Eventful legislative year for Parliament

At least eight Bills sailed through and became law this year while an array of outstanding Bills are yet to be debated as Parliament of Zimbabwe concludes an eventful legislative year.

The year also saw one of crucial Bills, Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill being returned to Parliament by President Mnangagwa, in terms of the Constitution so that the legislative assembly attends to areas where he had expressed reservations.

Most of the Bills were debated during the Fifth Session of the Ninth Parliament which came to an end before the 23 August 2023 harmonised elections. 

Of the eight Bills that were passed, it was the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Electoral Amendment Bill and the Labour Amendment Bill that drew a lot of debate both in Parliament and during consultations by relevant portfolio committees. 

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act seeks to punish those who campaign against the country through private correspondence with foreign Governments and harm national interest.

There was heated debate during consideration of the Bill in the National Assembly and the presiding officer had to direct for the division of the House to allow voting for some of the contentious clauses.

One of the Clauses that drew debate was that which sought to impose heavy penalties on those that call for sanctions against the country.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi brought amendments to the Bill which got overwhelming support from Zanu PF legislators while those from opposition CCC led by former Harare East MP, Mr Tendai Biti opposed the amendments.

One of the amendments Minister Ziyambi proposed reads as follows: “Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who, within or outside Zimbabwe, intentionally partakes in any meeting, whose object or one of whose objects the accused knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing involves the consideration of or the planning for the implementation or enlargement of sanctions or a trade boycott against Zimbabwe (whether those sanctions or that boycott is untargeted or targets any individual or official, or class of individuals or officials), but whose effects indiscriminately affect the people of Zimbabwe as a whole, or any substantial section thereof, shall be guilty of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe and liable to . . . ”

The clause provides penalties that include a fine not exceeding level twelve or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both.

Other proposed penalties include termination of the citizenship of the convicted person, if that person is a citizen by registration or a dual citizen, prohibition of being a registered voter for a period ranging between five and 15 years and prohibition of standing for a public office for a prescribed

period.

Another Bill that has now become law is the Electoral Act that will operationalise the latest constitutional amendments for the election of 10 youth members of the National Assembly, one from each province, as well as the continued election of 60 women, six from each province, to the National Assembly under a party-list

Another important law that was passed was the Labour Act that will repeal a Clause empowering employers to unilaterally terminate contracts for their employees by simply giving them three months notice.

The repeal of that clause has been a huge relief for several workers in the country who were at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who simply gave three months notice in their bid to avoid retrenchment process that would result in them paying huge sums in terminal benefits.

Others Bills that were passed this year include Judicial Laws Amendment Act, Prisons and Correctional Services Act Children Amendment Act, Electricity Amendment Act and Institute of Chartered Loss Control and Private Security Management Act

The much talked about PVO Bill sailed through Parliament before it was returned after President Mnangagwa expressed some reservations on some aspects which he felt was not consistent with the Constitution.

Parliament is now obliged to consider these reservations expressed by the President before it is resubmitted for his assent.

The Constitution allows two routes.

In the first, Parliament has to amend the Bill to take fully into account all the Presidential reservations, so that the President will then accept it. In the second, Parliament can override the Presidential reservations but then needs to repass the Bill with a two thirds majority in the National Assembly.

The long awaited Mines and Mining Amendment Bill is still to be concluded after President Mnangagwa expressed reservations on some of its provisions.

Parliament is expected to consider areas which saw President Mnangagwa exercise his constitutional right to withhold his assent. 

Some of the Bills yet to be concluded were pronounced by President Mnangagwa when he officially opened the First Session of the 10th Parliament where he laid 29 Bills that will help facilitate the implementation of programmes and projects that will enhance the livelihoods of people and communities in the country, towards Vision 2030.

Some of them are them are meant to repeal five obsolete laws from the country’s legal statutes since they have ceased to serve their purpose while the current Session will have to deal with six uncompleted Bills from the last Parliament.

Bills that were outstanding from the last Parliament that he directed to be concluded include the, Public Finance Management Amendment Bill; Medical Services Amendment Bill, Insurance Bill.

Obsolete laws that are set to be repealed under the Repeal of Laws (General Amendment) Bill include the Fredrick Clayton Trust Act, the Service of Documents Act, Settled Estates Leasing Act and the War Marriages Validation Act.

New Bills which will constitute the business of the First Session include the Persons with Disabilities Bill, the Administration of Estates Amendment Bill, the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Bill, Inheritance and Succession Laws (General Amendment) Bill 2023, which aligns inheritance and succession laws to the Constitution and international best practice.

Herald

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