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Parliamentary Update - Bill Watch 45/2010
Veritas

November 06, 2010

Both Houses of Parliament will resume on Tuesday 9th November

On the Parliamentary Order for the Coming Week House of Assembly

Bills

Two Bills are listed for attention on Tuesday:

See Bill Watch 43/2010 of 16th October for a summary of the proposed amendments that have been tabled forconsideration during the Committee Stage. Although there was time for it to be taken further during October, the Bill seemed stalled. Police meanwhile continue to invoke POSA against MDC-T meetings – on 26th October police attempted to stop a party meeting in Mbare that was due to be addressed by the Prime Minister, notwithstanding MDC-T insistence that prior notice had been given to police as required by POSA. The meeting eventually went ahead after considerable delay.]

Motions

Motions on Tuesday’s Order Paper include: a motion to adopt the Public Accounts Committee’s report on the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Special Report on the 1st Quarter of 2009 [the report that exposed the irregular engagement by Government of thousands of “youth officers”]; the motion on the Portfolio Committee’s report on local government service delivery in Norton, Chitungwiza and Harare; and motions to consider adverse reports from the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] on statutory instruments [see Bill Watch 42/2010 of 11th October for more on these adverse reports].

Question Time [Wednesday]

22 questions with notice are listed for reply by Ministers, including questions about:

  • for the Minister of Education, teachers pensions, Grade 7, O and A level pass rates in urban and rural schools, and comparisons between ZIMSEC and Cambridge examinations
  • for the Minister of Transport, a dispute between Zambia and Zimbabwe over Zimbabwe’s new vehicle number plates
  • for the co-Ministers of Home Affairs, complains of police brutality at a police post in Lupane District
  • for the Minister of Youth, alleged discrimination against known or suspected MDC youths in the allocation of loans by his Ministry
  • for the Minister of State Security, officers of the Central Intelligence Organisation [CIO] belonging to political parties, citing a Deputy Director-General’s membership of ZANU-PF
  • for the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, awards under the Presidential Scholarship Scheme for studies at South African universities.

Senate

There are only two items on the Senate Order Paper – the continuing debates on the motions on the President’s speeches opening the present session of Parliament and the previous session.

Parliamentary Legal Committee

Three Bills are with the PLC for reports on their constitutionality. Only after the PLC reports to the House can the Bills have their Second Readings.

Portfolio and Thematic Committees

At close of business on 5th November Parliament had not released the schedule of committee meetings for the coming week. A separate bulletin will give details of meetings, if any, open to the public as soon as they are available.

Electoral Amendment Bill

The Electoral Amendment Bill has not yet been published, in spite of the President’s recent pronouncements about his desire to see the constitutional referendum in February and the next elections not later than mid-2011.

The latest draft of the Bill is still stuck in the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, notwithstanding the parties’ earlier agreement on the points to be covered. Only once approved by Cabinet can the Bill be sent for printing and gazetting. After gazetting comes the 14-day wait required by Parliamentary Standing Orders before the
Bill’s formal introduction in Parliament. This means that its introduction in Parliament is not imminent. If normal procedures are followed, and if the Bill is to be properly considered by Parliament and its committees with the assistance of public input at portfolio committee hearings around the country, it will not be possible for Parliament to deal with it before the end of the year.

Parliament did not sit from 1st to 6th November

Special Duties for Parliamentarians:

As neither House sat, MPs and Senators were able to attend the following:

  • Monday 1st November – Induction and Consultation Meeting for all members at an upmarket venue just outside Harare – this was an opportunity for legislators to reflect on developments during the first two years of this Parliament.
  • Wednesday 3rd to Saturday 6th November – Pre-Budget Seminar at the Elephant Hills resort, Victoria Falls.
  • Committee Meetings: There were a few portfolio committee meetings on Tuesday 2nd November, to discuss draft reports and evidence received. These meetings were not open to members of the public.

Resume of Parliamentary Sittings from 19th to 27th October

The House of Assembly had two relatively busy weeks, sitting on 19th, 20th, 26th and 27th October, until 4.38 pm, 5.40 pm, 5.58 pm and 4.40 pm, respectively, before adjourning until 9th November. [The Senate did not meet, having adjourned until 9th November at its last sitting on 12th October.]

