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Parliament adjourned till February - Bill Watch 53/2010
Veritas
December 31, 2010

The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday 8th February 2011

The House of Assembly has adjourned until Tuesday 15th February 2011

Finance (No 2) Bill Passed for Second Time by Senate

On Thursday 16th December the Senate, specially recalled from its adjournment to deal with the Finance (No. 2) Bill for the second time, approved the two additional amendments to the Bill made by the House of Assembly [deletion of clauses 21 and 24] and passed the Bill as twice amended by the House of Assembly. The House acted wrongly and unconstitutionally in further amending the Bill by deleting clauses 21 and 24. [Bill Watch 52 of 16th December traces the sorry story of the Bill in detail and explains why its final passage was unconstitutional.] The Bill will now go to the President for assent in this amended form, i.e., without the original clauses 21, 22, 23 and 24, and with a small but politically significant amendment to clause 18 which will restrict ZIMRA Board members to a maximum of three statutory board memberships instead of four [a maximum of four was in the original version of the clause put up by the Minister of Finance]. [Electronic version of Bill as finally passed available – email requests to veritas@yoafrica.com When the Bill is gazetted as an Act it will be open to being struck down as invalid by the courts.

Resolutions from ZANU-PF Conference 15th to 18th December

Proceedings of the ZANU-PF Annual Conference started in Harare on 15th December with a meeting of the Politburo. The two-day main event followed in Mutare on 17th and 18th. Matters covered by Conference resolutions included:

  • Elections - the next elections should be held in 2011 without fail and should be for the President, Parliament and Local Government and not just for the Presidency.
  • Sanctions – the government should take counter-measures against foreign companies, institutions and entities whose home countries maintain sanctions against Zimbabwe.
  • Expulsion of foreign envoys – the Government should expel envoys promoting the West’s regime change agenda and interfering in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe
  • NGOs – organisations acting as “conduits of regime change” should be deregistered.
  • Indigenisation – the indigenisation and economic empowerment programme should be accelerated and expanded.

Moyo for Politburo President Mugabe told the Conference that Jonathan Moyo had been appointed to the Politburo. [Mr Moyo, elected to the House of Assembly as an Independent in 2008, was re-admitted to ZANU-PF late last year.

Resolutions of MDC-T’s National Council 16th December

On 16th December Mr Tsvangirai held a press conference to announce decisions made at that day’s meeting of the MDC-T National Council. Highlights included:

  • Immediate SADC Troika Meeting Needed – a call for an immediate meeting of the Troika of the SADC Organ on Politics, Democracy and Security Co-operation to discuss outstanding GPA issues [Reserve Bank Governor Gono, Attorney-General Tomana, Roy Bennett, provincial governors and ministerial mandates], the roadmap to elections and other issues described as “toxic” [violence, deployment of security agents in the countryside and “a corrosive media”].
  • Implementation matrix – a call for the principals to implement the 24 agreed issues in accordance with the matrix agreed by the principals on 4th August and endorsed by the SADC Summit two weeks later].
  • 2011 Elections for Presidency only – the election in 2011 should be for the Presidency only, to put to rest “the question of illegitimacy associated with the farcical Presidential run-off election of June 2008”. Harmonised elections for President, Parliament and local authorities should be in 2013 [which would allow Parliament its normal 5-year term].
  • MDC-T National Congress – this should be held before 31st May 2011 – and Mr Tsvangirai would be eligible to continue as party president.

[Comment: While President Mugabe is in office, the Government cannot, under the existing provisions of the present Constitution and Electoral Act, call an election for the sole purpose of electing a President. If a Presidential election alone is agreed to before we have a new Constitution, amendment of both the existing Constitution and Electoral Act would be required to give effect to this MDC-T proposition. If there is a new Constitution, it is likely that negotiated transitional constitutional arrangements will dictate the form the elections will take.

Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara

MDC-M President Arthur Mutambara announced that he would not stand for re-election as party leader at the party’s congress on 8th and 9th January. This raises the question whether he will stand down as Deputy Prime Minister in favour of a new MDC-M President. [Article 20 of the GPA does not name Mr Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister – only President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai are named – it merely says that there will be two Deputy Prime Ministers, of whom one will be “from MDC-M”.]

Last Parliamentary Sittings of 2010

Senate The only business transacted during the Senate’s 25-minute sitting on 16th December was the passing of the Finance (No. 2) Bill as amended by the House of Assembly [see further at the beginning of this bulletin]. All other items on the Order Paper, including other Bills transmitted from the House of Assembly, were carried forward to be dealt with when the Senate resumes on the 8th February.

House of Assembly The House sat on 14th and 15th December.

Bills passed and transmitted to Senate

As well as the Finance (No. 2) Bill [see above], the following Bills were passed and transmitted to the Senate:

Attorney-General’s Office Bill

Energy Regulatory Authority Bill

Criminal Laws Amendment (Protection of Power, Communication and Water Infrastructure) Bill.

Members’ Question Time on 15th December

Topics dealt with included:

  • Conduct of armed forces and chiefs Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara assured the House that Government policy is that neither the armed forces nor traditional leaders should conduct themselves in a politically partisan fashion; he asked questioners to supply details of offending behaviour by soldiers and chiefs so that the responsible Ministers could respond.
  • One Stop Investment Centre The Deputy Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Undenge said the aim of the Centre, opened last week, was to reduce to 5 days the time taken to approve an investment application.
  • Civil Service Manpower Audit Report received The Minister of the Public Service said the report on the Audit had been handed to him on 10th November and still had to be considered by Cabinet; he assured the House the report would be tabled in Parliament, not “swept under the carpet”.
  • Payment of Government Pensions to Outside Pensioners The Minister of the Public Service said the Government would resume paying pensions to its approximately 5, 600 pensioners resident outside the country on completion of the current exercise to ascertain which pensioners were still alive, their whereabouts and where payments should be sent.

Monthly Prime Minister’s Question Time Proposed

Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga proposed the establishment of a Prime Minister’s Question Time once a month, lasting one hour in each House, during which the Prime Minister would respond to written questions submitted by members through the Speaker and the President of the Senate. This would enable the PM to provide information on the formulation and implementation of government policies and programmes. ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo expressed support for the idea but said it was for the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders to put it into practice.

Statutory Instruments

SIs 183 and 184/2010 [gazetted 10th and 17th December] Amendments to VAT (Fiscalised Recording of Taxable Transactions) Regulations

In June Minister of Finance Tendai Biti made regulations [SI 104/2010] requiring all businesses to use “fiscalised” electronic cash registers from 1st July [and only equipment approved by the ZIMRA Commissioner-General would be accepted] – he later announced this would be postponed to 1st January 2011, and SI 183 confirms this postponement.

SIs 183 and 184/2010 also transfer to the Minister, in consultation with the ZIMRA Commissioner-General, the function of approving fiscalised equipment for sale; and establish a technical committee, appointed by the Minister, to supplement ZIMRA’s role in policing the regulations and advising the Minister on which equipment should be approved.

Comment: A Herald story on 18th December, headlined “Biti in bid to usurp ZIMRA powers”, ventilated purported ZIMRA objections to the Minister changing the regulations without first consulting ZIMRA, and raised confidentiality concerns over the technical committee having access to business records. Whatever the policy merits of the objections, the Minister did not “usurp” ZIMRA’s powers when he chose to reassign to himself a function that he had bestowed on the Commissioner-General in the original regulations.]

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