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  • Opening of Parliament & SADC Summit – Bill Watch 30/2009
    September 04, 2009

    Both Houses of Parliament are adjourned until Tuesday 29th September

    Both Houses sat briefly on Tuesday afternoon, the House of Assembly for 25 minutes and the Senate for 15, before adjourning.

    Opening of New Session of Parliament

    In terms of the Constitution [section 62] there must be a new session of Parliament in each calendar year. The First Session was opened in August last year, so there must be a new session starting this year. Traditionally a session lasts about 12 months and a new session usually opens July/August. Parliament was expecting the opening of the Second Session at the end of last month, but the President went to an extraordinary AU meeting in Libya. Parliament now expect the opening of the Second Session to be on or before the 29th September, but are waiting for the date to be confirmed by the President. There will then be a proclamation gazetted proroguing [formally ending] the First Session and summoning Parliament to meet for the Second Session [as laid down in the Constitution, section 63]. At the Official Opening the President in a speech to both Houses will outline the government’s legislative agenda for the Second Session.

    In Parliament on Tuesday 1st September

    The same item of business was dealt with in both Houses. This was the approval of the SADC Protocol on Finance and Investment.

    Outstanding Business in House of Assembly

    [Note: there is no outstanding business for the Senate – the Senate dealt with very little business during the session.]

    Motion for the Appoint of a Select Committee of Parliament to investigate the violence that took place after the March 28 Elections and to report its findings to Parliament. [This motion has been on the Order Paper since early February [before the formation of the Inclusive Government] without being debated.]

    Questions for Wednesday Question Time – among 22 questions from backbenchers to which Ministers have not yet responded are:

    • To Minister of Transport on safety on National Railways
    • To Minister of Public Service - how many people were employed by the Ministry of Youth in March 2008, the policy and procedures of employment of these youths, and why employment documents for those employed are only being processed now, when they are already on the payroll.
    • To Minister of Justice on what plans there are to help prisoners in Mutare prison on remand who have spend 2 or more years without being brought to trial.
    • To Minister of Media [Minister Shamu] when the media reform Bill will be tabled and other media reforms made.

    Any Bills, motions, questions not dealt with when the present session formally ends will fall away. This means that if the session does end before Parliament resumes, all the above will lapse and will have to be reintroduced.

    Status of Bills as at 4th September 2009

    Bills In the Senate - None; Bills in the House of Assembly - None

    Bill awaiting introduction

    Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill [H.B. 7, 2009] Gazetted on 14th August 2009

    Ministry: Finance

    Stage: House copies available – ready for introduction

    House: [This Bill could be introduced in either House]

    Summary: 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.

    Work of Committees

    Portfolio Committees and Thematic Committees met this week. There will be no further meetings until the Houses resume sitting.

    Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] has not met this week, and its next meeting is not until 21st September. This means a further delay of over two weeks before there can be any announcement about the holding of interviews for appointments to the three remaining Constitutional Commissions [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission].

    Select Committee on the New Constitution met on Wednesday 2nd September but was not able to make progress because ZANU-PF has not submitted its nominations for chairpersons of thematic subcommittees. The process seems stalled for the time being, pending the resolution of outstanding GPA issues and the outcome of the SADC Summit. Adhering to the GPA timeframe now seems impossible.

    Select Committee to Investigate AG's Conduct of Prosecutions – on 30th July the House of Assembly adopted MDC-T MP Tongai Matutu’s motion for the appointment of a independent Select Committee to investigate the conduct of the Attorney-General in all politically-motivated prosecutions, in view of the number of arrests and convictions of MDC-T MPs – 5 have been convicted and have appealed, and 9 are awaiting trial. [This is not counting MPs such as Tendai Biti, Tichaona Mudzingwa, Pearson Mungofa and Eric Matinenga, all of whom were arrested and eventually acquitted.] The CSRO has not yet appointed the members of the Select Committee.

    The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs wrote to the Speaker objecting that such a Select Committee would be unconstitutional as under the Constitution the Attorney-General [AG] exercises his functions free from direction or control by any other authority, and that only the President can order an investigation into the AG’s conduct of his office. The Minister also complained that he had not been given an opportunity to respond to the motion. The Speaker’s ruling on the Minister’s objection is awaited. As this motion cannot be acted on until the Speaker has announced his ruling, it is likely that it will lapse at the end of the Session. [Note: (1) Notice of the motion was given on 23rd July and it was debated on 28th and 29th July. ZANU-PF took part in the debate and these constitutional objections were not raised, nor was there any move for rejection of the motion. (2) Section 76(7) of the Constitution states that in the exercise of his prosecutorial functions the AG ”shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority” – but the motion does not in terms seek to direct or control the exercise of the AG’s functions. (3) It is true that section 110 of the Constitution allows the President to order an investigation of the AG’s conduct if the object is to consider whether or not he should be removed from office – but as the motion does not seek the AG’s removal from office, there is no obvious conflict with the President’s powers under this section.]

