Parliament of Zimbabwe’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] met on the 30th April, to discuss the resumption of Parliamentary business and possible alternatives to facilitate the business of the house.

As a contingency measure, the CSRO resolved that a rump of both Houses sit on Tuesday 5th May 2020, the date to which they had adjourned on 18th March, for the sake of formality adjourning to a date that will be decided when they sit.

Issuing the public notice, the Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda said steps will be taken to maintain the measures put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus, hence the sitting of a reduced parliament.

“In that respect, and to comply with social distance requirements, only Members of Parliament in both Houses from the following provinces will attend Parliament on Tuesday 5th May 2020: Harare, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central, and all Ministers and Deputy Ministers,” he said.

He added that only Members from those four provinces that are able to drive from and back to their constituencies on the same day will be required to attend.

Parliament had initially been scheduled to adjourn on Thursday 26th March 2020 to 5th May 2020, in line with its approved Sitting Calendar for 2020, but had to take an early break due to concerns arising from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chokuda said Parliament has not been idle during this unforeseen extended break, but has, instead, taken advantage of this period to put in place measures that will allow the institution to function without jeopardising the health of Members and staff of Parliament as well as visitors to the institution in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“The outbreak has heightened our resolve as a Parliament to accelerate the use of technologies in our work. The institution, is thus working on setting up facilities for virtual meetings, where appropriate, without compromising the requirements of the national Constitution, law and the public interest,” he said.

In line with the principle of separation of powers, Parliament has three main roles, namely, legislative, oversight and representative. Chokuda said Members of Parliament have been exercising their representative role during the lockdown through educating their constituencies on the outbreak.

“Further, they have been meeting with the local COVID-19 Taskforce structures highlighting the requirements of their constituencies. On the legislative role, the Minister of Health and Child Care on 23rd March 2020 published Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020 that, among others, declared COVID-19 to be a formidable disease, banned gatherings of more than 100 people and permitted compulsory testing, detention, quarantine and treatment,” he said.

Speaking about the expenditure, he said in respect of expenditure related to COVID-19, the nation has recourse to a number of avenues.

Chokuda said Section 24 of the Public Finance Management Act allows His Excellency, the President, through a warrant to authorise the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for unforeseen expenditure which cannot be postponed in the public interest.

“The caveat is that expenditure must not at any one time exceed one and a half per cent-um of the total approved Budget in the last Appropriation Act. Additionally, that expenditures must be submitted to the National Assembly for appropriation within the next 14 days in which the National Assembly meets,” he said.

He assured the public that the necessary oversight by Parliament will be done in line with the law and the national Constitution. Adding that this outbreak requires that there is coordination between the three Arms of the State in the interest of public health.