Another ambitious legislative agenda was outlined by President Robert Mugabe when he officially opened the Fourth Session of the Seventh Parliament this week on Tuesday.
The pomp and fanfare surrounding every official opening of a session of Parliament (marred, however, by an outbreak of violence outside Parliament building) is meaningless unless the legislative agenda is adhered to and Parliament is seen busy making laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country as per the dictates of the Constitution.
When the President officially opened the Third Session of the Seventh Parliament on July 13 2010, he outlined what promised to be a busy legislative agenda for that session.
A total of 24 Bills were supposed to be brought before Parliament during the course of the Session.
However, only seven of the total number of Bills were introduced in Parliament; namely: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, Electoral Amendment Bill, Deposit Protection Bill, National Incomes and Pricing Bill, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Bill, Attorney-General’s Office Bill and Energy Regulatory Bill.
In addition to these seven bills, Parliament managed to pass the Zimbabwe National Security Amendment Bill and the General Laws Amendment Bill.
The Public Order and Security Amendment Bill, a private member bill initiated by Hon Innocent Gonese (MDC-T), was passed by the House of Assembly and is currently stuck in the Senate.
While the House of Assembly did an excellent job to push for significant changes to the General Laws Amendment Bill and pass amendments to the Public Order and Security Act, some very important pieces of legislation that were supposed to be introduced in Parliament such as Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, Exploration Corporation Bill, Environmental Management Bill, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, Media Practitioners Bill and Trafficking in Persons Bill, were nowhere to be seen during the course of the session.
While Parliament cannot be blamed for the poor legislative agenda (as many of the Bills emanate from ministers), the failure to transact major legislative business still has a major negative impact on the image of the law-making arm of the State.
This time around, the President mentioned 19 Bills which he said would be brought before Parliament during the Fourth Session.
They are as follows: Electoral Amendment Bill; Referendums Amendment Bill; Zimbabwe Income Tax Amendment Bill; Exploration Corporation Bill; Zimbabwe Border Post Authority Bill; Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill; Micro-finance Bill; Women’s Council Bill; Securities Amendment Bill; RBZ Debt Restructuring Bill; NRZ Amendment Bill; Land Developers Bill; State Enterprises Restructuring Agency Bill; Older Persons Bill; GMO Biotechnology Bill; Public Health Amendment Bill; Diamond Bill; Zimbabwe Investment Authority Bill and Food Control Bill.
An additional six treatises, conventions and protocols are also expected to be tabled before Parliament, namely: Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities; Domestication of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons; Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area Treaty; the Great Mapungubwe Trans-frontier Conservation Area Treaty; the Greater Limpopo Tran frontier Conservation Area Treaty; and the Sadc Protocol on Shared Watercourses.
What is not clear from the President’s address is whether or not some of the important bills that were supposed to be introduced in Parliament in the last session have been abandoned.
They include Media Practitioners Bill, Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill. There is no mention of these Bills in the President’s speech.
Related to Media Practitioners Bill are loud calls to review the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act.
The President’s speech was silent on these two pieces of legislation. I am not sure therefore how the much talked about media reform can succeed without amending the pernicious provisions of these bills.
Although not mentioned in the President’s address, one other major piece of legislation expected to come before Parliament is the Constitutional Bill that seeks to bring into effect the new constitution.
The nature of this Bill is the first step towards determining whether or not Zimbabwe is prepared for a free, fair and credible election.
While amendments to the Electoral Act are important to prepare for credible polls, these will not go very far without a democratic people-driven constitution that is fully respected by State agents.
Other statutes to do with the security of persons and freedom of movement and assembly also need to be brought into the equation in order for us to confidently say we now have a conducive environment for elections.
So Parliament this session has the onerous task of preparing the country for elections by enacting the appropriate policies and laws and overseeing enforcement of these laws.
John Makamure is the executive director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: email@example.com