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Parliament adjourned until October - Bill watch 34/2008
Veritas
August 30, 2008

After the ceremonial opening of Parliament on Tuesday 26th September both Houses were adjourned, the Senate until 7th October and the House of Assembly until 14th October

After the long delay in convening Parliament, the immediate adjournment of both Houses for several weeks has caused comment. The adjournments were not voted by legislators. In accordance with Parliamentary Standing orders the dates were chosen by the Government and were not open to debate. [Standing Orders state that at the conclusion of the business immediately following the formal opening of Parliament, the Speaker [the President of the Senate, in the case of Senate] shall adjourn the House without putting any question, to a day to be appointed by a Minister - House of Assembly Standing Order 12; Senate Standing Order 12.] Mr Mnangagwa, Acting Minister of Finance, announced the adjournment date in the House of Assembly.

An early recall of both Houses is possible only at the request of Mr Mugabe. Standing Orders authorise the Speaker and the President of the Senate to recall their respective Houses at his request, if they are satisfied that the public interest requires an early resumption of sittings [House of Assembly Standing Order 194; Senate Standing Order 187].

Highlights of the opening address

[Full text of address available on request]

In his Address at the opening of Parliament Mr Mugabe congratulated the new MPs on having won the mandate to represent their various constituencies and condemned the “odious habit of election-related violence”. He acknowledged the inordinate delay in opening Parliament, attributing it to “the praiseworthy search for peace and greater amity for our Nation.”

He reiterated that the “illegal sanctions imposed by Britain and her allies” must go. In highlighting the need for food security, he attributed reduced agricultural yields to floods, drought and shortage of inputs. He said government had a massive programme for the importation of maize from neighbouring countries, but had “noticed the destructive hand of our enemies seeking to undermine our grain importation programme, in the process pushing up regional food prices. Indeed, food is the latest of their weapons in their regime change agenda.” Efforts would be focused on empowering farmers for greater crop production. Crops for bio-fuels would be promoted as part of the fuel conservation programme together with reducing the “ostensible careless consumption of fuel, exploring solar energy, gas, etc.”

He described an economy facing challenges of hyperinflation, shortages, and declining quality of infrastructure. “We have detected an insidious foreign hand in the destabilisation of our currency”. The government in conjunction with stakeholders is embarking on “short-term bridging economic stabilization programme” - including encouraging price stability , currency reforms, boosting availability of basic and essential commodities and foreign currency, enhancing food security, addressing infrastructure development, revamping service delivery by public utilities and combating corruption.

The centre piece of government development efforts is the empowerment of the “formerly deprived indigenous majority of our people”. Following the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, “the empowerment policy shall be pursued with renewed vigour on a sector-by-sector basis”. The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill which will broaden participation in the sector by indigenous players would be tabled expeditiously.

Efforts were being made to expedite implementation of cooperation agreements with “Look East” development partners, especially in strategic sectors of the economy such as power and energy, mining, infrastructure development and agriculture.

Proposed new Legislation

The following Bills were listed for introduction during the session: Public Finance Management Bill, Audit Bill, Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Amendment Bill, Small and Medium Enterprises Amendment Bill, Older Persons Bill, Energy Laws Amendment Bill, Zimbabwe Qualifications Authority Bill, Education Amendment Bill and Zimbabwe Construction Industry Council Bill.

Vacancies in Parliament - Pending by-elections

There are two vacant seats in the House of Assembly:

  • Gokwe-Gumunyu [resulting from the death of the incumbent]
  • Matobo North [seat vacated by Mr. Moyo on election as Speaker]

And three vacant elected seats in the Senate:

  • Chegutu [seat vacated by Mrs Madzongwe on election as President of the Senate]
  • Chiredzi [seat vacated by Mr Maluleke on appointment as Provincial Governor, Masvingo]
  • Gokwe South [seat vacated by Mr Machaya on appointment as Provincial Governor, Midlands]

By-elections are now necessary to fill the vacancies. The proclamation/s calling the by-elections must be gazetted within 14 days after the President is notified of the vacancies by the Speaker or the President of the Senate.

Number of House of Assembly members sworn in

208 members of the of the 210 seat House of Assembly were sworn in on the morning of 25th August. [one seat vacant because of the death of the MP [ see above] and one MP absent [Mr. E. Jembere, MDC-T MP for Epworth was arrested and detained by police on criminal charges en route to Parliament and therefore unable to attend.] Another MDC-T MP was picked up by police as he entered Parliament but his release was secured in time for the swearing-in.

