ED has set an ambitious legislative agenda, but old delays likely to remain. Key laws to watch

Busy schedule: Parliament of Zimbabwe (AFP PHOTO / Mujahid SAFODIEN)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday set a highly ambitious legislative agenda for his government.

There are at least 40 pieces of legislation, from new Bills, amendments and ratifications that are planned.

Given the recent record on enacting legislation, there’s little reason to hope that Parliament will pass enough of this legislation to push through the economic and political reforms promised. The last session of Parliament had 25 Bills on its agenda, plus an additional 15 Bills which had not been on the initial plan.

By September, Parliament had passed just 10 of these Bills. Much of that delay is down to the government itself, which has been slow in drafting and preparing legislation for Parliament.

Among the legislation on the roster for the new session of Parliament are key laws to do with media and security reforms, mining, devolution and small businesses.

Here are some of the key pieces of legislation set for Parliament.

The Economic Empowerment Act

This is meant to replace the Mugabe-era Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act [Chapter 14:33]. Changes to that law – such as dropping the 51% local ownership requirement – were made under the Finance Act. However, the new legislation would replace the Indigenisation Act entirely with a fresh Empowerment Law.

ZANU PF has said it wants legislation that puts local companies in the front of the queue for government procurement contracts. The party is also submitting proposals, as part of a 19-page document to Cabinet, on how to push for more community involvement in mining operations.

Patrick Chinamasa, the ruling party’s acting spokesman, however says his party will not propose any regulations that force companies to give up stakes to locals, as was the case under the old act. The Indigenisation Act, he now admits, was “not well thought out”.

The Mines and Minerals Act

This is the law that governs mining, Zimbabwe’s biggest export earner. In 2018, Mnangagwa sent it back to MPs after mining stakeholders complained that it did not include enough of their input. The current law was passed in 1961, and so has become obsolete. Proposed changes to the law will affect at least 76 sections while more than a dozen new sections would be added.

The Mining Act will also lead to changes in other mining laws such as the Precious Stones and Gold Trade Acts.

Key to watch will be the extent of transparency in mining, such as on ownership of claims and mineral sales.

Devolution laws

To effect devolution and give autonomy to local authorities, Parliament will debate a raft of Bills. These include the Provincial Councils and Administration Amendment Bill and the Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill. The Urban Councils and Rural District Councils Act will be amended. Other laws that will be changed to effect devolution are; the Regional Town, Country and Planning Act; Environmental Management Act; Roads Act; the Public Health Act; Education Act; Shop Licensing Act; Housing Building Act, the Water Act; and the Liquor Licensing Act.

Media laws

The repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was seen as progressive by media rights groups. Three separate laws – some of which have been slammed by rights groups – will be enacted as replacements. These are the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill, and the Protection of Personal Information Bill.

Further, the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill will be brought before Parliament. Mnangagwa says this Bill is necessary “given the importance of robust and secure information systems to drive digital services; in all sectors of our economy”. It allows for data protection, internet safety and security.

However, critics say it opens the door for government to spy on citizens.

An eye on NGOs

The government wants to put a tighter leash on Non-governmental organisations, which it frequently targets for allegedly interfering in local politics.

Says Mnangagwa: “The conduct of some Non-governmental-organisations and Private Voluntary Organisations who operate outside their mandates and out of sync with the government’s humanitarian priority programmes, remain a cause for concern.”

His government plans the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill to “revamp the administration of NGOs and PVOs and correct the current anomalies.”

Tourism Laws

Changes to the Tourism Act as well as the Parks and Wildlife Management Act, will be tabled for consideration. The amendments will primarily, according to Mnangagwa, “embed community-based wildlife management.”

After the debacle around exploration concessions granted to two coal mining firms, a factor to watch will be whether this new legislation is synched with proposed mining laws. Cabinet announced that mining in game reserves has been banned. However, the law has still not been changed to reflect that.

[CLICK: COLUMN | From Bill to Law – An easy guide to how laws are made in Zimbabwe]