By Lovemore Chazingwa/ James Sakala
The decision by Parliament to adjourn its main sittings due to fears of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely affect the country’s law-making process.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa in September last year tabled about 28 Bills that are supposed to be tackled in this Second Session of the 9th Parliament of Zimbabwe.
However, with about 4 months left before the session comes to a close, there is little that has been done to the majority of the Bills that made the legislative agenda even though Mnangagwa had called for speed consideration of the Bills.
This means when Parliament eventually resume its sittings, there will be little time for thorough scrutiny and too much pressure to effectively deal with Bills since the budget processes also start in the second half of the year.
In an interview, Muzvezve Constituency legislator Vangelis Haritatos, who is also Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Water and Rural Resettlement thinks authorities made the best decision under the COVID-19 threat.
“I think the adjournment of Parliament due to COVID-19 was certainly a necessary measure to curb the spread of the virus. The functions of Parliament are extremely important but I support the decision entirely.
“We have some nations around the world and a neighbouring country, in particular, that have sent their entire Cabinet and Parliament into self-quarantine due to a health worker who tested positive for COVID-19.
“COVID-19 knows no race, social class, religion, gender or political affiliation. It is real and any measures to mitigate against the spread of the virus are certainly welcomed.
“We need to stay safe and the public needs to abide by the lockdown order so that together we stop the spread of the virus,” he said.
Haritatos added that despite the lockdown order, Ministries are still undertaking their mandate in full through the weekly Cabinet sittings.
The Deputy Minister also said “The COVID-19 National Task Force is doing well in supporting the Ministry of Health.”
Speaking on the same issue, Kadoma Central legislator Muchineripi Chinyanganya said: “In as much as there is need for social distancing, adjournment of Parliament is not the way to go. One of Parliament’s roles is oversight of the Executive.
“As we speak the health sector is in quandary, its chaotic. No-one can call the Executive to order.
“There is the issue of food distribution to the vulnerable. No-one is accountable. It has been politicized and intended beneficiaries are sidelined,” he said.
Should Parliament fail to dispose all the Bills on the legislative agenda it will be for the second time since 2018 as they were forced to restore some of the Bills that had been affected by the end of the First Session.
However, President Mnangagwa is on record expressing disappointment with Parliament’s lack of urgency in dealing with Bills adding that it slows down development in the country and that it will not be allowed.
“The law must be a universal instrument of development. As such, the slow pace in this August House, which has resulted in a low number of bills passing through Parliament, cannot be allowed to continue.
“I, thus, challenge Honourable Members in their individual and collective capacities, to play their part in speeding up our parliamentary processes.
“Equally, reports of mismanagement of public finances as exposed by the Office of the Auditor General, and brought before this Parliament, must never be condoned,” he said.
Parliament is this year expected to deal with the below listed 28 laws:
The High Court Act, Labour Court Act, Magistrates Court Act Police Act, Public Finance Management Amendment Bill, The Insurance and Pension Act, Securities and Exchange Commission Bill, The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, The Gold Trade Act, Precious Stones Act, The Competition Act, The Petroleum Act, The Electricity Act, The Freedom of Information Bill, The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, Protection of Information Bill, The Broadcasting Services Act, The Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill, The Data Protection and Electronic Transactions Bill, The Pension and Provident Funds Bill, The Medical Aid Societies’ Bill, The Prisons and Correctional Services Bill, Child Justice Bill, Mandatory Sentencing for Rape and Sexual Offences Bill, Immigration Act, The Persons with Disabilities Bill and The Private Voluntary Organisation Bill. Get all COVID-19 statistics for Zimbabwe from COVID-TRACKER