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adjourns until mid-July - Bill Watch 21/2009
June 22, 2009
on Appointments to Constitutional Commissions
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
Committees: Instead of Portfolio Committees shadowing Ministries
[as in the House of Assembly], six thematic committees have been
set up:  HIV/AIDS;  Gender and Development;  Millennium
Development Goals [MDGs];  Peace and Security;  Indigenisation
and Empowerment;  Human Rights.
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.
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.
Legal Committee: The committee has still not met, in spite of the
backlog of statutory instruments requiring its attention.
on Legislative Reform
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.
Government – Ministerial Responsibilities Still Not Gazetted
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]?
– 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].
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.
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
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:
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].
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
MP for Chipinge South – on trial for kidnapping.
MP for Kwekwe Central – arrested on a charge of rape and on
bail awaiting trial. [The maximum sentence for rape is imprisonment
MP for Mutasa Central – facing political violence charges.
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].
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].
Council Act [No. 3 of 2008] came into force on the 15th June [date
fixed by SI 84/2009].
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
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