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  • Inclusive government - Index of articles


  • Parliament adjourns until mid-July - Bill Watch 21/2009
    Veritas
    June 22, 2009

    Update on Appointments to Constitutional Commissions

    Friday 19th June was the last day for submission of applications from persons wishing to be considered by Parliament's Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] for membership of the four constitutional commissions – Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Media Commission and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. A large number of applications have been received. These will now be scrutinised and suitable candidates short-listed by the CSRO's Legal and Procedures sub-committee. The short-lists will be published. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by an appointed panel. Interviews will be open to public observation [not participation]. Dates and venues for these interviews have not yet been announced.

    Update on Parliament

    House of Assembly

    Motion passed: the House passed the motion introduced by Douglas Mwonzora [MDC-T], seconded by Shuwa Mudiwa [MDC-T], calling for inputs for the 2009/10 agricultural system to be distributed to disadvantaged rural farmers by the end of July and for a completely transparent system of distribution to be put in place. [Note: This resolution is more in the nature of an airing of views – it does not legally obligate the government to act. Failure to comply could at most result in the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture hauling the Minister over the coals, but that would probabl only be after the end of July.]

    New motion: On Wednesday Settlement Chikwinya [MDC-T], seconded by Douglas Mwonzora [MDC-T], moved a motion calling for the Government to bring up for amendment or repeal all legislation curtailing media freedom. The motion also calls for balanced and fair coverage from the public media [especially The Herald and ZBC]; for the immediate setting-up of the Broadcasting Authority board so that broadcasting licences can be issued to new players; and for hastening the establishment of the new Zimbabwe Media Commission. Debate will continue when the House resumes in July.

    Portfolio Committee Meetings: Portfolio committees will not meet this week because MPs will be involved in the Select Committee’s provincial consultative meeting programme. The committees will resume meetings next week, completing work plans and also holding some oral evidence hearings that will be open to the public.

    Members Question Time: On Wednesday Ministers spent two hours fielding questions from members. Deputy Minister of Justice Jessie Majome was asked about magistrates being threatened by CIO agents; she asked for details, and stressed the Ministry’s commitment to independence of the judiciary and the early implementation of the Judicial Service Act. Deputy Minster of Local Government Sesel Zvidzai committed the Ministry to putting an end to politically biased actions by chiefs; and also said that the appointments of “special interest” councillors to local authority councils were being reviewed and could be reversed.

    Senate

    Senate Thematic Committees: Instead of Portfolio Committees shadowing Ministries [as in the House of Assembly], six thematic committees have been set up: [1] HIV/AIDS; [2] Gender and Development; [3] Millennium Development Goals [MDGs]; [4] Peace and Security; [5] Indigenisation and Empowerment; [6] Human Rights.

    SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation approved: The Senate approved this protocol in terms of section 111B of the Constitution. The protocol has already been approved by the House of Assembly.

    Motion: Senator Gutu moved a motion calling upon the government to formulate a well defined and strategic policy aimed at identifying, nurturing and developing the artistic, cultural and sporting talents of Zimbabweans living within and outside the country, linking this to employment creation and economic empowerment.

    General

    Parliamentary Legal Committee: The committee has still not met, in spite of the backlog of statutory instruments requiring its attention.

    Update on Legislative Reform

    The Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme [STERP] outlined an ambitious legislative agenda with 17 Bills [some to amend existing Acts, others to bring in entirely new Acts]. The press have reported that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill [to tighten Ministry of Finance oversight of the Bank] has been cleared by Cabinet and that the Information Communication Technology Bill is at an advanced stage – so these two Bills may be expected to reach Parliament first. At present, however, no Bills are in the Parliamentary pipeline, which makes it unlikely that any Bills will be ready to table when the House of Assembly resumes on 14th July.

    Inclusive Government – Ministerial Responsibilities Still Not Gazetted

    Although it is now more than four months since the formation of the inclusive government, the President’s office has still not gazetted the customary statutory instruments listing Ministerial responsibilities for administering Zimbabwe’s 350-odd Acts of Parliament. This is not a mere technical legal quibble. To take a practical example, the Electoral Act confers functions and powers on “the Minister”, a term defined as meaning “the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs or any other Minister to whom the President may, from time to time, assign the administration of this Act”. As there is no longer a Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, it is important to know to which other Minister the administration of the Act has been assigned – and this should be a matter of official record, published in the Government Gazette. Otherwise, for instance, how does one identify the Minister with whom to take up the question why by-elections have not been called [see below]?

