Common Law | Portfolio Committees, Standing Orders, Statutory Instruments: what it all means

Common Law with Mike Murenzvi

 “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”

Many people in my circles often comment on the “bad” laws that are made in the country. But very few of them actually know what goes into making those laws, and the simple fact that they also have a say in them.

This column will be an ongoing series covering the topical laws that we have, those being made, and those that we would like to have, as well as how they affect our daily lives.

The first instalment in this series, in which we discussed the cycle of a Bill from inception to becoming law, received some encouraging feedback. I look forward to interacting with readers and experts as we go along.

[Click to read: From Bill to Law – An easy guide to how laws are made in Zimbabwe]

From the onset I must be clear; I’m no lawyer, but I like to read up on different issues of interest. Among those interests is law and its various effects on our lives.

The law and its processes use a lot of terms that are unfamiliar to ordinary speech, so with each new topic, there will be an explainer so that the technical terms are easier to understand.

The topic in this instalment is on the law-making process. A lot of times, we fail to understand Parliamentary processes because of all the terms used. So, here are some terms that you will need to know:

“House” – Parliament is made up of two houses, the Senate and the National Assembly. “House” refers to either the National Assembly, or the Senate.

“National Assembly” – This is the lower House of Parliament. It is made up of 210 elected and 60 female proportional representative (PR) members of parliament (MPs).

“Senate” – This is the upper House of Parliament, made up of 60 proportional representative Senators, 18 Traditional Chiefs, and two representatives of people with disabilities.

“Bill” – This is a proposed law, or changes to an existing law.

“Act” – This is a law that has been passed by Parliament

“Parliamentary Legal Committee” – This is a special committee of MPs who are also lawyers. Its main task is to review all draft laws, Bills, and Statutory Instruments so that they don’t violate the Constitution, any other existing laws, or people’s basic rights.

“Portfolio Committees” – These are Committees designated according to Government portfolios to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of Government departments and other matters falling under their jurisdictions as Parliament may determine by resolution.

“Committee of the Whole House” – This is a committee made up of the entire membership of the House. Its task is to examine Bills, clause by clause, and make changes where they are deemed necessary.

“Standing Orders”– These are the rules of Parliament.

“Gazette” – This the act of publishing in the Government Gazette.

“Government Gazette” – The official Government newspaper of record for all legal and regulatory announcements.

“Statutory Instrument” – Very topical in Zimbabwe over the past year. An SI is the regulation that details how the intricate workings of an Act and its provisions actually work. It allows the provisions of the Act to be implemented, or sometimes changed, without Parliament having to pass a new Act. They are issued by the Minister who’s in charge of administering the Act.

Online resources

Below are some of the online resources of our laws and their surrounding processes.

Parliament of Zimbabwe: www.parlzim.gov.zw

Veritas Zimbabwe: www.veritaszim.net

Centre for Applied Legal Research: www.ca-lr.org

Law Development Commission: www.ldc.gov.zw

Judicial Services Commission: www.jsc.org.zw

Legal Resources Foundation: www.lrfzim.com

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal opinions and should in no way be interpreted to represent the views of any organisations that the he is associated or connected with.

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