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  • Inclusive government - Index of articles

  • Parliament nears end of first session - Bill Watch 25/2009
    July 21, 2009

    The Senate will resume today, 21st July, after a month’s adjournment

    The House of Assembly will sit on Wednesday 22nd July

    The end of the 2008-2009 Parliamentary Session is now imminent, so it is likely that this week’s sittings will be the last of the present session.

    Update on Constitutional Commissions Nominations

    The short lists of candidates for the four Constitutional Commissions have not been finalised – the necessary meetings may take place this week but the short lists are unlikely to be published before next week.

    Update on Inclusive Government

    Referral to SADC – a letter was sent to SADC Chairman Jacob Zuma by the two MDC principals asking for assistance in resolving outstanding disputes in the inclusive government. A SADC meeting was mooted for the end of July but will probably be deferred until some time in September.

    JOMIC – a report to SADC on the inclusive government by the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee is due in mid-August, six months after the formation of the inclusive government.

    Lack of Investment Development Bank of Southern Africa chief economist Sam Muradzikwa said conflicting statements coming from the unity government were a cause of concern for investors. "The all inclusive government is a transitional phase." He said investors are sceptical on whether the policies being put in place by the unity government will be maintained because of previous policy changes "which were as rapid as inflation".

    National Security Council – has still not met – there is a meeting scheduled for Thursday 30th July.

    National Economic Council – has still not met.

    Parliament last week

    House of Assembly

    Tuesday: The sitting was a token one, lasting only a few minutes before the House adjourned because MPs were attending the First All-Stakeholders Conference on the Constitution.

    Wednesday: The House sat for two hours of Question Time. Ministers’ replies to questions included the following:

    • on the disruption of the First All-Stakeholders Conference, co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa said he had seen it personally, that police would investigate, and that “culprits will be facing the wrath of the law – that I guarantee”.
    • Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara condemned incorrect information in ZBC and Herald coverage of the disruption of the Conference, confirmed the need for transformation at ZBC and said “we cannot have a new Constitution without media reforms”
    • Finance Minister Tendai Biti explained that the financing of the Prime Minister’s Office was at present included in the vote for the President and Cabinet but would be separately catered for in the Supplementary Estimates to be tabled in the House the following day with the Fiscal Policy Review Statement.

    Thursday: Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review Statement and Supplementary Budget

    Finance Minister Tendai Biti presented his Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review Statement, accompanied by Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for 2009 and a departmental draft of the Finance (No. 2) Bill, providing for changes to the country’s taxation regime mentioned by the Minister in his statement. The Estimates seek Parliamentary approval of an additional US$566 898 000 to sustain the Government through to the end of the year; the related Appropriation (Supplementary) Bill was gazetted the following day.

    Motions After the Fiscal Policy Review, a motion was introduced for the House to take note of the report of the Parliamentary delegation to the Second Forum of the African Parliamentarians for Education Workshop in Senegal in May. None of the other motions on the Order Paper came up for discussion during the week.

    Parliament This Week

    As this is likely to be the last week Parliament sits before its end-of-session recess it is likely to concentrate on Budgetary matters – this means that there will be no new legislation introduced before the next session of Parliament opens. The President will end the session by proroguing Parliament and then summon the new session by Presidential proclamation.

    Budget Bills

    The Finance (No. 2) Bill and the Appropriation (Supplementary) Bill will be dealt with. [Note: the Finance (No. 2) Bill has not yet been gazetted, but Finance Bills do not have to be gazetted 14 days before introduction.]

    Other Bills

    No other Bills have been gazetted [and they have to be gazetted 14 days before introduction in Parliament], so no Bills will reach Parliament in what remains of the present Parliamentary session.

    Senate Thematic Committees will continue with their inaugural meetings [not open to the public].

    House of Assembly Portfolio Committee meetings – the only meeting open to the public later this week is on Thursday 23rd July at 10am in Committee Room No. 4, when the Education, Sports and Culture committee is due to hear oral evidence from the Minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture. [Anyone wishing to attend please confirm with the Committee Clerk at Parliament Tel +263-4-700181.]

    Overdue By-Elections

    The number of vacancies in Parliament has risen from 7 to 10, as a result of three recent deaths [two Senators, and one member of the House of Assembly]. By-elections needed to fill the other seven long-standing [since before the end of last year] vacancies have not been called by the President – in clear violation of the Electoral Act and of the new “political rights” section in the Constitution, which gives every citizen the constitutional right to vote in regular elections [section 23A, as added by Constitution Amendment No. 19]. This violation of the rule of law and the Constitution should be a matter of concern to JOMIC. It is also extraordinary that there is no mention whatsoever of this matter by any of the parties. If by-elections are delayed until after 15th September, the parties’ agreement not to stand against each other in by-elections will have expired [Interparty Political Agreement, Article 21] which means this unconstitutional delay on the part of the President, apparently condoned by the parties, could be leading the country into further election violence.

