Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
THE process of amending the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) is currently at the public consultation stage and could be completed by the end of this year.
In keeping with the philosophy of the Second Republic of leaving no one or place behind, other notable proposals in the bill include the issue of gender parity where it will be mandatory for the Minister to ensure that when appointing the board of directors, which must be no less than seven, half of these members must be women and that there is also an equitable regional representation.
While the current law in article 17 speaks of a president and a vice-president, the proposed bill in article 10 states that the president and the vice-president must be of opposite sexes.
“These are some of the real issues that we need to address and by the end of the year I think we will have done that,” said the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and the Hospitality, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, regarding gender equality on the bill. which will go to first reading in Parliament after public consultations.
The bill seeks to ensure comprehensive protection of the country’s environment in a manner that leads to sustainable development. This will also lead to the imposition of deterrent penalties for failure to comply with orders issued by EMA officials or inspectors, including civil penalties in addition to criminal penalties. All companies operating where there is no sewerage system will now be required to install an effluent pre-treatment facility.
Minister Ndlovu said that after the consultations at the provincial level, there was a feeling that this was not enough and that he should direct that these consultations be conducted at the district level to gather as many views as possible.
“We are still in the consultation process, environmental law as you can imagine must involve wide consultation. I had to order them to go back, they had only consulted at the provincial level and I said they are going to the district level and as we speak they are over there in Matabeleland North and South.
After these consultations, we will consolidate a draft law that will go through all the processes. It is still a long way off because we are pushing a number of bills, including the introduction of the climate bill,” Minister Ndlovu said.
With regard to the parliamentary legislative process on the making of laws, a bill goes through a number of stages before presidential assent to become law. The Rules of Procedure require that a draft law be published in the Official Journal and, upon publication, it is automatically referred to the relevant committee which then conducts public hearings before preparing a report to be presented to Parliament at the second reading.
The minister responsible will then make a formal introduction of the bill to Parliament by reading the long title of the bill but at this stage there is no debate. After being read for the first time in Parliament, it is automatically referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs (PLC) unless it is a constitutional bill. The LPC will review the provisions of the bill and report to the House within 26 working days on whether, in its opinion, any provisions of the bill are unconstitutional.
The PLC can issue an unfavorable or non-favorable report before proceeding to the second reading. If the House adopts the unfavorable report, the bill falls.
During the second reading stage, the minister will explain the main principles of the bill before the respective committee presents its own report before the debate which is limited to the principles of the bill and after that it is read for the second time before going to committee stage where the House will proceed to clause-by-clause consideration where amendments, if any, are presented and must appear on the order page at least one day before committee stage.
At the end of committee stage, the Speaker reports the bill back to the House with or without amendments and, if appropriate, it is referred to the LPC who must review it within six working days and report back to bedroom. The CLP’s report at this stage will be treated in the same way as those presented during the first presentation of the bill.
If no amendments are made at committee stage, it is set for the third and final reading stage, which also means that it has been adopted by this House. Once the bill has passed in the original chamber, it is sent to the other chamber where it will go through all the stages from second reading. In the case of the finance bill, the Senate does not have the power to amend the bill but can recommend amendments.
After the bill is passed, the president is required to approve or withhold assent within 21 days and, if he finds it unconstitutional, he returns it to parliament with detailed reasons and the president must without delay convene the National Assembly to reconsider the bill.
The President must sign if his concerns are fully satisfied or return the Bill to the Constitutional Court for opinion and if the Court indicates that there is no constitutional violation, the President must approve the Bill and sign it immediately and cause it to be published in the Gazette.