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Negotiations on outstanding issues start at last - Bill Watch 40 / 2009
Veritas
November 24, 2009

Both Houses are adjourned and will resume on Tuesday 1st December

The 2010 Budget will be presented on Wednesday 2nd December

Update on Inclusive Government

Troika-mandated dialogue on outstanding issues under way at last: The preliminary deadline of 21st November for the parties to engage in discussions mandated by the SADC Organ Troika to resolve inter-party disputes passed without the negotiators having started talking. The idea that President Zuma would come to Harare this week to see what progress had been made by that date was a non-starter. The three negotiating teams eventually had their first meeting yesterday, lasting until after midnight, and agreed on a 19-item agenda. After a break for today’s Cabinet meeting, the negotiators will continue this evening and all day tomorrow. The build-up to yesterday’s meeting was painfully slow. There were dates set and abortive meetings, as all the negotiators could not make themselves free at the same time. [Attending other meetings took priority.] The three party principals – Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara – had met on Friday 13th November to discuss the way forward. On Monday 16th November Mr Tsvangirai met the negotiators from ZANU PF, MDC-T and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara who was representing the MDC-M in the absence of its negotiators. This meeting was to brief the negotiators on the principals’ discussions, and it was followed by an announcement that the negotiators would meet at a secret venue from Friday 20th November and work right through the weekend – a meeting that failed to take off.

The late start means that the parties have only 13 days left – and any agreement reached by the negotiators will have to be approved by the principals. [Analysts predict that there will be no concessions by President Mugabe prior to the ZANU-PF National Congress, originally scheduled for 8th to 13th December, but now postponed to start on a later date]. On 6th December, 30 days after the SADC Organ Troika Maputo meeting, President Zuma must assess progress [or otherwise] and compile a report for presentation to the chairperson of the Organ Troika, President Guebuza of Mozambique.

Cabinet did not meet last week, because the President was out of the country attending the FAO Food Summit in Rome. There will be a meeting today.

The Council of Ministers met last Thursday with the Prime Minister in the chair.

Forthcoming Statement by Prime Minister – this is to include an assessment of the general political situation and an outline of government business in Parliament, which should include the legislative agenda [although this was outlined in the President’s speech, the Prime Minister is in fact Leader of Government Business in Parliament]. It was scheduled for this week, but as Parliament adjourned it has been rescheduled until after the 1st December.

Last Week in Parliament

House of Assembly

Private Member’s Bill to Amend POSA Given Go-Ahead – Mr Gonese’s motion seeking the leave of the House of Assembly to introduce his private member's Bill to amend the Public Order and Security Act [POSA] was approved on Thursday 19th November. The Bill will now be printed and gazetted. When 14 days have expired after its gazetting, Mr Gonese will be able to introduce the Bill, and it will thereafter follow the same procedure as a government Bill. As gazetting will take some time, it is unlikely that the Bill will be gazetted in time to be introduced before the House adjourns for its holiday season break.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill: There had been opposition to this Bill by the ZANU-PF caucus as a result of which discussions took place with the Minister of Finance and agreed amendments were approved when the Bill was went through the Committee Stage after its second reading. The amended Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee, which promptly provided a non-adverse report. It was then passed and transmitted to the Senate. Amendments include the following:

  • the proposed new Audit Committee and Oversight Committees will be merged in a single Audit and Oversight Committee. This will be chaired by the deputy chairperson of the Bank’s board and the other members will be non-executive members of the Board appointed by the Minister [not complete outsiders, as proposed in the original Bill].
  • the Minister’s proposed new powers to give the Board policy directions are eliminated from the Bill.
  • a clause, headed “Immunity of Bank, etc” has been added, giving the State, the Minister, the Bank and its Board, the Governor and the Bank’s employees limited immunity from civil “claims” for things done “in good faith and without negligence” under the powers conferred by the Reserve Bank Act. This clause has attracted criticism but, as Minister Biti has pointed out, it is a standard clause which appears in other Acts establishing statutory bodies and does not grant a blanket immunity, e.g. for fraud, etc.
  • the provision for the State to take over the Bank’s shares in companies controlled by it is replaced by a new provision requiring the Bank to dispose of such shares. The Minister’s approval will be necessary for every disposal.

