COVID-19 forces Parly to cancel key committee meetings



PARLIAMENT has cancelled key committee meetings, including a public hearing scheduled for the end of March on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No 2) Bill due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Section 328(4) of the Constitution stipulates that Parliament is required to invite and convene meetings for the public to express their views on the proposed Constitutional Bill.

It reads: “Immediately after the Speaker has given notice of a Constitutional Bill in terms of subsection (3), Parliament must invite members of the public to express their views on the proposed Bill in public meetings and through written submissions, and must convene meetings and provide facilities to enable the public to do so.”

The Bill was likely to attract a lot of contributions from the public as it carries about 25 proposed amendments to the Constitution.

Civil society organisations in the country have opposed some of the proposed amendments, which include removing the constitutional provision relating to the nomination of the Vice-Presidents as running mates prior to an election which is due to become operational in 2023.

Another proposed amendment is meant to increase the number of ministers and deputy ministers who can be appointed from outside Parliament from five to seven, among several other amendments.

The other committee meeting whose sitting was affected yesterday is the Budget and Finance Portfolio Committee, which was set to receive oral evidence from the Finance ministry and ZimSwitch.

Chairperson of the Budget and Finance Portfolio Committee, Felix Mhona yesterday confirmed that the committee meeting had been cancelled.

“The Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda announced last week that Parliament had closed, but he said that some committees would go on with their duties on a case by case basis. The Budget and Finance Committee had already invited the Ministry of Finance and ZimSwitch two weeks ago to come before Parliament to give oral evidence,” he said.

“This was just a usual oversight committee meeting, whereby we were to ask them to talk about the state of the economy.”

The committee which has been allowed to carry on with its duties is the Health Portfolio Committee chaired by Ruth Labode, which is currently on tour of health institutions in Bulawayo.

Last week when Mudenda announced that Parliament business, including committee hearings, would be cancelled as measures to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus, chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Tendai Biti asked if his committee could be allowed to continue to sit as it was behind schedule.

The PAC was in the process of investigating suspected abuse of Command Agriculture funding when Parliament business was abruptly cancelled due to the coronavirus scourge.