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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Constitutional outreach impact on work of Parliament - Bill Watch 31/2009
    September 12, 2009

    Parliament is adjourned until Tuesday 29th September

    It is likely that the President will formally open the Second Session of the Seventh Parliament on 29th September.

    Constitutional Outreach Impact on Work of Parliament

    Parliament are planning, subject to confirmation from the President, to resume in just over two weeks. The Select Committee on the Constitution have issued statements that they will be starting their public consultation shortly thereafter. If the Constitution outreach process does get under way, it will involve 258 members of both houses working full time, out of a total number of 296 MPs [there are 18 vacant seats out of a full complement of 314], so there will be fewer than 40 members left in both Houses. The Clerk of Parliament has said that Parliament will have to adjourn during the Constitution outreach process, but if there is any urgent business MPs would be recalled for a week or two. This is what happened during the last Constitutional commission in 1999. There are already Ministry of Finance Bills in the pipeline [see below] and towards the end of year there will be the usual budget Bills. If these are dealt with, then the outreach time-frame will perforce be affected. Conversely, while the Constitution outreach is under way, it is unlikely that much other Parliamentary business will get done, resulting in further delays on reform legislation. The work of Parliamentary Committees would also be slowed down – which may cause further delays in the selection of Constitutional Commissions and scrutiny of the work of Ministries.

    Delays in Appointment of Constitutional Commissions

    Media Commission There has been no announcement of appointments from the President’ s office. It is well over a month since Parliament interviewed applicants for this Commission. After a delay during which conflicting lists were “leaked” to the press and protests from one party claimed that its known supporters were missing from the list, a “compromise” list of 12 nominees was sent to the President from which the Constitution stipulates he must select the chairman and 8 other members of this Commission.

    The Three Other Constitutional Commissions [Electoral Commission, Human Rights Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission] Although Parliament originally said it hoped to complete the selection process for all four Commissions by the end of June, the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] have decided to revisit how interviews are to be conducted, after the controversy over selection of candidates for the Media Commission. The CSRO has not yet met to finalise the process and it will not meet again until after the 21st September.

    SADC Summit

    SADC Summit Communiqué issued at the end of the recent meeting in Kinshasa called on the international community to “’remove all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe”. There was no express mention of any of the outstanding issues between the parties to the inclusive government that had been raised earlier with President Zuma by Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Mutambara, nor of the delay in implementing legislative reform and dealing with human rights abuses that the GPA called for. The outgoing chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, King Mswati III of Swaziland, noted that political and security challenges in a few parts of the region, especially the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, are being effectively addressed. [Full text of communiqué available on request]

    President Zuma’s Opening Speech at the Summit on 7th September highlighted positive developments and socio-economic progress in the region, and on the political front, he urged the Member States to collectively tackle the challenges in Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, stressing that “the quest for lasting peace, stability and democracy remains a priority for SADC”. He mentioned the significant progress made in Zimbabwe under the auspices of the Inclusive Government and said that “Just as SADC has stood with the people of Zimbabwe in the search for a solution to the challenges facing the country, it remains committed to working to encourage further progress. We urge all parties to remove any obstacles to the implementation of the agreement.”

    Answering a question in the South African Parliament on 9th September, Deputy President Motlanthe said that “South Africa is committed to assisting the Zimbabwean government to implement all the provisions of the Global Political Agreement including all outstanding matters in respect of which difficulties remain”.

    Update on Inclusive Government

    The recent SADC Summit’s failure to deal with the disagreements raised at the meeting with President Zuma the previous week led to the MDC pinning its hopes on a possible further extraordinary SADC Summit to discuss Zimbabwe. Instead SADC referred the overseeing and monitoring of the implementation of outstanding issues on the power-sharing agreement to the SADC Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security which will be meeting soon. Mr Tsvangirai’s Press Statement in Kinshasa on 8th September included the following passage: “Now that the SADC Troika is specifically vested with the matter of Zimbabwe it is my hope and belief that it will deal with all outstanding issues as a matter of urgency. The legitimacy, credibility and indeed the existence of the Inclusive Government itself depends upon the expeditious resolution and enforcement of the agreement in full. I have confidence that His Excellency President Guebuza of Mozambique, as the new head of the Organ Troika will be equal to the task.”

    Provincial Governors: The incumbent provincial governors [all ZANU-PF] were appointed just before the end of August 2008 for two-year terms. In June it was reported that ZANU-PF negotiators had agreed that six provincial governors would step down after one year in office to make way for nominees of MDC-T [5] and MDC-M [1]. The end of that year has come and gone, with no sign of change in governorships.

    Senator Roy Bennett has not been sworn in as Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

    AG and Governor of Reserve Bank President Mugabe continues adamant that these appointments will not be reversed.

    Law Reform: No reform legislation has been enacted – or even presented to Parliament. The President’s speech at the forthcoming opening of Parliament’s Second Session is expected to set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the Session.

    The National Security Council [NSC] did not meet at the end of August as it was supposed to do. The NSC has had only one meeting, on the 30th July, since the inception of the inclusive government in spite of the NSC Act stipulating that it should meet once a month.

    National Economic Council has still not been set up.

    Land Audit has not yet been started.

    Parliamentary Committees

    Portfolio Committees and Thematic Committees did not meet this week. They will not meet again until October.

    Committee on Standing Rules and Orders will not be meeting until a date still to be fixed in the week commencing 21st September . This means that there can be no movement, until then, on the holding of interviews for appointments to the three remaining Constitutional Commissions,

    Select Committee on the New Constitution have had a series of meetings, culminating in announcements over the last few days of the Committee’s determination to continue with preparations for the outreach process and of the names of the chairpersons of its 17 thematic subcommittees.

    Select Committee to Investigate AG's Conduct of Prosecutions On 30th July the House of Assembly approved a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate the conduct of the Attorney-General in all politically-motivated prosecutions. The Minister of Justice later wrote to the Speaker stating that the appointment of the Select Committee would be in breach of the Constitution. [For details see Bill Watch 30.] The Speaker is taking legal advice and his decision on the Minister’s objection is awaited.

    Legislation Update

    Bills Passed but Not Gazetted as Acts

    The Finance (No. 2) Bill and the Appropriation (Supplementary) Bill [both passed on 23rd July] have still not been gazetted as Acts. They have no legal effect until they are gazetted, which makes this inordinate delay serious, bearing in mind the tax law changes involved. Also awaiting gazetting as an Act is the Appropriation (Additional) (2008) Bill passed by Parliament in early April. [The purpose of this Bill is to regularize the unbudgeted, but not necessarily unlawful, expenditure that occurred last year during the long cessation of normal Parliamentary activity occasioned by the dissolution of Parliament, the harmonized elections and the Presidential election re-run, and the ensuing period of negotiations leading to the formation of the Inclusive Government.]

    Bill gazetted and on the Parliamentary agenda

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

    Bills being printed

    Parliament has sent three Ministry of Finance Bills to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting in preparation for their introduction into Parliament in the new Session – the Public Finance Management Bill, the Audit Office Bill and the Financial Adjustments Bill. The page proofs of the Bills are presently with the legal drafters for checking. We cannot offer copies of these Bills until they have been gazetted.

    Statutory Instruments

    Statutory instruments gazetted on 11th September included SI 149/2009 – regulations, made by the Minister of Finance amending the Income Tax Act so as to increase the rates of carbon tax and the NOCZIM debt redemption levy.

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