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  • SADC Organ Troika Ministers in Harare Thursday to discuss GPA – Bill Watch 35 / 2009
    October 26, 2009

    The House of Assembly reopened last week and has adjourned until Tuesday 3rd November

    Senate has adjourned until Tuesday 10th November

    Update on Parliament

    Sittings last week: After a two week adjournment following the opening of Parliament on 6th October the House of Assembly sat on Tuesday [1 hour 37 minutes], Wednesday [2 hours 38 minutes] and Thursday [2 hours 49 minutes] before adjourning to 3rd November. The Senate sat on Tuesday and Wednesday before adjourning to 10th November; the sittings were brief [31 minutes and 86 minutes respectively].

    As assured in the MDC statement of disengagement, Parliament sat with MPs and Ministers from all parties attending to business.

    Business in the House of Assembly

    Debate on the President’s speech opening the Second Session took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday’s debate became heated when a ZANU-PF MP criticised the MDC’s disengagement and an MDC-T MP was critical of the President’s speech, leading to spirited interjections requiring several interventions by the Deputy Speaker.

    Members’ Question Time on Wednesday saw Minister of Finance Tendai Biti explaining that in November he will ask Parliament to approve the use of the IMF special drawing rights [SDRs] about which there has been much controversy; he stressed that the special drawing rights are a non-concessionary loan carrying interest, not a grant. He also gave details of Zimbabwe’s “huge debt”. Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Elton Mangoma discussed what needs to be done to attract investment, and referred to the problems created for potential investors by land invasions and political interference in business, such as threats against international companies operating here.

    Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill received its First Reading on Wednesday and was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

    SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was approved with support from all parties, and will now go to the Senate for its approval.

    Committee Report – the report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development on the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority Fund was presented to the House of Assembly on Thursday.

    Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Reports – the Minister of Finance tabled reports for the 2007 financial year and for the first quarter of 2009.

    Business in the Senate

    The only business dealt with was the debate on the President’s speech opening the Second Session.

    MDC-T Disengagement: Impact on Government

    The President in a belated public comment on the disengagement late last week, dismissed it as a “non-event”. Minister of State in the President’s Office Mutasa said: “Zimbabwe is going to go on without them, as in the past.”

    The Prime Minister spent most of last week outside the country on an outreach mission to brief regional Heads of State on the current situation ahead of an anticipated SADC Organ Troika meeting. He met Presidents Khama of Botswana, Guebuza of Mozambique, Zuma of South Africa, Kabila of the DRC and dos Santos of Angola.

    Council of Ministers did not meet.

    Cabinet met on Tuesday without MDC-T members – an MDC-T press release stated “Any purported Cabinet decision made by the Zanu PF caucus in the absence of all the three political parties is null and void.” Constitutionally this is incorrect – there is no required quorum and decisions are taken by consensus. Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara said that, while he sympathised with Mr Tsvangirai’s complaints, MDC-M ministers would not disengage and would be “going to Cabinet in order to stop ZANU (PF) from making outrageous decisions”. He also saw the role of MDC-M as that of mediator between the two other parties. These sentiments are in direct contradiction to Mr Chaibva’s statement when interviewed by ZTV as representing MDC-M [Bill Watch 34]. Mr Chaibva is not in fact an MDC-M MP.

    Ministers and Deputy Ministers from MDC-T reported for work as usual. There were reports of difficulties and delays in work of some Ministries where Minister and Deputy Minister are from different parties, and lack of liaison – but that is not exactly new, having already been the case in some Ministries. But following the “disengagement” lack of communication becomes more problematic. An example being that ZANU-PF Minister of Information Shamu has been quoted as saying that “MDC-T ministers cannot speak on behalf of government following their decision to disengage”… "So until the party reverses its decision, these ministers will not be covered." His MDC-T Deputy Minister Timba said he “was not aware of this” and “these are some of the issues that are causing tension in the inclusive government where the public media is used to advance the interests of one political party or individual”.

    Parliament sat as usual last week [see above].

    Constitution-making process – the Select Committee and the new Management Committee, which includes Ministers, have met as usual, with all parties present. The “disengagement” relates to activities of the executive – Cabinet and Council of Ministers – not to the work of Parliamentary Committees and of individual Ministers.

    Principals’ Meeting Monday 26th October

    The meeting between the three principals – President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and DPM Mutambara went on for three hours this afternoon. An MDC-T spokesperson said afterwards that the MDC-T and ZANU-PF remain “worlds apart”.

    SADC Organ Troika Mission to Zimbabwe

    The SADC mission to Harare on 29th October will consist of the foreign ministers of the Organ Troika countries – Mozambique, Zambia and Swaziland – not the three Heads of State. The ministers will report back to their principals. The chair of the Organ Troika is President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique, currently busy campaigning ahead of polling in that country’s national elections on 28th October, which rules out his coming to Harare on the 29th. [Note on SADC responsibilities: SADC and the AU are guarantors of the GPA. In addition, as pointed out by Tendai Biti when briefing civil society on 23rd October, MDC-T’s list of unresolved issues includes ZANU-PF’s failure to comply with directives on sorting out these issues given to the parties by the SADC Summit in January 2009.]