    Inclusive Government Problems Referral to SADC

    President Zuma of South Africa’s Recent Visit President Zuma met with the three principals on 27th and 28th August. His press statement after his visit said little other than that he and the parties discussed the critical issues relating to the implementation of the GPA and agreed on the need to speed up implementation and to find solutions to the current points of disagreement. The important factor was that there was commitment among all parties.

    Nevertheless statements emanating from the “State” press and from MDC Information indicate that both ZANU-PF and MDC seem to have come away from the talks feeling their very different points of view had been sympathetically received. The three party principals did not meet following President Zuma’s visit, as President Mugabe left soon thereafter for Libya for an extraordinary AU Summit.

    On Tuesday, in his capacity as MDC-T President, Mr Tsvangirai issued a statement to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the GPA due on 15th September 2008. He detailed the outstanding GPA issues, said failure to resolve them was impacting negatively on the credibility and legitimacy of the inclusive Government, stressed that they must be resolved urgently and thanked President Zuma for “echoing the call” for full implementation of the GPA.

    Both before and since the Zuma visit both sides have been cranking up the pressure ahead of the SADC Summit, with MDC stressing its list of outstanding GPA issues still awaiting action from President Mugabe and ZANU-PF, and the President and ZANU-PF spokespersons insisting that “illegal sanctions” are the cause of all the country’s problems.

    SADC Summit: Kinshasa, DRC

    The Summit will run from 2nd to 8th September, starting with meetings of officials and Ministers and culminating in the meeting of Heads of State and Government on the 7th and 8th. President Zuma will report to the Summit in his dual capacity as SA President and Chair of SADC, both guarantors of the GPA, on the progress of he inclusive government in Zimbabwe and the outstanding issues raised by the parties to it in his recent meetings in Harare. A senior South African government official said that the Summit will also debate the future of South Africa’s facilitation team [former SA President Thabo Mbeki was appointed as SADC facilitator of the Zimbabwean dialogue in 2007, and the appointment has never been revoked]. A new facilitator [or better still a respected facilitation team] may be able to break the impasse preventing any real progress in the inclusive government and thus the economy of Zimbabwe. President Zuma will be surrendering the SADC chair to DRC President Kabila at the Summit, and President Kabila will then chair SADC until the next regular SADC Summit in a year’s time. Given the close ties between Presidents Mugabe and Kabila, there is speculation that this change could lead to a lessening of SADC pressure on President Mugabe and ZANU-PF to comply with the GPA and resolve outstanding issues unless a strong facilitator [or facilitation team] is appointed.

    SADC Tribunal

    Since President Zuma’s visit it has emerged that on 10th August the Government delivered a letter to the SADC Tribunal rejecting Tribunal decisions as null and void and withdrawing from further participation in the Tribunal, on the ground that the SADC Protocol establishing the Tribunal has not come into force [because it has not been ratified by the required two-thirds of SADC members]. The Tribunal has in turn referred the matter to the Summit for consideration. [The legal correctness of the Government’s new stance on the Tribunal has been questioned by eminent lawyers, so the Summit’s reaction is awaited with great interest.] Read opinion released by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

    Legislation Update

    Acts still awaiting gazetting

    The Finance (No. 2) Bill and the Appropriation (Supplementary) Bill [both passed on 23rd July] have still not been gazetted as Acts. Initially there was an unexplained delay in getting them printed and submitted to the President for his assent. They were sent to the President’s Office last week. As these Acts will not be legally effective until they are gazetted, and as some of the tax law changes in the Finance (No. 2) Act are stated to be with effect from the 1st August, this delay is deplorable.

    Statutory Instruments

    Statutory instruments gazetted on 28th August included SI 142/2009 [regulations under the Agricultural Marketing Authority Act controlling the growing and marketing of seed cotton and other aspects of the seed cotton industry] and SI 143/2009 [new fees under the Trade Measures Act for the assizing of scales and measuring equipment, and services provided, by the trade measures inspectorate]. SI 145/2009, gazetted today, reduces customs duty on a wide range of raw materials, intermediate goods and capital goods.

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