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Media Commission update – Bill Watch 28/2009
Veritas
August 17, 2009

Both Houses of Parliament are in recess until Tuesday 1st September

Update on Constitutional Commissions Nominations

Zimbabwe Media Commission [ZMC]

The appointments to this Commission are on the agenda for this afternoon’s meeting between the President and the Prime Minister. In terms of the Constitution the President must make all key appointments in consultation with [defined as meaning with the agreement of] the Prime Minister [Constitution, Eighth Schedule, GPA Article 20.1.3(p)]. Interviews for this commission were held by Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] two weeks ago on 3rd August and 12 candidates were selected. Notwithstanding some objections from ZANU-PF, Parliament submitted the CSRO’s list of 12 nominees to the President, who in terms of the Constitution must now appoint the chairman and 8 eight other members of the Commission from that list. Because of ZANU-PF objections the matter was revisited by the CSRO at a meeting this morning which concluded that the list submitted to the President for the ZMC should stand.

It is hoped that the matter will be concluded expeditiously without further objections and obstacles, as there can be no registration of new media outlets under present legislation until the Commission is in place.

Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe Board

The Clerk of Parliament has said that 6 CSRO nominees have also been submitted to the President for him to make 3 appointments to the BAZ Board. The CSRO decided at the last minute before the ZMC interviews to use the ZMC short-list for BAZ nominees also. This procedure has also been objected to, on more understandable grounds. The Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe Chapter, a group advocating media freedoms, has pointed out that Parliament’s advertisements called only for applicants for appointment to the ZMC and the three other constitutional commissions. The possibility of nomination for appointment to the statutory BAZ Board was not mentioned in the advertisements. As a result, qualified persons interested in being on the BAZ Board may not have applied. Nevertheless, the CSRO decided at this morning’s meeting that the list as sent to the President will stand. These appointments will also be on the agenda for this afternoon’s meeting between the President and the Prime Minister.

The Other Three Constitutional Commissions

No dates have been set for interviewing candidates for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. The CSRO this morning decided on some modification of the procedure used to arrive at the ZMC nominations. It will identify three new teams of experts to do the short-listing of applicants for these three commissions. The experts will have to justify their shortlisting to the full CSRO. At the interviews the experts will still be responsible for scoring the interviewees, but the final decision on the lists of nominees will rest with the full CSRO. The Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will be dealt with first, followed later by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

Parliamentary Affairs

Appointment of Select Committee to Investigate AG's Conduct of Prosecutions

Following the House of Assembly’s adoption on 30th July of the MDC-T resolution calling for the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate the conduct of the Attorney-General in all politically-motivated prosecutions, the next step is for the CSRO to appoint the members of the Select Committee. As with all Parliamentary committees the membership will reflect the political composition of the House. The matter was not on the agenda for today’s CSRO meeting, and its next meeting is not until the 31st August.

MDC-M Ultimatum to Speaker over Vacation of Seats by Expelled MDC-M MPs

On 22nd July the Secretary-General of MDC-M, Professor Welshman Ncube, wrote to the Speaker to inform him that three MDC-M members of the House of Assembly had been expelled from the party and no longer represented its interests in Parliament. In terms of section 41(1)(e) of the Constitution, this entails the immediate vacation of their seats by the MPs. The MPs, however, went to the High Court in Bulawayo for orders setting aside their expulsion from the party, and interdicting the Speaker from declaring their House seats vacant. On the 12th August, the party sent a further letter to the Speaker giving him until Tuesday 18th August to act on the party's original notification, failing which a criminal complaint would be laid against him for contravening section 4 of the Prevention of Corruption Act [i.e. failure to carry out duty for the purpose of showing favour]. The Speaker said there had been no deliberate delay and that normal due process was being followed, requiring a report from Counsel to Parliament and if necessary outside legal advice before a decision could be reached. The latest development is the receipt by the Speaker of a letter on the MDC-M letterhead disputing the right of Professor Ncube and the Mutambara executive to speak and act for the party on this or any other issue.

Court Challenge to Speaker

The court case to declare the election of the Speaker invalid has been heard, but judgement is still pending.

