PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe officially opened the second session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday promising the legislature would deal with 15 Bills this session but Veritas, a grouping of lawyers with interest in constitutional matters, has cast doubt on the ability of government to deliver owing to MPs sleeping on duty.
In September last year during the first session of the Eight Parliament, Mugabe announced government would bring 27 Bills, but only nine were debated and passed while many ministers were in no-show as issues to do with their portfolios were debated.
The Bills that were passed include the Trafficking in Persons Bill, Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill, Electoral Amendment Bill, National Prosecuting Authority Bill, Financial Adjustments Bill, Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill, Finance (number two) Bill and the Appropriation (supplementary) Bill.
The Gender Commission of Zimbabwe Bill, Public Accounts Officers and Auditors Amendment Bill and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill were presented late in the first session, but were still under consideration by the parliamentary legal committee when the first session ended in September.
Some of Bills on the President’s list but not presented to parliament by the end of the first session include the Land Commission Bill, Health Services, Medical Services and Public Health Bill, Anti-Corruption Commission Amendment Bill, Mines and Minerals Bill and Public-Private Development Partnership Bill.
The Constituency Development Fund Bill, and four financial sector Bills to amend the Banking Act, Insurance Act, Pension and Provident Funds Act as well as the Insurance and Pensions Commission Act, Border Posts Authority Bill and Consumer Protection Bill are some of the Bills not presented.
“The meagre output of Bills by parliament over the 13 months of the first session reflects the government’s general lack of preparedness for legislation to fulfil its legislative agenda, its election manifesto, ZimAsset, and its duty to implement the constitution,’ Veritas says.
“As a result of this dearth of legislative work from the government, and government ministers so often not turning up to respond to written questions, and a conspicuous lack of ministerial presence in both houses when debates affecting their ministries took place, parliamentarians were left largely to their own devices.”
Veritas says although there were some extremely lively debates on controversial motions introduced by backbenchers, there seemed to be little resultant impact.
“In both houses, but particularly in the senate, the lack of government business and presence led to some very short sittings — with an appreciable number of ‘afternoon’ sittings lasting for less than an hour.”
The 15 Bills that Mugabe said would be tabled during the current session are the New Income Tax Bill, Debt Management Bill, Joint Venture Bill, Amendment to the Labour Act, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, Public Health Bill, Gwanda State University Bill, National Defence College Bill, Data Protection Bill and the Tripartite Negotiation Forum Bill.
The Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences Bill, Insurance Act, Cybercrime Bill, Electronic Transactions Bill and Procurement Act Bill are also scheduled to be presented in this session.
Mugabe said the main focus of the second session was alignment of laws with the new constitution with about 450 statutes needing to be realigned.