By Antonio Mwanza
Since Parliament abruptly adjourned Sine Die owing to the increased threat of Covid-19, I have been receiving calls and messages from the Media as well as the general public on the fate of Bill 10. There has been chatter that this is the end of Bill 10, in fact, some opposition commentators have declared Bill 10, dead and buried, alleging that a Bill’s life ends once 6 months after its introduction in the House has elapsed.
This exegesis is meant to elucidate and categorically state The Fate of Bill 10.
I want to hasten to say that this analysis is based on facts and the law and not politics; so the feelings or sentiments of both those who support or oppose Bill 10 are inconsequential here because the future of Bill 10 is legally predestined.
HERE ARE THE FACTS AS THE LAW STANDS:
1. There is absolutely NO law in Zambia that says that the life of a Bill ends once six months elapse from the date it is introduced in the National Assembly; no such provision exists in our statutes, so the narrative that says Bill 10 is dead on account of time or the so called Six Months Period is false in fact and at law. Suffice to say that Mr. Speaker in the interest of time and ensuring that the Business of the House does not lag does have the responsibility through the use of what is known as Procedural Notes, to ensure that the process of enacting Bills into law is expedited.
2. Some critics of Bill 10 have been claiming that Bill 10 is dead since, according to them, a Bill that is introduced in one session of parliament cannot overlap in to the next session.
Well, here is the truth: Parliament, in accordance with Article 77 of the Constitution of Zambia does enjoy exclusive cognizance in the conduct of its business and there is no law or court that can stop parliament from making adjustments in the manner it conducts its business. Subject to this Article and Article 78, the National Assembly shall regulate its
own procedure and make Standing Orders for the conduct of its business.
In light of the above, Parliament through the Standing Orders Committee as well as the House Keeping Committee as set out in Standing Order No. 149 to 152 has exclusive right to amend its own Standing Orders and make any adjustments as it so wishes as per the doctrine of exclusive cognizance.
In accordance with the Standing Orders, if any Bill lapses before it reaches its final stage, such a Bill may be proceeded with within the next ensuing session at the stage it had reached in the preceding session if a general election for the Assembly has not taken place between such two sessions. The Standing Orders, 2016 states as follows:
(a) A Bill may be proceeded with by resolution of the Assembly restoring it to the Order Paper; and
(b) Unless the resolution restoring the Bill to the Order Paper, directs otherwise, the Bill shall be proceeded with at the commencement of the particular stage which it had reached during the preceding session.
Any Bill that has been restored to the Order Paper referred to in Paragraph (1)shall-be proceeded with as if its passage of time had not been interrupted.
3. Here is what will happen: once Parliament resumes, the Minister of Justice will in accordance with the Law and Procedures of Parliament, move a motion to reinstate Bill 10 on the Order Paper and Parliament will go ahead and debate the Bill.
So the story that Bill 10 is dead on account of time, parliament’s adjournment or anything else is false and wrong in fact and at law. Bill 10 is very much alive and will be dealt with once Parliament resumes.
Our plea is that the public must use this period to carefully study the Bill, The Report of the Select Committee as well as the proposed amendments to the Bill as tabulated in the gazette.
The Author, Antonio Mourinho Mwanza, is the PF Deputy Media Director.