President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened the First Session of the Ninth Parliament and delivered the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Tuesday 18th September. (Sections 140(1) and 140(4) of the Constitution respectively).
During his address, the President highlighted about 30 Bills his Government expects to send to Parliament for consideration during the session.
Although Section 147 of the Constitution provides that “On the dissolution of Parliament, all proceedings pending at the time are terminated and every Bill, motion, petition and other business lapses”, the unfinished work of the Eighth Parliament in terms of Bills (since effectively all Bills emanate from the Executive) gave us insight into the tone the President to set. A number of the Bills he mentioned [the Bills with asterisks below] were either awaiting gazetting or were already before the Eighth Parliament when it was dissolved.
The President set out an ambitious legislative agenda on Bills relating on the ease of doing business, Bills to continue the alignment process and international legal instruments that will be tabled before Parliament for ratification.
Economic Agenda Bills
- Companies and Other Business Entities Bill* – to overhaul the Companies Act
- Regional Town and Country Planning Bill – to reduce the time and procedures for processing construction permits.
- Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency Bill – to consolidate various pieces of legislation on investment, which are presently spread under various Acts and to provide for the establishment of a one-stop investment centre, the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency.
- Citizenship of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill
- Immigration Amendment Bill
- Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill* – to be re-tabled to address some inadequacies therein and further provide for online registration of mining rights and title.
- Gold Trade Bill – to curb leakages of precious minerals.
- Precious Stones Trade Bill – to curb leakages of precious minerals.
- A Bill to establish the Institute of Education Research, Innovation and Development to align with the programme on value addition and import substitution strategies.
- Consumer Protection Bill* – to protect consumers from unfair trade practices and abuse by suppliers of sub-standard goods.
- Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill – to further open up our media space.
- Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill – to further open up our media space.
- Cyber Crime and Security Bill* – to mitigate the security risks and cybercrime related threats.
- Data Protection Bill*
- Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill*
- Labour Amendment Bill – in line with the ease and cost of doing business reforms; and equally seek an intricate balance between labour productivity and workplace harmony.
- Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill – to strengthen the regulation of cooperatives in the country
- Tripartite negotiating forum Bill* – to facilitate participatory development by fostering greater collaboration between all social partners
- Coroner’s Office Bill* – to provide for the establishment of the Coroner’s Office.
- Constitutional Court Bill – to, inter alia, confer additional responsibilities to the Constitutional Court.
- Customary Law and Local Courts Bill – to provide for the exclusion of harmful cultural practices from Customary Law.
- High Court Amendment Bill – to provide for clear appeals and referral procedures from the High Court to the Constitutional Court and establish their jurisdictional matters.
- Rural District Councils Bill – to give Rural Councils greater autonomy, as enshrined in the Constitution.
- Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill – to bring it into line with the Constitution and more particularly, to provide for the establishment of Provincial Assemblies.
- Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill – to facilitate the devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities to Provincial and Local Authorities. Through the Bill, Provincial and Metropolitan Councils will be reconfigured in accordance with Chapter 14 of the Constitution. The Bill will further seek to facilitate enhanced coordination between Central Government, Provincial Councils and Local Authorities, within the context of the decentralisation and devolution programme.
- Public Finance Management Amendment Bill – to facilitate the allocation of sufficient resources for basic social services and economic development at the local level.
- Forest Amendment Bill* – to provide for measures to effectively foster the sustainable management of the country’s forestry resource.
- Child Justice Bill – to provide a child justice system.
- Marriage Amendment Bill – to outlaw child marriages.
- Mandatory Sentencing for Rape and Sexual Abuse Bill
The Government intends to bring the following six international legal instruments for ratification
- The Kigali Amendment to the Nogoya – Kualar Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Stability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-Safety.
- The Accession to the Additional Protocol to the Agreements between States and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards.
- The Accession to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
- The Accession to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
- The Accession to the Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiology Emergency and,
- The Accession to the Convention on the Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident.
Opposition MPs walked out of the National Assembly just as the President had begun his address to the joint sitting of Parliament. The MPs only returned after the President had left the National Assembly.
During his address the President,
- highlighted that Government will work out a plan to pay off the country’s external debt.
- indicated that Government is committed towards stabilising the macro economic environment, reduce budget deficit and grow all sectors of the economy.
- said the multi-currency system will continue until economic fundamentals are met. Government has negotiated various facilities to meet forex requirements for businesses and some of them will be disbursed this week.
- challenged the private sector to be honest in their dealings.
- underscored that State owned enterprises should not be a drain on the fiscus, but should operate profitably.
- challenged the public sector to change their work ethic and improve service delivery.
- highlighted Government’s happiness with the contribution of gold, platinum and chrome to the economy.
- said there is need to scale up value addition in the manufacturing sector.
- indicated agriculture remains a strategic sector to the economy adding that revival of various value chain industries in the agriculture sector is also key.
- called for the widening of contributions of other minerals such as lithium and coal-bed methane.
- reiterated that devolution will be implemented, but should result in increased economic growth in various areas.
- said there is need for modern education and health provision especially targeting vulnerable groups.
- spoke strongly against corruption adding that no one is above the law and anyone found guilty will be dealt with.
Adjournment of both Houses
Following the President’s address to the joint sitting of the Senate and the National Assembly and his declaration that the first session was now open, both Houses then sat briefly to adjourn and set dates for resumption of business. [Note: Section 146 of the Constitution allows each House to determine its own sitting dates, other than the first sitting, and periods of recess.] The National Assembly and the Senate were both adjourned until the 25th of September. The adjournments give parliamentarians time to digest and prepare for debates on the President’s address.