DEBATE on the controversial Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill has lapsed after the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) issued an adverse report a few weeks before dissolution Parliament to pave way for last month’s general elections.
The previous legislature — the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe — was dissolved at midnight on 22 August, immediately before polling day in the recent general election.
In terms of section 147 of the Constitution: “On the dissolution of Parliament, all proceedings pending at the time are terminated, and every Bill, motion, petition and other business lapses.”
Pursuant to its constitutional mandate of providing oversight on the executive arm of government, the PLC met between March and 3 May this year to consider the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, a piece of legislation which sought to overhaul the country’s mining environment.
The committee also engaged the minister responsible for the Bill through a letter raising the constitutional violations as observed by the panel.
After deliberations, the committee unanimously resolved that an adverse report be issued in respect of the Bill.
The committee also questioned clause 6 (4) (a) (ii) which provides that any person who wishes to mine a strategic mineral shall satisfy the minister that he or she has the capacity to invest a sum equivalent to or at least US$100 million.
“The clause gives the minister the discretion to prescribe lesser or greater sums generally or in relation to a specific declaration of a strategic mineral,” the adverse report reads.
“The benchmark of the one hundred million dollars is on the high side and appears to be a thumbsuck figure such that the majority of ordinary citizens will be unable to mine strategic minerals. This will also affect local companies that cannot afford to invest that amount. This clause allows monopolisation of mining by foreign companies who are able to afford the stipulated figure.”
This clause, the report further shows, is in violation of section 56(3) of the constitution which prohibits discrimination on the basis of economic status for one to acquire equal opportunities in mining.
“As a rule, laws should apply generally and not just to particular individuals or classes of people. The clause also defeats the national objectives set out in chapter 2 of the constitution, in particular section 13 which advocates for local communities to benefit from the resources in their areas and the empowerment of the Zimbabwean citizens through involving them in national development projects,” the report reads.
“It violates the principles of equity and inclusiveness by setting a figure that excludes other classes of the society on the basis of economic status.
“In addition, the discretion of the minister to increase or decrease the amount defeats the tenets of the rule of law principles that state that laws must be certain, objective and unambiguous.”
The report further shows that clauses 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 are in violation of section 2(h) and section 9 of the constitution which advocate legislation that develops efficiency, competence, accountability, transparency, personal integrity and financial probity in all institutions and agencies of government at every level and in every public institution.
The constitution provides that measures must be taken to expose, combat and eradicate all forms of corruption and abuse of power by those holding public office.
Five Bills, which were still passing through the National Assembly or the Senate when Parliament was dissolved, have certainly lapsed by virtue of this provision.
They are: The Insurance Bill, the Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill, the Medical Services Amendment Bill, the Mines and Minerals Bill [this had an adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee], and the Financial Adjustments Bill [this Bill was gazetted on 10 June 2022 but was never presented by the minister of Justice].