Both the Senate and the National Assembly sat this afternoon, Tuesday 16th February, for their first working sittings of 2021 after their earlier token sitting in late January and early February, respectively. COVID-19 restrictions will be observed at this week’s sittings, so only a very limited number of Senators and MPs will be physically present in the two Chambers; other members will participate in the sittings virtually.
This year’s previous sittings were not working sittings. They lasted only a few minutes before concluding with an adjournment to 16th February. The Senate’s sitting on Tuesday 26th January was covered in Bill Watch 5/2021 [link]. At the National Assembly’s sitting on Tuesday 2nd February the Speaker made two announcements before the adjournment:
Death of Hon Joel Biggie Matiza Hon Matiza died on Friday 2nd February. He was the MP for Murewa South and Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. MPs rose and observed a minute’s silence in respect of their late colleague.
Senator Mwonzora joins Committee on Standing Rules and Orders The Speaker announced the resignation of Hon Innocent Gonese from the committee and the appointment of Hon Senator Douglas Mwonzora to replace him, in terms of section 151 of the Constitution on the nomination of “the MDC Alliance” [sic] – this was exactly what the Speaker said.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
International agreement for approval
Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer The Minister’s motion refers to the fact that Zimbabwe is already a party to the Montreal Protocol and now wishes to become a party to the Kigali Amendment agreed on in 2016, which came into force on 1st January 2019. The Kigali Amendment aims to drastically reduce the production and use of powerful greenhouse gasses known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as a step towards reducing global warming – parties to it are committed to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has motions on the Order Paper for the House to take note of:
· the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Annual Report for the years 2018 and 2019
· the ZHRC Report on the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe
· the National Prosecuting Authority’s Annual Report for 2019
Bills are next on the Order Paper in the following order:
Forest Amendment Bill [link] – for completion of Second Reading debate, including Minister’s response to the debate.
Centre for Education, Innovation, Research and Development Bill [link] – for commencement of Second Reading stage with Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development’s introductory speech explaining the purpose and principles of the Bill.
Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill [link] – for commencement of the Committee Stage. A commentary on the Billcommissioned by Veritasis available on the Veritas website [link].There are proposed amendments to be considered [link], all of them put on the Order Paper by Hon Gandawa, the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on ICT, Postal and Courier Services. These amendments are to give effect to the combined recommendations of that committee and the Senate Thematic Committee on Peace and Security in their report on public reaction to the Bill [link]. They propose: the addition of new clauses 15 and 16 on the duties of data controllers and the rights of data subjects respectively; and the substitution of clause 20(6) about data protection officers. There are also several amendments to clause 35, which makes comprehensive additions to Chapter VIII [Computer-Related Crime] of the Criminal Law Code; these imperfectly drafted amendments relate to such subjects as cyber-bullying, child pornography, child sexual abuse material and adults using ICT to groom children to meet them for sexual activity.
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill [link] – for continuation/conclusion of Second Reading debate. MPs have already, on 9th July last year, heard the Minister’s Second Reading speech and the report on the public hearings on the Bill conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs [link]. On the same day individual MPs began their contributions to the debate. Veritas last year issued several Constitution Watches [link] containing detailed critical commentary on this Bill.
There are a large number of motions, both new and partly debated, on the Order Paper. The new motions include:
Statelessness and the Right to Nationality Hon Paradza, seconded by Hon Mayihlome, is due to move a comprehensive motion calling for (1) the domestication [incorporation into Zimbabwean law] of conventions on statelessness to which Zimbabwe is already a party; (2) Zimbabwe’s accession to and domestication of specified on statelessness to which Zimbabwe is not a party; (3) the Government to champion the eradication of statelessness in the SADC region and advocate for the adoption of the SADC Joint Action Plan on the subject; (4) the Ministry Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage to ensure urgent alignment of the Citizenship Act, the Births and Deaths Registration Act and the Immigration Act with the Constitution in order to effectively contribute towards the ending of statelessness by 2024.
Crisis in Public Education Hon Mushoriwa, seconded by Hon Toffa, is due to move a motion noting the crisis in the public education system and the contrast between that system and the private education system enjoyed by the rich and privileged. The motion calls for the Portfolio Committees on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Primary and Secondary Education to conduct a joint inquiry into allegations of dereliction of duty by the Ministers concerned in the ongoing deterioration of the public education system and allegations that “members of the Executive” are benefiting from that deterioration by luring students from failed public schools to “their” personal private colleges and schools which offer Cambridge qualifications instead of ZIMSEC ones. It also proposes that the portfolio committees be tasked to proffer recommendations to address the above crises.
Question Time [Wednesday]
There are 30 questions with notice on the Order Paper.
Coming up in the Senate This Week
Bill on the Order Paper
Marriages Bill [link]
This is a Bill from the previous Parliamentary session. The Senate is waiting for the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to complete his response to the Second Reading debate – the point reached on 30th June last year.
The Bill was passed by the National Assembly with amendments in late May last year, and promptly transmitted to the Senate. It has been stuck in the Senate since Tuesday 30th June 2020, when Senators finished making their contributions to the Second Reading debate, during which it had become plain that Senators from all sides were unanimously against the Bill’s failure to include provision for lobola, despite the Minister’s assurances that lobola would not be abolished by the Bill. Also raised, was that the age of consent [presently 16] should be increased to 18 [the present marriageable age]. On the same day the Minister started but did not complete his response to points raised by Senators during the debate. Instead, he said he intended to discuss the Bill with the Council of Chiefs and would be coming back to the Senate thereafter. There were no further developments for the rest of the session, when the Bill lapsed in terms of Standing Orders. But it has not been abandoned – on 5th November 2020, early in the present session, the Minister successfully requested that it be restored to the Order Paper.
There are no other Bills on the Senate’s Order Paper. Senators are waiting for more Bills to come to them from the National Assembly. There are several Bills already on their way through the National Assembly.
Bill not on the Order Paper
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill, 2017 – Before there can be a Third Reading vote on this 2017 Bill [the original Senate vote having been found to be invalid by the Constitutional Court on 31st March 2020], there has to be a decision of the Constitutional Court on whether the original timeframe the Court gave for the Bill to be dealt with can be extended. The complex background to this item is explained in Bill Watch 27/2020 of 13th May 2020 [link].
International agreement for approval
SADC Memorandum of Understanding on Harmonisation of Seed Regulatory Framework in SADC
This Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] was adopted by SADC Heads of State to address regional seed insecurity through integrating smaller national seed markets into one large SADC seed market. It has already been approved by the National Assembly, where MPs raised questions about GMO seeds about whether accession to the MoU would mean changing Zimbabwe’s policy towards GMO food and were assured that no policy change was involved.
There are several partly-debated motions on the Order Paper: the motion of thanks for the President’s SONA address on the first day of the present session; take-note motions on the Report of the Zimbabwe Delegation to the 2019 annual general meeting of the African Parliamentary Union and the Report on the Extraordinary Session of the Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union; the motion on 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, which calls for better enforcement of the law on domestic violence and calls on Parliament to enact stiff penalties for it; and the condolence motion on the death of the late Senator Air Chief Marshal Shiri.
Question Time [Thursday] There are only two questions listed: one for the Minister on Primary and Secondary Education on the measures in place to protect teachers and students in rural areas in light of the COVID-10 pandemic, the other for asking when the National Disability Policy will be enacted into law.