the principles of the two Bills listed below, according to the post-Cabinet briefing document [link] issued by the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services. This Bills will now go to the drafters in the Attorney-General’s Office to be drafted in conjunction with the Ministry, after which the final version will have to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation and then by Cabinet itself. The two Bills are:
Zimbabwe Media Commission Amendment Bill which will “incorporate proposals by stakeholders following extensive consultations that were carried out. The amendments will seek, among other provisions, to provide for:
a) additional functions of the Commission, which will include accrediting of local and foreign media practitioners; registration of Mass Media Services; the regulation and quality assurance of journalism and mass media communication training;
b) delegation of disciplinary powers to professional bodies registered with the Commission; and
c) payment of annual levies into the Media Fund by registered media services.”
Media Practitioners Bill which will “provide parameters for media co-regulation and bring professionalism to the media sector through the implementation of Codes of Ethics. The Bill will seek, among other provisions, to provide for:
a) establishment of professional bodies for purposes of disciplining members through delegated powers of the Zimbabwe Media Commission;
b) the duties of the professional bodies; and
c) the drafting of a Code of Ethics by each professional body.”