By-Elections

There still have been no by-elections called to fill the 10 constituency vacancies in Parliament [5 in the Senate, and 5 in the House of Assembly]. The delay in calling these by-elections is in breach of both the Electoral Act and the Constitution.

A further 7 vacancies may occur in the House of Assembly in the near future, all requiring to be filled by-elections:

  • 3 in Matabeleland, if the result of the wrangle described above is that the three MDC-M MPs forfeit their seats [the constituencies concerned are: Lupane East, Nkayi South and Bulilima East
  • another 1 in Matabeleland, if Siyabonga Ncube [MDC-M, Insiza] accepts an offered appointment as an ambassador [appointment to “public office” results in automatic loss of one’s Parliamentary seat]
  • another 3 if the three MDC-T MPs who have been nominated [Lucia Matibenga, Tose Sansole, Seiso Moyo] are appointed as provincial governors at the end of this month, which would free up the seats for Dzivaresekwa, Nketa and Hwange East]

This would produce a total of 17 vacancies, all requiring by-elections. These cannot now take place before 15th September as by-election procedures take a minimum of 5 weeks between the notice calling a by-election and polling. After the 15th September Article 21 of the GPA falls away, leaving all three parties to the GPA free to contest by-elections against another.

Replacement of the Late Vice-President Msika

Article 20.1.10 of the GPA states that in the event of a vacancy arising in the position of Vice-President, the vacancy will be filled by a nominee of “the Party which held that position prior to the vacancy arising”, i.e., by ZANU-PF. Prior to the GPA this would have been solely the prerogative of the President. As the President is also the head of ZANU-PF, the distinction is probably not significant. Since the Unity Accord of 22nd December 1987, after which the two vice-presidential posts were created, one of the two Vice-Presidents has always been from the former ZAPU leadership. Whatever choice ZANU-PF makes, it will alter the political balance in the country. If the choice falls on someone from ZAPU who has stayed within the ZANU-PF fold, it will affect the succession with ZANU-PF, as various candidates back different parties in the ZANU-PF succession battle. If, as rumours suggest, the choice is designed to win back the new [or revived] ZAPU into the ZANU-PF, it may affect potential voting patterns in the south of the country.

Update on Legislation

Acts still to be gazetted

The Finance (No. 2) Bill and the Appropriation (Supplementary) Bill [both passed by Parliament on the 23rd July] are expected to be gazetted as Acts this week.

Reserve Bank Bill gazetted

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill [H.B. 7, 2009] was gazetted on the 14th August. The Bill provides for major amendments to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act, principally to bring the powers of the Governor under the control of the Bank’s Board, to clarify the functions of the Bank and to require the Bank to increase its reserves.

No other Bills gazetted

Draft Public Finance Management Bill made available for public comment

The Ministry of Finance has invited comments on its draft Public Finance Management Bill, which is designed to replace the Audit and Exchequer Act and the State Loans and Guarantees Act. The Bill is intended to improve accountability for the use of public resources, provide the regulatory framework for the management of public finances and promotion of good governance as well as strengthen the current accounting system. Comments should be submitted to the Accountant-General, P/B 7705, Causeway or email webmaster@zimtreasury.org or New Government Complex, corner Samora Machel Ave and Fourth St, Harare.

Statutory Instruments

SI 124/2009 specifies in US dollars [1] the minimum third-party insurance cover required for all motor vehicles, and [2] the minimum no-fault insurance cover required to be carried by operators of buses, commuter omnibuses and taxis [effective 4th August].

SI 130/2009 specifies new licence fees for broadcasting and other licences issued under the Broadcasting Services Act. [Note: this does not include listeners’ licences.]

SI 131/2009 states that the maximum prices for petroleum products will now be “set by the Oil Industry based on cost factors, in consultation with the Minister [of Industry and Commerce] and as announced by a representative of the oil companies in the print media”.

SI 132/2009 specifies new US dollar amounts for expenses and allowances payable to witnesses called to give evidence in criminal proceedings.

SI 133/2009 specifies new US dollar court fees for local courts [the courts applying customary law presided over by chiefs and headmen].

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