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SENATE HANSARD 17 MARCH 2020 29 32

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Tuesday, 17th March, 2020.

The Senate met at Half-past Two O’clock p.m.

PRAYERS

(THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENTS BY THE HON PRESIDENT OF SENATE

STEPS TO SAFEGURD PARLIAMENT FROM COVID-19     THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: The Presiding officers

of Parliament are consulting amongst ourselves and with the relevant authorities on the immediate steps we need to take as an institution to safeguard the health and lives of Hon. Members, staff and visitors to Parliament from the COVID-19 virus. A comprehensive statement will be issued tomorrow once the consultations have been concluded.

As a start, the institution has put in place facilities at the entrance for everyone to clean their hands. We have also engaged the Ministry of Health and Child Care for screening machines for use at the main entrance and within the institution. In the meantime, I am urging all Hon. Members, staff and visitors to Parliament to exercise extreme personal hygiene by constantly washing their hands with soap and running water. Members are also urged to avoid close conduct with anyone with a cold or flue like symptoms.

I am also urging all members and staff who traveled to any of the COVID-19 affected countries within the last two weeks to approach the relevant health facilities for screening. I am also urging them to undertake self isolation for the greater good of Parliament and the nation.

MEMBERSHIP AND CHAIRING OF COMMITTEES

         THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I wish to advise Hon.

Members that the appointment of Members to committees is the prerogative of the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders as provided in Standing Order Number 18 (1) and subject to Section 139 (4) of the Constitution. Consequently, any changes to the membership including the chairing of committees should be done by the CSRO. Members are therefore advised that they should only attend the meetings of the committees to which they were duly appointed to and for which the appropriate announcements were made in the House.

SWITCHING OFF OF CELLPHONES

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: May I remind Hon.

Senators, to put your cell phones on silent or better still switch them off. We have to respect the proceedings of the House.

     HON. SEN. TIMVEOS: Thank you Madam President. I rise on a

point of privilege. My point of privilege is that as Senators, we are here to serve our constituencies. For the last two days as a Member of this august House, I have had so many messages that are insultive showing that our people are not happy because since Monday, the Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDs, the Thematic Committee on Gender and all the Committees that are being chaired by MDC were disrupted.

Madam President, you know the issue that is at hand and as Members of Parliament of the MDC-Alliance, we were punished and our allowances were taken away. The issue at hand is now with the

Committee on Standing Rules and Order which formulated a Privileges Committee which is investigating this. I know in the National Assembly the Speaker actually announced that the result of the Privilege Committee is going to be announced very soon. I am wondering, the country at the moment is facing many issues for example the Coronavirus all over the world which has killed almost over 6 000 people and we cannot sit.  Every Committee that is chaired by MDC is being disrupted and people are beginning to judge us harshly. They are beginning to feel as if we come to Parliament to play. This is a point of privilege that I am raising to say how long is this going to carry on?  Ever since these two august Houses started sitting, we have been working and then all of a sudden this week the disruption started. People out there are watching us every day and they are watching these disruptive tendencies and they are not happy. We have bigger issues –

[HON. SENATORS: Inaudible interjection.] -

HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order Hon. Members, can we

listen to what the Hon. Senator is saying BUT Hon. Senator, you cannot keep repeating yourself. I think you have driven your point.

HON. SEN. TIMVEOS: Madam President, all I am trying to say is that people out there, the Zimbabwean populace is not happy with what is happening in Parliament…

HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Senator. I

think I hear you. I think if you had listened to the second announcement, this was caused by what you are saying. Let me say to Hon. Senators please I do not think we just do what is being done by youthful Members of Parliament. For one to be elected as Senator, they need to be at least 40 years because the Senate is for mature people. I just look forward to have Senators behaving. If something of that sort is happening, I think after the Hon. Senator has brought this one up, I am just advising all Senators to refrain from that practice.

HON. CHIMBUDZI: Thank you Madam President. I sit on the

Committee on Gender and Development and it was never disrupted.

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Which means as mature

Hon. Members, you did not do anything wrong. Maybe in that particular

Committee where she was sitting something happened. I am advising that this is a senior members’ House; we need comport ourselves that way. Thank you.   

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE

ERROR ON THE ORDER PAPER

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  I have to draw the

attention of the Senate to an advertent printing error on today’s Order Paper where the last order of the day is reflected as Order No. 8 instead of No. 10. Kindly re-number accordingly.

+HON. A. DUBE:  Thank you Madam President.  As senators, we are mature people but also as members of ZANU PF we see that we do not respect each other.  When our President enters into the House, our colleagues leave.  Let us all grow up, the President is the President of Zimbabwe.  He is the State President. We feel hurt when our colleagues leave when our President enters.  We are mature but that hurt us.  Let us learn to respect each other.  If our colleagues from the lower House leave, let us not behave like them.  I thank you.

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  Before we go any

further, I need someone to help me with the translation – [HON. MEMBERS:  Inaudible interjections.] – Hon. Timveos, you are speaking on top of your voice yet I was silencing the other senators the time you were talking.  Why are you doing that?  Are you supposed to answer that Hon. Senator?  It is my duty.  This is why I am sitting in this chair.

