Zvamaida Murwira, Harare Bureau
It is all systems go for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and official opening of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament by President Mnangagwa, today.
It was a hive of activity yesterday at Parliament Building as officials prepared for the big event on Parliament’s calendar.
The SONA will be the second by President Mnangagwa in his capacity as the Head of State and Government following his election into office on July 30.
Both the official opening and the SONA will be done during a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate at Parliament Building in Harare.
Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, said all was now set for the SONA by President Mnangagwa.
“Preparations for the SONA and official opening (of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament) are at an advanced stage. We look forward to a flawless event as we have activated our systems to ensure everything goes well,” said Mr Chokuda.
“The SONA and official opening mark the beginning of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament. We expect His Excellency, the President to review the state of the nation over the last 12 months and to outline the legislative agenda of Government for the next 12 months.
“Members of the public will be able to follow the proceedings live from the comfort of their homes as the event will be covered live.”
A Harare-based tax expert, Mr Simbarashe Maburuse, expects President Mnangagwa to speak to issues of cash shortages, forex exchange rates and the welfare of civil servants, especially in the health sector.
“I expect the President to talk about the cash shortages that have seen people paying more when using other modes of payment which are not cash. For instance, you find a product that costs $40 when paying in cash but the price rises to $72 when using EcoCash or swipe.
“I also hope the President will touch on issues pertaining to the welfare of health personnel because the situation in our hospitals is no longer palatable,” he said.
A Bindura resident, Mr Musa Nare, wants President Mnangagwa to speak to employment challenges, currency volatility and the arbitrary price increases which have seen low income earners being priced out of reach.
The SONA and opening of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament is expected to be attended by members of the judiciary, service chiefs, diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, civic society members, and captains of industry, among other dignitaries.
In his address, the President is expected to outline policy direction and the legislative agenda of the Second Session, which speaks to his vision of radical economic transformation, engagement and re-engagement efforts Zimbabwe is undertaking.
President Mnangagwa’s policy objective is to enhance the country’s attractiveness to investors and streamline investment laws to reduce red tape.
Zimbabwe has been lagging behind in terms of development compared to other regional countries.
President Mnangagwa is also expected to spell out the legislative agenda by outlining the Bills set to be presented in the coming Session.
Zanu-PF has a commanding two thirds majority in Parliament which helps it to enact laws that dovetail with President Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030, which seeks to transform Zimbabwe into an Upper Middle Income economy in the next 11 years.
The opening of the Second Session marks the end of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament, which saw at least 15 Bills out of 30 being presented.
At least 30 Bills were expected to be tabled in the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.
The legislative agenda set out by President Mnangagwa mainly focused on improving the business climate in the country and entrench democratic values.
Movers of the Bills will have to seek Parliament to reinstate outstanding Bills at the stage they were by the end of the First Session.
Five Bills were passed by Parliament and two of them were signed into law while the other three are awaiting Presidential assent.
Laws that were assented to are; the Shop Licence Amendment Act and the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Act; while the Consumer Protection Bill, Microfinance Amendment Bill and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill, are awaiting assent.
The TNF Act establishes the Tripartite Negotiating Forum that brings together Government, business and labour in a formal setting to discuss pertinent issues affecting the economy with the aim of preventing clashes that characterised relations of the three in the past.
The Shop Licence Act reduces bureaucracy in the establishment of businesses including creation of electronic platforms for application for business licences while the Consumer Protection Bill seeks to protect consumer rights from unscrupulous businesses bent on profiteering at their expense and provides them mechanisms to seek recourse.