Other Bills: The Financial Adjustments Bill, the object of which is to condone unauthorised expenditure by Ministries in 2006, was passed by the House without amendment and transmitted to the Senate. The second reading debates on the Public Finance Management Bill and Audit Office Bill commenced, with the Minister of Finance explaining the general principles of both Bills. Debate will continue on 1st December.

Motions: The House approved the motion calling for the setting up of a committee to examine and report back to the House on the procedures for declaring national heroes. Debate commenced on Hon. Matutu’s motion calling on the inclusive government to immediately carry out a comprehensive audit of the voters roll.

Questions: Deputy Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Tamsanqa Mahlangu provided details on youth training centres, the number of youths undergoing training at the centres and the number and deployment of youth officers in the Ministry.

Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]: The PLC submitted non-adverse reports on the Minister of Finance’s Public Finance Management Bill, Audit Office Bill and Financial Adjustments Bill, and on the amendments made to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill.

Senate – the Senate did not sit last week.

SADC Parliamentary Forum This Week

Zimbabwe is hosting the SADC Parliamentary Forum plenary session in Victoria Falls, which is why the House of Assembly and the Senate are not sitting this week. The Forum will discuss its possible upgrading, from a body which merely discusses regional issues with the aim of capacitating member Parliaments, into a regional Parliament with real legislative powers.

Senator Roy Bennett: High Court Trial Continues

On Monday 16th November Justice Bhunu dismissed the defence application for him to recuse himself from hearing the trial. Mr Bennett pleaded not guilty to the charges and the first State witness was called. The trial continued on Monday 23rd November, with the first State witness still under cross-examination. After the first witness’ evidence, the court adjourned until today, Tuesday.

Update on Independent Constitutional Commissions and BAZ Board

There is still no news of appointments being made to the Human Rights Commission, the Electoral Commission and the Media Commission, or of consultations between the President’s Office and Parliament on appointments to the Anti-Corruption Commission. Last week the Prime Minister said that the Media Commission appointments would be announced soon. He also confirmed that the composition of a new board for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe [BAZ] has not been finalised; and that the announcement some time ago of BAZ Board members by the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity had been incorrect.

Next Week’s Parliamentary Agenda

House of Assembly

2010 Budget: The Minister of Finance will present his 2010 Budget on Wednesday 2nd December. This entails not only the Minister’s statement on the economy’s performance and prospects, but also the tabling of the Estimates of Expenditure for 2010 and related taxation proposals, which will be incorporated in the Appropriation (2010) Bill and the Finance (No. 3) Bill, respectively.

Bills: On Tuesday 1st December the second reading debates will continue on the Public Finance Management Bill and the Audit Office Bill.

Motions: Debate will continue on motions carried over from last week or the week before, including a motion calling for an audit of the voters roll; and the debate on the President’s Opening of Parliament speech.

Question Time [Wednesday]: 26 Questions with Notice, some of them carried over from previous Question Times, are on the Order Paper for reply by the relevant Ministers or Deputy Ministers. New questions seek information on:

  • subsidiary companies established by parastatals
  • the functions of the Ministry of State Enterprises and Parastatals vis-à-vis the appointment of board members of State enterprises
  • if and/or when there will be mobile births and deaths registration exercises in both rural and urban areas
  • government policy on members of the Central Intelligence Organisation [CIO] joining and holding office in political parties while in State service

Senate

Bills: The Senate’s first order of business will be to consider the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill and the Financial Adjustments Bill, passed by the House of Assembly and transmitted to the Senate last week.

Motions: Any time not taken up by consideration of Bills will be devoted to the continuation of the debate on the President’s Opening of Parliament speech

Legislation Update

Bills in Parliament: Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill [HB 7, 2009], Public Finance Management Bill [HB 9, 2009], Audit Office Bill [HB 10, 2009] and Financial Adjustments Bill [HB 8, 2009] Likely to be passed by both Houses in December.

Bill Awaiting Introduction: Public Order and Security Amendment Bill [private member’s Bill – see above]. Unlikely to be introduced this year.

Statutory Instruments: No statutory instruments were gazetted last week.

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

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