Bills

POSA Amendment Bill: There was no movement on this Bill, although it was listed for its Committee Stage in the House of Assembly.
The Order Paper also listed proposed amendments tabled by the Bill’s sponsor, Mr Gonese of MDC-T.

Zimbabwe National Security Council Amendment Bill – this Bill received a non-adverse report from the PLC on 19th October.

Energy Regulatory Authority Bill – this Bill was given its First Reading on 20th October and referred to the PLC.

Debate on Portfolio Committee Report on Local Government

On 26th October there was a lively debate lasting over three hours on the report of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government on the State of Service Delivery in the municipalities of Harare, Chitungwiza and Norton. [Electronic version available.]

Question Time – Wednesdays 20th & 27th October

There were no written questions with notice on the Order Paper on Wednesday 20th October, but the Deputy Speaker acknowledged the “sizeable number” of Ministers present to deal with members’ oral questions without notice.

This followed complaints about non-attendance by Ministers at the previous Question Time on 6th October.
MPs made full use of the time set aside for questions.

On Wednesday 27th October the turn-out of Ministers was not quite as good, but Ministers present fielded questions both with and without notice. [For answers to key questions see below.]

Approval of International Agreements

On 20th October the House passed resolutions approving the following International Agreements in terms of section 111B of the Constitution:

  • Loan Agreement between Government of Zimbabwe and Export-Import Bank of China relating to Zimbabwe’s 2G and 3G National Network Rollout Project being implemented by Net One
  • Agreement on the Establishment of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission
  • Convention on Wetlands
  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
  • Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
  • Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds
  • SADC Protocol on Fisheries
  • Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
  • Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species
  • SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement.

Answers to Members’ Questions

Constituency Development Funds: In his Budget speech in December 2009 the Minister of Finance Biti promised funding for each Constituency Development Fund to receive $50 000. So far the funds have received only $38 000 each. Minister Biti undertook to ensure that the outstanding balances would be made available before yearend.

Army Deployment to Districts and Involvement in ZANU-PF activities: Minister of Defence Mnangagwa denied that senior serving officers had been deployed to all districts, as alleged by a questioner. He suggested that misconceptions about Army presence might be attributable to retired commissioned officers [major and above] having the right to wear uniform on appropriate occasions and to the fact that at any one time up to 10% of Army personnel might be off duty in their home districts. He also said there was nothing wrong in retired Army personnel joining ZANU-PF or any other political party. But he conceded in response to a supplementary question that it was “not national policy” for serving senior members to chant ZANU-PF slogans on public occasions, and he assured the House that retired Army personnel were subject to the ordinary laws of the land regarding possession and use of firearms.

Donation to Disappointed TV Reality Show Contestant

Finance Minister Biti assured the House that State funds had not been used for the $300 000 “consolation prize” presented by the President to Big Brother runner-up Munyaradzi Chidzonga.

Update on Bills

Bills Gazetted on 22nd October

  • Deposit Protection Corporation Bill
  • General Laws Amendment Bill
A proposed copyright law amendment in the General Laws Amendment Bill has already been discussed in Bill Watch 44/2010 of 31st October. As soon as a Bill is gazetted it is automatically referred to the relevant House of Assembly Portfolio Committee for consideration. These Bills should be considered next week. When sittings resume on Tuesday both these Bills will be eligible for their First Readings as they have been gazetted more than 14 days previously.
Bills Gazetted on 5th November
  • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill
  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill.

Statutory Instruments and General Notices

Accounting Officers and Receivers of Revenue: SI168/2010, gazetted on 29th October, lists receivers of revenue and accounting officers for the purposes of the Public Finance Management Act. Accounting officers are those officials, usually Permanent Secretaries, responsible for accounting for the use of public money and the safekeeping of State assets by Ministries.

Supreme Court and High Court Calendar for 2010: This was gazetted on 29th October in GN 291/2010. [Electronic version available.]

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