    Another MDC-T MP Given Prison Sentence

    Meki Makuyane, MDC-T MP for Chipinge South, has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after conviction on violence charges. He has appealed, so the decision on whether or not he will forfeit his seat must wait pending the result of the appeal. Meanwhile, however, he is suspended from exercising his functions as an MP. [Note: under section 42 of the Constitution an MP sentenced to 6 months or more imprisonment “shall cease forthwith to exercise his functions and to be entitled to any remuneration as a member” – and this consequence is not suspended by the noting of an appeal. If his appeal succeeds, the MP “shall be entitled to resume his functions and receive remuneration … for the period during which he ceased to exercise his functions”.]

    Mr Makuyane joins two other MDC-T MPs from Manicaland – Matthias Mlambo and Shuwa Mudiwa – who have also been given lengthy prison sentences and have noted appeals. For the time being, therefore, MDC-T’s voting strength in the House of Assembly drops by three. Mr Mlambo said last week that he had been notified of his suspension by the Clerk of Parliament and was considering challenging the suspension letter in the High Court. [Comment: given the clear wording of section 42 of the Constitution, Mr Mlambo’s prospects of getting the suspension overturned by the High Court are slight.]

    MDC-M MPs Expelled by Party

    MDC-M yesterday announced the expulsion from the party of executive member Alex Goosein and three of its MPs – Abednico Bhebhe [Nkayi South], Njabuliso Mguni [Lupane East] and Normal Mpofu [Bulilima East]. The disciplinary committee chairman said the party will soon notify Parliament. Abednico Bhebhe responded by calling the committee's action illegal. If the party does notify Parliament, this will immediately, create three vacancies in the House of Assembly and the need for three more by-elections. [Section 41(1)(e) of the Constitution states that the seat of an elected member of the House of Assembly “shall become vacant … if … having ceased to be a member of the political party of which he was a member at the date of his election to Parliament, the political party concerned, by written notice to … the Speaker, declares that he has ceased to represent its interests in Parliament”]. But if the MPs go to court, this result may be delayed.

    Party Voting Strengths in Parliament

    Total number of vacancies arising from deaths, seats vacated by election/appointment to other offices, and appointed seats not yet filled: House of Assembly – 6 [MDC-T 1, ZANU-PF 5] ; Senate – 6 [ZANU-PF 4, Elected Chiefs 1].

    As well as these there are the 3 suspended MDC-T members of the House of Assembly who are not allowed to sit and therefore cannot vote.

    If the MDC-M withdraw their 3 expelled MPs, it will add a further 3 vacant seats, but this is not the case as of today.

    This leaves voting strengths per party as follows:

    House of Assembly:

    MDC-T 98 [Originally 100 elected, plus 2 GPA nominated seats for Prime Minister and for Deputy Prime Minister Khupe, minus 1 seat vacant through Lovemore Moyo’s election as Speaker and minus 3 MPs suspended and therefore unable to vote – following prison sentences longer than 6 months]

    MDC-M 11 – may soon be down to 8 [Originally 10 elected, plus 1 GPA nominated seat for Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara – this will drop to 8 if the three expelled MPs forfeit their seats]

    ZANU-PF 95 [Originally 99 elected, plus 1 extra nominated seat for Vice-President Mujuru, minus 5 – 4 seats lost through deaths and extra nominated seat not filled]

    Independent 1


    MDC-T 28 [Originally 24 elected, plus 4 appointed gained by GPA]

    MDC-M 8 [Originally 6 elected, plus 2 appointed gained by GPA]

    ZANU-PF 41 [Originally 45 – 30 elected, 5 Presidential appointed Senators and 10 Provincial Governors, plus 1 GPA nominated seat for Vice-President Msika – minus 5 [1 seat vacant through Edna Madzongwe’s election as President of Senate, 2 seats vacant through appointment of incumbents as Provincial Governors, 1 seat vacant through death, and extra nominated seat not yet filled]

    Chiefs 17 [18 minus 1 seat vacant through death]

    These strengths will change again when the agreed changes in provincial governorships occur at the end of August

    Update on Legislation

    Bills – the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill and the ICT Bill seem closest to finalisation before being taken to Cabinet for clearance prior to submission to Parliament for printing and gazetting. Although Minister of State Gorden Moyo has acknowledged that a Bill to guide the National Healing process is being prepared, it is obviously still in its early stages and nowhere near ready for presentation to Parliament. There are no signs of Bills to amend AIPPA and POSA or any other reform legislation.

    Statutory Instruments – SIs 109 and 114/2009 give effect to the changes in customs and excise duties on petrol and diesel announced by the Minister of Finance in his Fiscal Policy Review.

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

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