The National Assembly resumed sitting this week after a two week-break. The House focused on the the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) report for the year 2017 on the state of human rights in the country, debate on the deployment of the Defence Forces by the President, second reading of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum bill among other issues.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi, presented the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill which was gazzetted last year. The Bill which is in its second reading stage seeks to create a binding legal framework among the social partners which are Government, organised business and organised labour. As a result, the law will enable the emergence of a binding, accountable, transparent, effective and responsive social dialogue platform capable of contributing to the sustainable development of the country especially in relation to relations between business, labour and Government. Some of the important highlights of the Bill are as follows.
Clauses 1 and 2 set out the short title of the Bill and definitions of terms used in the Bill respectively.
Clause 3 establishes the Tripartite Negotiating Forum and its composition whereby the forum will be made up of a chairperson, representative from Government, organised business and organised labour and sets out the objectives and functions of the forum. Further, a technical committee of
experts drawn from the constituent members will be appointed to assist the forum in its work.
Clause 4 sets out the qualifications of members of the TNF. The clause provides that a member shall not qualify to be appointed unless he or she is a Zimbabwean citizen who has no previous conviction related to corruption or financial impropriety within the five-year period and is not insolvent.
Clause 5 provides for the removal of business and labour members.
Clause 6 provides for filling in of vacancies, which will be done by the respective constituency not later than thirty days from the date of vacation.
Clause 7 lays out the duties of the chairperson and co-chairperson which include convening and presiding over all meetings and reporting to Cabinet.
Clause 8 provides for the establishment of the agenda setting for TNF meetings.
Clause 9 defines the convening of meetings and establishes that the quorum of the forum shall be met by 50% of members provided that all constituent organisations are represented.
Clause 10 provides for the decisions of the main TNF which will be reached by consensus and will form recommendations to Cabinet.
Clause 11 provides for minutes or proceedings of the main TNF meeting. The minutes shall be kept in books and be used as evidence in a court of law if signed by the chairperson.
Clause 12 establishes the TNF Technical Committee which will be chaired by the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet. The technical committee will be composed of three clusters. These are the Economic Policy Cluster responsible for economic issues, Labour Market Cluster responsible for labour market policy and the Social Policy Cluster responsible for social issues.
Clause 13 speaks to the establishment of a Management Committee and its composition. The Committee shall be composed of representatives from the tripartite constituents nominated by their respective principals.
Clause 14 sets up an independent secretariat headed by the Executive Director who will be a Zimbabwean citizen and will manage the operation and property of the forum and supervise forum employees.
Clause 15 provides for the appointment of other members of the secretariat.
Clause 16 provides for the forum's financing mechanism. The TNF will be funded by monies derived from the national fiscus and any other monies that may vest in or accrue to the TNF.
Clause 17 provides for management of the accounts of the forum and the appointment of an internal auditor. The TNF shall keep proper books of accounts and an annual statement of accounts shall be submitted to the Minister responsible for finance. The Minister shall approve the appointment of auditors by the forum. The auditors shall report to the forum on the statement of accounts prepared.
Clause 18 sets out the auditing of the accounts of the forum. The Auditor General will also audit the forum's accounts in accordance with the Audit Office Act [Chapter 22:18]. The clause also allows the Minister to request reports, statements and explanations from the auditors in connection with the forum's funds, activities and properties.
Clause 19 provides for the preservation of secrecy and confidentiality and gives members an obligation to uphold confidentiality and makes it a criminal offence to disclose confidential information.
Clause 20 gives the Minister authority to make regulations which may provide for, among others, periodicity of meetings, attendance to meetings, quorum and nomination of members, admission of new members, staff regulations and composition of clusters.
Clause 21 provides for the setting up of Standing Rules of the forum. The Standing Rules give provision for objections of items on the agenda, motions and resolution procedures for amending documents under discussion, right to address the meeting, decorum, circulation of the agenda, group autonomy, caucuses and amendment of the Standing Rules among others.
He said the Bill will bring about accountability, transparency, effective and responsive social dialogue between business, labour and Government.
Parliament is expected to approve and ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area Treaty (AfCFTA) soon, in a move to promote industrialisation and intra-African trade. It's been almost a year since President Mnangagwa signed the pact. The protocol has now been signed by 49 of the 55 African Union (AU) member States.
Despite the large number of signatories, the agreement can only come into force if it is ratified by at least 22 of the member states. Minister Ziyambi on Tuesday moved a motion for the ratification of the treaty by Parliament in terms of section 327 (2) of the Constitution.
The objectives of the AfCFTA are as follows:
Create a single market for goods, services and movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent and in accordance with the Pan-African Vision of "An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa", enshrined in Agenda 2063;
Create a liberalised market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiations, contribute to the movement of capital and natural persons and facilitate investments building on the initiatives and developments in the State parties and RECs;
Lay the foundation for the eventual establishment, at a later state, a Continental Customs Union and a Continental single market;
Promote and attain sustainable and inclusive social and economic development and structural transformation of the State parties;
Enhance the competitiveness of the economies of State parties within the continent and at the global market;
Promote industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security; and Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
The AfCFTA will bring together fifty-five (55) African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than US$3.4 trillion.
Meanwhile Minister Ziyambi also gave a ministerial statement on the deployment of the Defence Forces by the President. This follows numerous questions raised by Members of Parliament recently during the question and answer session on Government policy with regards to deployment of the army. He said the President deployed the Defence Forces on August 1, 2018 and January 14, 2019 to suppress demonstrations by citizens. The demonstrations saw lives lost and left a trail of destruction.
In his statement, the Minister cited Section 214 of the Constitution which reads:
"When the Defence Forces are deployed;
(a) in Zimbabwe to assist in the maintenance of public order; or
(b) outside Zimbabwe; the President must cause Parliament to be informed, promptly and in appropriate detail, of the reasons for their deployment and;
(i) where they are deployed in Zimbabwe, the place where they are deployed;
(ii) where they are deployed outside Zimbabwe, the country in which they are deployed.
Minister Ziyambi further said the deployment by the President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was also made in terms of the Public Order and Security Act.
He further informed the House that the Minister of Defence following upon the request and guided by Section 2113 (1) (2) (b) of the Constitution that provided that only the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces has the power to authorise the deployment of the Defence Forces in Zimbabwe to support the Police Service in the maintenance of public order the President duly considered the request and having applied his mind to the situation, authorised the deployment of the Defence Forces to suppress the riotous and destructive conduct that pervaded the country. After his statement, Members of Parliament probed the Minster on why Parliament was not notified before the official deployment, the use of live ammunition on unarmed civilians and how Government would compensate the lives lost in this menace. In response, Minister Ziyambi said on the issue of compensation, POSA is very clear that the organisers of these rioters demonstrations must be held liable in terms of the Act. He reiterated that the organisers of these 'violent protests' would be held responsible according to the provisions of POSA.
In an unrelated matter, the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Hon. Chitando gave a ministerial statement with regards to the Mining Disaster that occurred at Cricket Mine, Battlefields following a request from the House. He said the tragedy was as a result of flash floods caused by heavy rains that fell upstream and flooded the mines. To avert future occurrences of mining disasters, he said, the initial review of the accident indicated that the country has insufficient legislation to enforce best safety practices. Therefore, Minister Chitando specified the need to speed up amendment of the Mines and Minerals Bill.
Source: Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST)