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Parliament not sitting in January - Bill Watch 46 / 2009
Veritas
December 31, 2009

The House of Assembly has adjourned until 2nd February 2010
The Senate has adjourned until 9th February

Update on Inclusive Government

The three principals met Wednesday 23rd December – without the benefit of the expected report from the negotiators. Afterwards the principals held a joint press conference at which no significant announcements were made about the results of the negotiations so far. The nation was asked to be patient while the negotiations continue.

The negotiators are not due to meet again until mid-January.

It was announced on 28th December that President Mugabe had commenced his annual leave. Vice-President Joice Mujuru will be Acting President during his absence.

Constitutional Commissions
The names of the chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of the Electoral Commission [ZEC] and the Human Rights Commission [ZHRC] have not yet been officially announced. The names of the members of ZEC and ZHRC were given in Bill Watch 45 of 21st December, as were the names of the chairperson, deputy chairperson and members of the Zimbabwe Media Commission [ZMC].

Three Year Macro-Economic Policy and Budget Framework 2010-2012 [STERP II] Launched

On Wednesday 23rd December Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe launched the Three Year Macro-Economic Policy and Budget Framework 2010-2012, also known as STERP II. Acknowledging that Zimbabwe’s own resources will not be adequate to finance the plan’s expenditures, she appealed to the international community to close the financing gap by way of foreign direct investment and concessional loans and grants. The preface by President Mugabe stresses the need for unity. The Framework acknowledges the lack of progress on political and democratization issues since the launch of STERP I. It states as a priority “restoring basic freedoms” through “resolving all outstanding and disempowering political issues, legislative reforms, concluding constitutional reforms, rule of law, respect for property rights and national healing”. The Framework also recognises that effective implementation of Government work programmes will need to be buttressed by review and enactment of a number of pieces of legislation for submission to Parliament and promises acceleration of the legislative programme.

Legislative reforms specifically referred to include:

  • reforms aimed at strengthening governance and accountability,
  • promoting governance and the rule of law, promoting equality and fairness, including gender equality;
  • major changes to the Mines and Minerals Act;
  • stronger consumer protection legislation;
  • review and updating of all legislation governing the transport sector;
  • harmonization of all the country’s labour laws;
  • and a clear legislative framework for Public Private Partnerships.

Other than the Mines and Minerals Act, no specific Acts are listed for attention. No time frame is given for the reforms, other than that they will occur during the three years 2010 to 2012. In March last year STERP I mentioned several Acts as requiring reform – the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Urban Councils Act, the Rural District Councils Act and the Labour Act, but none of these promised reforms has yet reached Bill stage.

Portfolio Committee Reports on Budget Issues

House of Assembly Portfolio Committees prepared Post-Budget Analyses of the votes for their Ministries set out in the Estimates of Expenditure for 2010 presented by the Minister of Finance. These analyses were given orally to the House by committee chairpersons during the debate on the Finance (No. 3) Bill on Tuesday 8th December. In spite of protests by several Ministries of inadequate allocations the Estimates were estimates were approved.

Parliamentary Committee Meetings

House of Assembly Portfolio Committees and Senate Thematic Committees will resume their meetings on Monday 25th January.

Chiadzwa Diamond Field: Recent Developments

It looks as though, in spite of the High Court confirming the rights of African Consolidated Resources [ACR] to their claims in the Chiadzwa diamond field [which had been taken from them by the Government in 2006], exercising those rights is being subjected to major delays. The Government, the Mining Development Corporation and its joint venture partners have noted an appeal against Mr Justice Hungwe’s decision restoring to ACR its claims, but pending the appeal Justice Hungwe’s order remains in force by express stipulation of Justice Hungwe. Nevertheless the joint venture partners continued their operations and Justice Hlatshwayo refused to treat as urgent an application by ACR to evict them from the area in dispute. This means that the eviction application hearing will have to take its turn on the ordinary court roll next year.

Meanwhile the Environmental Management Agency [EMA] has ordered a stop to mining activity by the joint venture partners on the ground that they have failed to comply with the requirements of the Environmental Management Act for submission to and approval by the EMA of environmental impact assessments. Also, local inhabitants listed for relocation by the Government to make way for mining operations launched an urgent High Court application for an order halting their relocation until they had been properly compensated for their losses; this received a setback when Justice Musakwa refused to treat the application as urgent, meaning that, like the ACR application to evict the joint venture partners, it will have to take its turn with other applications on the ordinary court roll when High Court sittings resume next year.

Finally, in a move which, if it succeeds, could leave the Mining Development Corporation and its joint venture partners in exclusive possession of the Chiadzwa field by virtue of special grants issued by the Government, the Mining Commissioner has notified ACR and other holders of Chiadzwa diamond claims that he proposes to cancel their claims with effect from 25th January 2010. The reason stated for the proposed cancellation is that the claims were improperly pegged and registered on land that had been reserved against prospecting and pegging. The claim holders have the right to appeal to the Minister of Mines and Mining Development against the proposed cancellation – and also to challenge it in the High Court.

In the interim the Minister of Finance in his Budget speech announced measures to ensure that the exploitation of the Chiadzwa diamonds would be more transparent – that there would be official monitors on site and producers would have to declare and pay weekly dividends to the Government.

The latest developments mean that the ownership of these claims and who benefits from them become increasingly blurred. This could make for delay in the realisation of the Minister of Finance’s hopes for Chiadzwa diamonds to boost both the economy and Government revenues. It also makes the monitoring situation for the world lobby against misuse of diamond revenues more difficult.

Legislation Update

Bills in Parliament:

House of Assembly: None. All Bills have been dealt with.

Senate: Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill awaits Committee Stage. Amendments have been tabled for consideration.

Bill Awaiting Introduction: The Public Order and Security Amendment Bill [Mr Gonese’s Private Member’s Bill] was gazetted on 11th December. The Bill now awaits introduction in the House of Assembly.

Bills Awaiting President’s Assent and Gazetting as Acts: Financial Adjustments Bill, Public Finance Management Bill, Audit Office Bill, Appropriation (2010) Bill and Finance (No. 3) Bill.

Statutory Instruments: Several statutory instruments are due to be gazetted in the Government Gazette dated 1st January 2010 giving effect to budgetary measures under the Customs and Excise Act, Value Added Tax Act, Capital Gains Tax Act and Income Tax Act.

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

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