I heard what she was saying.  Also, this is why I am saying we have got to remember that we are honoured as senior and mature Members of Parliament who when we are sitting with youthful Members of Parliament we have got to advise them.  I think we cannot go ahead with this.  This is not on the Order Paper.  Let us proceed with our Orders of the Day.

COMMITTEE STAGE

INTERNATIONAL TREATIES BILL [H. B. 6A, 2019]

First Order read:  Committee:  International Treaties Bill [H. B.

10A, 2019].

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 12 put and agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendments.

Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

INTERNATIONAL TREATIES BILL [H. B. 10A, 2019]

            THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND

PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI):  Mr.

President, I move that the Bill be read the third time.

    Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read the third time.

SECOND READING

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL [H. B. 6, 2019]

Second order read:  Second Reading: Freedom of Information Bill [H. B. 6A, 2019].

THE MINISTR OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND

PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you

Mr. President Sir.  I rise to give my second reading speech on the Freedom of Information Bill.  Mr. President, Sir, the Bill before you, the Freedom of Information Bill, is a product of the Information Technology Age.  It is fitting, therefore, to remind ourselves briefly of the nature, benefits and challenges of this new era.

    Mr. President, information technology is now of such scope, depth and sophistication that it is having a determinant influence on all other technologies.  It involves the designing and building of computers and information networks capable of performing, processing and storing the outcomes of billions of operations a second.

Previously, insurmountable problems of storing, processing, retrieving and using information in a faithful, timely and speedy way are now within reach of solution as never before.  The solution to these problems in turn accelerates technical, social and economic progress.  The promise of new information technologies is vast indeed because information is not a material resource like wood, iron, oil, or water. It is the only type of resource that humanity has not expended during its historical development, but has, on the contrary, enlarged.

Furthermore, the increase in the amount of scientific information (and by this one includes all types of natural science, technical knowledge and the human-centred sciences as well as including law) lays the basis for eliminating the wasteful use of material resources that has characterised human progress up till now.  If information is properly used in the interests of humanity, the possibility is open before us to restore certain types of resources that humankind has hitherto unwisely squandered.

New energy sources are on the horizon that do not involve digging up and spoiling with waste products over greater stretches of land.

Sun and wind power may replace fossil and nuclear fuels by using more efficient solar panels and ever smarter wind turbines.  Ways of exploiting and enhancing natural biodiversity will become available without diminishing that same biodiversity and so on.

Of course Mr. President, such a momentous stride in human development does not come without its risks and challenges.  Not the least of those risks and challenges are those pertaining to our human dignity, our freedom and identity as individuals.  For instance, our Constitution enshrines the right to privacy.  How do we give effect and meaning to that right when information about ourselves is potentially common property in the Global Information Age?  This

Bill is a contribution to balancing individual rights to privacy and the

State’s imperative of national security with the universal need and desire for as much unhindered access to the information that the New

Age avails us in unlimited quantities.

Mr. President Sir in 2003, the United Nations sponsored World Summit on the Information Society issued a Declaration which among other things affirmed the following:

“We reaffirm, as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organisation. It is central to the Information Society. Everyone,  everywhere should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be excluded from the benefits the Information Society offers.”

The 2004 WSIS Declaration of Principles also acknowledged that

“ it is necessary to prevent the use of information resources and technologies for criminal and terrorist purposes, while respecting human rights”.

Over the past 10 years, the right to information and access to public information has been recognised in an increasing number of countries and several FOI laws have been adopted all over the world, including in the developing countries. To illustrate, in 1990 only 13 countries had a national freedom of information law. In mid-2006, nearly 70 countries had freedom of information laws applying to information held by government bodies and in certain circumstances to private bodies (in 19 of these countries, the freedom of information legislation applied equally to private bodies). Today, there are 100 such laws across the world.

The right to access information is grounded in the principle that the public has a right to know how public power is exercised and public money is spent, given that public bodies are elected by the people and sustained by taxes paid by the people. Public accountability demands that citizens know the basis on which Governments formulates policy and makes decisions affecting them. This is balanced by considerations of national security and the general public interest. The Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Document (2009) puts it rather well when it states “all official documents are in principle public and can be withheld subject only to the protection of other rights and legitimate interests”.

The Memorandum to the Bill helpfully sets forth all the salient features of the proposed legislation and i will not rehearse them for you, except to emphasise that the Bill also covers those private bodies that have custody of information pertinent to an individuals’ rights. Grounds of refusal of access to information (including the grounds of national security, the economic interests of the State and information that is privileged to certain classes of individuals) are covered in a comprehensive, fair and just way in Part IV of the Bill. Part V of the Bill specifically protects third parties who have an interest in information supplied to applicants for that information. Such third parties have a right to make timeous representations with respect to the disclosure of information that might adversely affect their own rights.

In conclusion i urge you, Hon. Senators, to pass this law and in doing so raise another important milestone in the development of our democracy.