    Electoral Matters

    Overdue By-elections – Government inaction and silence on this issue has continued. No proclamations calling by-elections were gazetted this week. [See Bill Watch 20 of 13th June for a detailed discussion.]

    2 New Senate Vacancies – the deaths have occurred of Senator Chief Bidi [Matabeleland South] and Senator Patrick Kombayi, Senator for the Gweru-Chirumanzu constituency in Midlands province. This brings to 5 the number of vacant seats in the Senate. Chief Bidi’s successor in the Senate must be elected by the Matabeleland South provincial assembly of chiefs, Senator Kombayi’s by voters in his constituency. The notice/s calling the two by-elections should be gazetted within 14 days of Parliament's notification of the vacancies to the President’s Office [Electoral Act, section 39].

    Election Petition Appeals to the Supreme Court – all election petitions resulting from the 2008 elections, whether brought by ZANU-PF or MDC-T, were dismissed by the Electoral Court on procedural grounds. The dismissals were appealed to the Supreme Court but the appeals have not come up for hearing, in spite of the Electoral Act's stipulation that the Supreme Court must finalise such cases within 6 months – and the 6-month period has long since expired. The delay has been attributed to the responsible department’s failure to supply the records of the Electoral Court proceedings. In such a serious matter as election appeals affecting the whole country this seems a spurious excuse.

    Application to Set Aside Presidential Election – Mr Chiota’s application to the Supreme Court to set aside last year’s presidential election [on the basis of nomination court irregularities] was postponed to allow him to engage counsel. He has not yet applied for a fresh hearing date.

    MDC-T Parliamentary Seats Under Threat

    An MP or Senator convicted of an offence and sentenced to six months or more imprisonment is immediately suspended from Parliament and will eventually lose his or her seat unless the sentence is reduced or set aside on appeal [Constitution, section 42]. Consequently, the seat of any legislator accused of a serious offence must be regarded as under threat. There are 6 MDC-T seats currently in this category:

    Mathias Mlambo, MP for Chipinge East – sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment for obstructing the course of justice. He has been granted bail pending the hearing of his appeal. His suspension as an MP continues despite his release on bail [Constitution, section 42].

    Shuwa Mudiwa, MP for Mutare West – in prison awaiting sentencing on 27th June on a charge of kidnapping. His lawyers have already said the conviction will be challenged in the High Court, claiming the charge is unfounded and politically motivated. As the maximum sentence for kidnapping is imprisonment for life, so a sentence of more than 6 months is conceivable – which would mean suspension and, depending on the result of the appeal, possible loss of seat for Mr Mudiwa.

    Meki Makuyana, MP for Chipinge South – on trial for kidnapping.

    Blessing Chebundo, MP for Kwekwe Central – arrested on a charge of rape and on bail awaiting trial. [The maximum sentence for rape is imprisonment for life.]

    Trevor Saruwaka, MP for Mutasa Central – facing political violence charges.

    Senator Roy Bennett – due in court on 1st July on charges of possessing arms of war [which might also attract a heavy sentence in the event of a conviction].

    Lynette Karenyi, MP for Chimanimani West’s case is slightly different – her right to the seat is being challenged in a High Court civil case by her March 2008 ZANU-PF opponent, on the basis of her conviction for involvement in the forgery of a nominator’s signature on her nomination paper [the sentence imposed was insufficient to trigger section 42 of the Constitution].

    Update on Legislation

    Acts

    The Engineering Council Act [No. 3 of 2008] came into force on the 15th June [date fixed by SI 84/2009].

    Statutory Instruments

    Statutory instruments gazetted on 19th June included:

    • SIs 92 and 93/2009 [specifying in US dollars the amounts payable as compensation to the State or landowners by persons convicted of hunting or trapping wild animals or fish under the Parks and Wild Life Act or the Trapping of Animals (Control) Act]
    • SI 98/2009 [new US dollar motor vehicle licence fees payable to Harare City Council].

    *Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.

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