Number of Senators sworn in

86 Senators of the 93 seat Senate were sworn in on the afternoon of 25th August. The shortfall [7] arose as follows: 4 vacancies [2 provincial governor seats, 2 appointed seats] and 3 absentees.

Parliament’s Presiding Officers

House of Assembly:

Speaker: Lovemore Moyo [MDC-T, MP for Matobo North]. He defeated the other candidate Paul Temba Nyathi [MDC-M, a former MP, who failed to gain re-election on 29th March] by 110 votes to 98. ZANU-PF did not put up a candidate, but indicated support for Mr Nyathi.

Deputy Speaker: Mrs Nomalanga Khumalo [MDC-M] [Umzingwane] was elected unopposed.

Senate:

President: Mrs Edna Madzongwe [ZANU-PF elected Senator for Chegutu Constituency]. She defeated Mr. Dalumuzi Khumalo [MDC-M elected Senator for Lupane Constituency] by 58 votes to 28.

Deputy President: Mr. Naison Ndlovu [ZANU-PF elected Senator for Insiza constituency]. He defeated Mrs Sekai Holland [MDC-T elected Senator for Chizhanje Constituency] by 57 votes to 29.

Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Cabinet

In a second speech on Tuesday 26th August [at a function following the opening of Parliament] Mr Mugabe said he would soon announce a new Cabinet to replace what he described as his "worst Cabinet". This had not happened at the time of writing. However, two Ministers who failed to gain seats in the 29th March poll automatically left the Cabinet and their Ministerial posts on appointment as Provincial Governors on Sunday 25th August [Mr Chigwedere and Mr Mushohwe]. Although Mr Chinamasa, Minister of Justice, also failed to win a seat on 29th March, he became eligible to continue as a Minister on the strength of his appointment as a Senator on 25th August. [Vice-President Msika, who did not stand for election, also became eligible to continue in office when appointed as a Senator on 25th August].

Several other Ministers who failed to gain seats in the election, and were not given appointed Senate seats, automatically became ineligible to continue as Ministers when Parliament was opened on 26th August [Constitution, section 31E(2)]. Those concerned are: Samuel Mumbengegwi [Finance], Amos Midzi [Mines and Mining Development], Mike Nyambuya [Energy and Power Development], Joseph Made [Agricultural Mechanisation and Engineering], Munacho Mutezo [Water Resources and Infrastructural Development], Sikhanyiso Ndlovu [Information and Publicity], Oppah Muchinguri [Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development] and Rugare Gumbo [Agriculture].

Government Gazette

National Social Security Authority [NSSA]

SI 122/2008 makes important changes to the rules governing the NSSA national pension scheme: [1] as foreshadowed in the Reserve Bank’s recent Monetary Policy Statement, contributions must be paid on the full monthly earnings of employees with effect from 1st August 2008; [2] the contribution rate will be 4 per centum with effect from 1st January 2009. [Electronic version available on request.] SI 123/2008 covers the rates of survivors’ pensions and grants. SI 124/2008 amends the NSSA workers’ compensation scheme, including a 10 000% increase in pension payments with effect from the 1st September 2008.

Small Claims Courts – fees and jurisdictional limits

SI 126/2008 increases the small claims court’s limits of jurisdiction from $5 million [old currency] to $5 000 [new currency]. SI 125/2008 prescribes court fees. Both SIs take effect from 29th August 2008. [Electronic versions available on request.]

Regulations re standby electricity generators

SI 103/2008 – Electricity (Licensing) Regulations. These regulations came into force on 18th July 2008. They include provisions requiring permits for the use and possession of standby generators producing less than 100 kW of electricity. Users must: ensure compliance with prescribed safety standards; notify their generators to the Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Commission [not ZESA] using the prescribed form EL4 and paying an inspection fee [Zimbabwe currency equivalent of US$5]; notification must be given not later than 17th November 2008, but if it is given by 16th September the inspection fee is waived. The regulations also cover the licensing of large-scale generation of electricity by producers wishing to supplement the efforts of ZESA. [Electronic version available on request: not the whole SI, only the provisions affecting standby generators.] Note: although the Herald reported during the week that the Minister of Energy and Power Development had “suspended” the “levy” on generators, nothing to give proper legal effect to any such suspension or modification of the regulations has been gazetted. At the moment, therefore, the legal position is that the regulations remain in full force.

Expropriation of agricultural land

GN 108/2008 notifies the expropriation by the Government of five pieces of land “for the purposes of settlement for agriculture”.

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