HON. SEN. TIMVEOS: Thank you Mr. President for allowing

me this opportunity to highlight a few issues. I just want to see if the

Minister has already corrected because this Bill has already been in the

National Assembly and it is coming here in the Senate, possibly the Minister could have already corrected a few things on it.

There are concerns that were raised by the Media Institute of Southern African (MISA) that they were not really consulted and that some of the issues that they highlighted were not added to the Bill. One of these issues is that the Bill has unjustifiable limitations for a democratic society whereby it restricts access to information on Government borrowings. I wanted to check if the Minister corrected that. Why? It is because the civic society, even us here in Parliament have actually been pushing for transparency in Government borrowings to protect Zimbabweans from being forced to assume debts that are not necessary in most cases. So i want to hear if the Minister corrected that.

The right to access information applies to everyone and i want the Minister to clarify. We have Section 61 and 62 in the Constitution that protect the right to access to information. I am hoping the Bill is highly aligned to the Constitution. There is also a feeling that there is no justification in the gazetted Bill to restrict access to information to written format only as it will unjustifiably inhibit the visually impaired and the illiterate from seeking for information. I do not know what the Minister has done about that and need clarification on some of the amendments that were done. I thank you.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND

PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI) on behalf of THE

MINISTER OF INFORMATYION, PUBLICITY AND

BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. MUTSVANGWA): I want to

thank the Hon. Member for the contribution and clarification that she is seeking. I must start by stating that perhaps in the history of this Parliament if there is a Bill that went through a process of a very wide consultation is the Freedom of Information Bill. I am alive to the fact that even at inception, when we started drafting the Bill, Parliament was also included and there was a workshop that happened in Nyanga and the contributions of parliamentarians across the divide was welcome.

I must also add Mr. President that the Portfolio Committee that also deals with this Bill is chaired by the opposition. We have been in constant communication to the extent that the amendments that were moved in the National Assembly were done by the Chairman of the

Portfolio Committee following the wider consultations that we had done. I am not sure how MISA was missed out but my understanding is that even when the Bill was gazetted, once a Bill is gazetted that is a call for contributions from members of the public, and you write to the Clerk with whatever contributions that you have. The window for contributions was very open and the Portfolio Committee also advertised where they were doing Public Hearings and called for contributions to the Bill.

I believe this Bill is a product of very wide consultations and regarding the clause that she says allows non-access on Government borrowing. On the contrary, the Constitution provides for that. All our borrowings as a Government if you go into the Constitution, Section 300 spells out the manner in which the Government has to borrow and what has to happen. If you go to Section 327, it also states that any agreement the Government has that has financial obligations, Parliament has to know. So, the legal instruments; we cannot produce a Bill that is unconstitutional.  We have a Parliamentary Legal Committee that looks at all our Bills and this Bill passed through that test which means that that was taken care of.

I agree with you that the Bill seeks to protect rights enshrined in Section 61 and Section 62 of the Constitution.  If you go into the Bill, the title of the Bill, the preamble, it specifically refers to Section 61 of the Constitution so that is taken care of.

As regards to limitation in the provision of information in written form, I am not sure how somebody can get information and be able to authenticate it if it is verbal.  So we are trying to safeguard both ends to say that you are requesting information.  Surely, you maybe visually impaired but there are several mechanisms to ensure that the information that you request, you will be able to understand even if it is in a written form, you must be able to get somebody to tell you what that information means.  It is not only about access but about using that information to assert your right or for the public interest.  Son all that is covered in the Bill and those safeguards on the nature of the information and the format are done to ensure that there is no abuse and that the information can be provided in a usable manner. I move that the Bill be read a second time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read a second time

Committee Stage: With leave, forthwith.

COMMITTEE STAGE

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL [H. B. 6A, 2019]

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 41 put and agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendments.

Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL [H. B. 6A, 2019]

         THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND

PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Mr. Speaker Sir,

I now move that the Bill be read the third time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read the third time.

MOTION

ADJOURNMENT OF THE HOUSE

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND

PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI):  Information and Technology has failed us but I just want to thank the Senate for a job well done.  Mr. President Sir, this is one of the Bills that have been very contentious.  You will recall we have had a lot of problems with the Access to Information and Publicity Act and this day is very historic as you can see from the last clause of the Bill that it is going to repeal AIPPA.  This Senate will be recorded in history as having given effect to the rights enshrined under Section 61 of the Constitution.  Mr. President Sir, having worked very hard, I move that the House do now adjourn until tomorrow so that we can enjoy ourselves and start tomorrow afresh.  I thank you.

THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  The Minister

has come this afternoon with a lot of humour which is very good and we keep this spirit always that we end the day on a joyous note.  I also want to comment after the comment by the Minister that indeed, we should have mentioned that we came from POSA which was a controversial piece of legislation, AIPPA and then today,  I think it is worth congratulating the Senate and the Minister.  This Bill was one of the

Bills linked to good governance, issues of human rights and freedom rights.  The good thing Minister, is that we have passed the Bill with no amendment, no acrimony, no voting.  It means this is a very unanimous position and we should congratulate ourselves as a country not just as Parliament.

Motion put and agreed to.

The House adjourned at Twenty-Six minutes to Four o’clock p.m.

 

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