    Chairperson of SADC, President Kabila of DRC to visit Harare?

    Mr Tsvangirai announced from Kinshasa on Thursday that President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] will visit Harare in the coming days to mediate the crisis bedeviling the Zimbabwean government. "President Kabila has committed himself to come and share with us the rich experience of DRC in matters of political transition." Mr Kabila is the current SADC chairperson.

    Constituency Vacancies Awaiting By-elections

    A new vacancy in the Senate – with the death of elected Senator Misheck Chando [ZANU-PF Bindura-Shamva] on 23rd October in a road accident the number of Senate vacancies requiring the holding of by-elections has risen to 6. In the House of Assembly there are 9 constituency seats vacant. The country is now awaiting 15 by-elections

    MPs in Court

    Senator and Deputy Minister of Agriculture Designate Roy Bennett – the High Court trial on two charges under POSA is due to commence on Monday 9th November in Harare.

    Deputy Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu – the defence case has been concluded and the magistrate will deliver judgment on 2nd November [the Deputy Minister and his co-accused are charged with theft of a cell phone].

    Update on Independent Constitutional Commissions

    Human Rights Commission [ZHRC]: A list of 16 nominees for appointment to ZHRC was sent to the President by Parliament following the interviewing of 35 short-listed candidates by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] on 12th October. CSRO members were unanimous in their assessment of the candidates. It is now for the President to appoint the 8 members [4 of whom must be women] of this Commission. To complete the composition of the Commission the President must also appoint a chairperson, who must be a legal practitioner of at least 5 years’ standing, after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and the CSRO [he is not bound to follow their advice, but if the appointment is not consistent with any recommendation of the JSC the President must inform the Senate of that fact “as soon as practicable”].

    Anti-Corruption Commission [ZACC]: No interviews are scheduled for those who applied to Parliament for positions on this Commission. The Constitution does not require the CSRO to submit a list of nominees for ZACC; instead, it states that the President must appoint the members of ZACC [not less than 4 and not more than 9] “in consultation with” the CSRO. Further developments are awaited.

    Electoral Commission [ZEC] and Media Commission [ZMC]: There has been no announcement of appointments of members and chairpersons of these commissions. The President’s spokesman has been reported as stating that the President’s intention is to announce the formation of all four of the Commissions together, once all appointments have been settled, something the MDC-T’s present disengagement from ZANU-PF may hold up.

    SADC Tribunal: Another Ruling Defied by Zimbabwe

    Pioneering black Zimbabwean commercial farmer Luke Tembani was evicted from his farm in defiance of a SADC Tribunal ruling in August prohibiting the eviction. The eviction was carried out by the Deputy Sheriff. Mr Tembani, who owed Agribank money, fell victim to the law allowing Agribank to repossess and sell his farm without recourse to the courts. The Tribunal ruled that the repossession and sale of the farm by Agribank was "illegal and void", holding the law under which it was done to be inconsistent with the principles of the SADC Treaty. This eviction has gone ahead in spite of the Prime Minister’s statement that the Cabinet was yet to decide on Zimbabwe’s position vis-à-vis the Tribunal.

    Legislation Update

    Bill Tabled in Parliament: Reserve Bank Amendment Bill [HB 7, 2009] – gazetted on 14th August. This Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee following its First Reading. [See Bill Watch Special of 8th October, which notes that one clause may be inconsistent with the Declaration of Rights].

    Bills gazetted awaiting introduction in Parliament:

    Public Finance Management Bill [HB 9, 2009] – gazetted on 16th October. [Electronic version available on request.]

    Audit Office Bill [HB 10, 2009] – gazetted on 2nd October. [Electronic version available on request.]

    Financial Adjustments Bill [HB 8, 2009] – gazetted on 25th September. [Electronic version available on request.]

    Bill passed by Parliament but not yet gazetted as Act The Appropriation (Additional) (2008) Bill, passed in early April, has at last been submitted for the President’s assent and signature but has still not been gazetted. It is not an Act until gazetted. [The Bill approves expenditure incurred without Parliamentary authority in 2008.]

    Statutory Instruments

    New licensing fees under the Broadcasting Services Act were mentioned in press reports last week – although these were in fact gazetted over two months ago [SI 130/2009 of 7th August].

    Statutory instruments gazetted on 23rd October included:

    SI 164/2009, which fixes a new rate of interest [5 per cent per annum],for the purposes of the Prescribed Rate of Interest Act. This is the default rate of interest applicable to overdue debts; it applies unless a different rate is fixed by a court or by agreement of the parties. [Electronic version available on request.]

    SI 165/2009, which contains the agreement between Zimbabwe and Zambia for the establishment and implementation of the one-stop border post at Chirundu.

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