Another dull legislative year

12 Jan, 2020 - 00:01 0 Views
Another dull legislative year

The Sunday Mail

Lincoln Towindo

In his last State of the Nation Address and official opening of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament in the last quarter of last year, President Mnangagwa expressed displeasure at the pace at which laws were being passed by Parliament.

The President said the slow pace in law-making was stifling development and the Government’s reform agenda.

“The law must be a universal instrument of development. As such, the slow pace in this august House, which has resulted in a low number of Bills passing through Parliament cannot be allowed to continue,” said President Mnangagwa.

“I, thus, challenge honourable members in their individual and collective capacities, to play their part in speeding up our parliamentary processes.”

Only a handful of Bills had been passed during the first session of Parliament while most remained work in progress or were yet to be tabled.

When the President opened the inaugural session of the Ninth Parliament, he laid down an expansive legislative agenda of 27 Bills.

These included a cocktail of proposals to align the Constitution, ease of doing business, economic and political reforms.

However, only half a dozen Bills were passed, a development that appeared to incense the President.

Bills progress

Laws that were passed include the Consumer Protection Act, the Microfinance Amendment Act Bill and the Companies and Other Business Entities Act.

The Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill was also passed and signed into law towards the end of last year.

Proposed laws that remained outstanding during the first session include the Regional Town and Country Planning Amendment Bill, which seeks to reduce the time and procedures for processing construction permits.

Also left out was Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill that was passed in the last session of the Eighth Parliament and will be re-tabled to address some inadequacies such as providing for online registration of mining rights and title.

The Gold Trade Bill and the Precious Stones Trade Bill, which seek to curb leakage of precious minerals was not tabled despite being on the legislative agenda.

The Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill, the Data Protection Bill and the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commercial Bill were left out as well.

While the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act was gazetted it is yet to be passed and amendments to the Immigration Act are still work in progress.

The Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency Bill was passed during the second session in the final weeks of 2019, but is yet to be signed into law.

In a major development, Parliament passed the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill before it was subsequently and assented to by the President in June.

The Act now gives legal effect to the framework that seeks to confer powers and functions of the forum in relation to consultation, cooperation and negotiation on social and economic issues by Government, business and labour.

The Labour Amendment Bill will be brought to the House for discussion and approval.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill were also gazetted, but are yet to go through requisite processes ahead of debates in the House. Government also tabled the Coroners Bill, which will create the Coroner-General’s Office, whose mandate will be to investigate unnatural deaths that occur in health institutions, police cells, prisons and any other places.

In December the Speaker of the National Assembly received non-adverse reports by the Parliamentary Legal Committee on the Freedom of Information Bill, Marriages Bill, International Treaties Bill, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill, Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill, and the Constitutional Court Bill, paving the way for debates to commence.

Other laws that were on the legislative agenda, but are yet to be gazetted include:

Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill;

Rural District Councils Bill to give rural councils greater autonomy;

Amendments to the Traditional Leaders Act to provide for the establishment of Provincial Assemblies;

The Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill to facilitate the devolution and outline responsibilities of provincial and local authorities;

The Customary Law and Local Courts Bill to provide for the exclusion of harmful cultural practices from Customary Law;

The Child Justice Bill which seeks to provide a child justice system

The Mandatory Sentencing for Rape and Sexual Abuse Bill which will provide mandatory sentences for rape and other sexual offences

Most of these Bills were not tabled before the House.

MPs in bribery storm

The year in Parliament was not short of high drama and intrigue, either.

Four parliamentarians — Mr Temba Mliswa (Norton independent), Cde Leonard Chikomba (Gokwe Kabuyuni, Zanu-PF), Mr Anele Ndebele (Magwegwe MDC-A) and Binga North representative Mr Prince Sibanda (MD-A) — were accused of soliciting bribe.

The four were investigated on allegations of demanding a $400 000 bribe from a local businessman Mr James Ross Goddard of JRG Contracting (Pvt) Ltd, as “facilitation fee” to enable the latter’s company to secure a mining contract at Hwange Colliery.

A Privileges Committee set up to investigate the matter found the four guilty of bribery and putting the august House into disrepute.

They were found guilty of convening meetings away from Parliament Building under the guise of holding official business. The four were then banned from sitting in the portfolio committee on mines and had a day’s allowance docked before being ordered to apologise to the House.

Allowance-gate

MDC-Alliance parliamentarians courted the wrath of the Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda who punished the opposition caucus for walking out on official business presided over by the President.

The Speaker temporarily barred MDC- Alliance legislators from posing questions to Cabinet ministers due to their refusal to recognise President Mnangagwa. He later reversed the decision.

Earlier, the Speaker had frozen sitting allowances for 112 MDC-Alliance MPs after they walked out on the President’s SONA.

The opposition caucus approached the courts seeking relief before a nine-member Privileges Committee was set up to investigate the MDC-Alliance legislators’ walkouts.

New Parliament Building makes progress

Impressive progress was made during the year in construction of the state-of-the-art Parliament building in Mount Hampden.

President Mnangagwa toured the site in November during which  he expressed satisfaction with the progress made by the contractors — China’s Shanghai Construction Group (SCG).

The visit was his third since construction began in November 2018.

“We are happy to see the progress. We are amazed by the amount of progress at each visit which SCG has achieved over a very short period,” he said at the time.

The multi-storey structure — one of the largest buildings being funded by China in Zimbabwe — is set for completion in March next year.

 

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