BILL WATCH 06-2023 - Progress on Bills Thursday and Friday

BILL WATCH 6/2023

[4th February 2023]

Bills In Parliament Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd February

The National Assembly Continues Next Week: The Senate on Tuesday 14th

It has been a busy week for the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Ziyambi, who is also the Leader of Government Business in Parliament.  He alone piloted Government Bills in both Houses on behalf of the Government – even those Bills that did not come from his Ministry, such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill.  He dealt with Bills in the National Assembly and then on Wednesday temporarily left the that House and went to the Senate and ensured that all stages of the PVO Bill passed.

Our last Bill Watch 5/2023 of 2nd February [link], covered progress made on Government Bills in both Houses on Tuesday and Wednesday – to summarise:

In the National Assembly

  • approval of the fast-tracking of Government business
  • Second Reading of the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill, Committee Stage started
  • completion of the Second Reading and Committee Stages of the National Security Council Bill; referral to PLC
  • First Reading of the Police Amendment Bill; referral to PLC

In the Senate

  • Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill passed; now awaiting President’s signature

In the National Assembly on Thursday

National Security Council Bill

A non-adverse report was received from the PLC on the amendments made by the National Assembly to clause 3 – as listed in Bill Watch 5/2023 [link].  The House then finally passed the amended Bill and sent it to the Senate.  The Senate will be able to consider it when it resumes sitting on.

Judicial Laws Amendment Bill

Much time was spent on Thursday 2nd February completing the Committee Stage.  Numerous amendments were made and new clauses added.  The amendments were not only for improvements of the clauses on virtual hearings, but also on other unrelated topics, such as a new clause allowing the Constitutional Court to allow a person with expertise in a particular matter to appear before the court as a “friend of court” and a clause providing for a Deputy Judge-President of the High CourtThe amended Bill was referred to the PLC for its opinion on the constitutionality of the amendments.

Electoral Amendment Bill

The Minister started off the Second Reading by delivering his Second Reading speech on the Bill in support of the motion that the Bill be read for the second time.

Hon Mataranyika then read out the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ report of on the public hearings on the Bill held virtually on two FM radio stations on Monday 30th January and on the ZOOM platform on Tuesday 31st January.  The report is available on the Veritas website [link].  It describes the public hearings as follows:

   “3.0. OVERVIEW OF THE HEARINGS

3.1. The Committee managed to reach out to a large number of people with National FM and Star FM radio stations having frequencies nationwide and Star FM had an average of approximately 2.1 million listeners tuned on. 

3.2. The Zoom platform was accessible and open for everyone. Approximately 860 participants connected.

3.3. Some participants managed to connect and contribute from as far as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

3.4. However, some members of the public expressed their concerns over how the public hearings were conducted by use of radio stations and Zoom platform only, arguing that it excluded some people from participation due to the ongoing power cuts, unaffordability of data and connectivity challenges.”

The Report acknowledges later that the ZOOM platform was “hacked and disrupted the public hearing”. 

The report includes a long list of concerns expressed by members of the public, including civil society organisations, not only during the hearing but also those submitted in writing to the committee.

The report’s conclusion is expressed as follows:

“8.0. CONCLUSION

The Committee noted that although there were concerns over the virtual public hearings, pertinent issues were raised by the participants who made submissions. Individual members of the public as well as civic society organisations managed to make meaningful submissions on radio, on zoom, via emails and messages to Parliament. The Committee, therefore, believes that passing this Bill after strong consideration of the views of the people and their recommendations will help to shape our electoral laws and processes, with the basic concepts of transparency and inclusivity that lie at the heart of the country’s democracy and sovereignty.”

The proceedings on the Bill ended at that point with the adjournment for the day and were not resumed in the sitting on Friday morning.  Contributions by MPs to the Second Reading debate are likely to be made during next week’s sittings.

Institute of Loss Control and Private Security Managers Bill

The Committee stage of this Private Member’s Bill of Hon Dr Murire’s was dealt with during Minister Ziyambi’s absence in the Senate for the passage of the PVO Amendment Bill.  Many amendments were made to the Bill, most of them proposed by Hon Murire himself.  The Bill was then referred to the PLC

In the Senate on Thursday

As there were no Bills to consider, the Senate dealt with Questions without Notice.  The report of the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s delegation to the 145th Assembly Inter-Parliamentary Union and Related Meetings was then presented but debate on the report did not start.  The Senate then adjourned for ten days until Tuesday 14th February, when it will begin considering whatever Bills have been sent to it by the National Assembly during its current fast-tracking blitz on the backlog of Bills.

In the National Assembly on Friday

Police Amendment Bill

The Bill [link] had its First Reading on Wednesday and PLC’s non-adverse report was announced by the Speaker.  Minister Ziyambi, on behalf of the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, began his Second Reading speech, during which he explained that the Bill is identical to the  Police Amendment Bill of 2021 that had lapsed at the end of the last session and could not be restored to the Order Paper because it was the second time it had lapsed.  The purpose of the Bill, like its predecessor, is align the Police Act with the Constitution.  Hon Gonese and Hon Nduna made short contributions and the Bill was duly read for the second time.  The Committee Stage followed and the numerous amendments already on the day’s Order Paper were approved with some modifications – showing that the 2021 Bill had many defects.  As the modified amendments have not been crystallised on the Parliamentary website in official form Votes and Proceedings [the Journal of the House as opposed to Hansard] we propose to defer further comment until a later Bill Watch. Suffice it to say that:

    • Hon Hwende gained the Minister’s consent to refer, in the preamble to the Bill, to the words in section 207 of the Constitution that the Police Service is subject to the Constitution and to oversight by Parliament].
    • Hon Gonese failed in his attempt to preserve the current right of members of the Police Service to elect trial for misconduct in the magistrates court in preference to trial by a board of officers.

Bills Still under consideration by PLC

At the end of Friday’s sitting the PLC had the following Bills under consideration:

Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill [“Patriot Bill”] [link] (for Veritas comments see [link])The referral was for an initial report after First Reading.  Public hearings still have to be conducted.

Judicial Laws Amendment Bill as amended

Police Amendment Bill as amended

Institute of Loss Control and Private Security Managers Bill as amended

Bill Sent to the Senate by End of Friday

National Security Council Bill as amended

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