President Mugabe yesterday officially opened the Fifth and last Session of the Eighth Parliament, saying the occasion came at a time when the economy was on the rebound, spurred by growth in agriculture and mining. In his address outlining the legislative agenda for the session where at least 25 Bills are expected to be brought to Parliament, the President expressed Government's commitment to improving the country's economic environment to attract investment.
"This session also comes amid increased optimism for a stronger rebound in the national economy, largely buoyed by the present good performance in agriculture and mining," he said.
"The country has this year succeeded in regaining its food self-sufficiency, on the back of a good rain season and the introduction of the Command Agriculture Production Programme. Government is now working to consolidate agriculture through, among other things, investing more resources in water harvesting and irrigation development."
President Mugabe said a number of Bills to improve the business environment would be tabled for debate.
"To enhance national economic competitiveness and the country's appeal as an investment destination, Government has embarked on reforms to improve the domestic business environment," he said. "A number of identified supportive legislative amendments have already been forwarded to this August House for action.
"These include the Insolvency Bill, the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill, the Estate Administrators Bill and the Shop Licences Bill.
"In addition, the Labour Law Amendment Bill, which seeks to address stakeholders' concerns relating to labour market flexibility and job security will soon be tabled before this House. The Public Entities and Corporate Governance Bill already before Parliament will bolster the fight against corruption and other corporate governance ills afflicting our public entities."
President Mugabe said the sustained growth of the mining sector's contribution to the country's GDP hinged on the full implementation of beneficiation and value addition.
"I, therefore, appeal for the expeditious finalisation of Parliament scrutiny of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, and the Mineral Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill. Furthermore, to curb mineral leakages and realise full value from the country's rich mineral endowment, amendments to the Gold Trade Act and the Precious Stones Trade Act will be tabled for consideration during this Session."
President Mugabe said the Child Justice Bill and the Marriage Bill to establish a child justice system and outlaw child marriages would also be tabled in Parliament.
"To provide for the proper ways of handling of children that are in conflict with the law, the Child Justice Bill, which provides a dedicated child justice system and the Marriages Bill, which outlaws child marriages, will be brought before this august House," President Mugabe said.
He expressed outrage at incidences of rape, saying a Bill to provide mandatory sentencing would be brought before Parliament.
"Our society continues to be appalled by the rising incidence of rape," said President Mugabe. "I, therefore, call upon all families, churches, schools, politicians and the traditional leadership to fight against this grossly decadent practice.
"On its part, Government will bring to this Parliament, the Mandatory Sentencing for Rape and Sexual Abuse Bill, which provides for more deterrent measures against the perpetrators of this revulsive crime."
President Mugabe said a lot of work still needed to be done to align the remaining 30 Acts that are still to be aligned with the Constitution.
"This Fifth and final Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe comes at a time when some measure of progress has been made in the process of aligning our laws to the Constitution," he said. "Much more, though, still has to be done in fulfilment of the aspirations of our people, expressed during the Constitution outreach campaign.
"As such, it is my fervent hope that the remaining life of this Parliament, emphasis be on the alignment of the remaining pieces of legislation to the Constitution. Out of 206 pieces of legislation identified as requiring alignment to the Constitution, only 30 Acts remain outstanding."
Other Bills expected to be brought before the House include the Coroner's Bill, which establishes a Coroner's Office for medico-legal investigations into unexplained and suspicious deaths, the Disaster Risk Management Bill to strengthen the country's response mechanisms to disasters and the Cooperating Societies Amendment Bill, to strengthen regulation of cooperatives.
The Land Developers Bill to bring sanity in the operations of land developers will also be tabled before Parliament, while other Bills to deal with opportunities and challenges in the information and communication technologies sector like the Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill, the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commerce Bill and the Data Protection Bill, are also expected to be tabled for debate.
The Teaching Professions Council Bill and a Bill to establish the Institute of Education Research, Innovation and Development will be tabled for consideration, including the Constitutional Court Bill, Companies Amendment Bill, the Prisons and Correctional Service Bill and amendments to the Defence Forces Act to render it consistent with the Constitution.
Various protocols and treaties will also be tabled for ratification during the lifespan of the session.
President Mugabe said parliamentarians had their work cut out during this session, and called for commitment in delivering their mandate.