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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Inclusive government - Index of articles
  • Spotlight on inclusive government: It's not working - Index of articles


  • Parliament adjourns until March 8 - Bill Watch 6/2011
    Veritas
    February 28, 2011

    Both the House of Assembly and the Senate met on 22nd and 23rd February, then both Houses adjourned until Tuesday 8th March.

    Inclusive Government Update

    The President returned to the country on 20th February after a week away for a medical check-up. He had a brief meeting with the Prime Minister the next day.

    Cabinet did not meet while the President was away, but did meet on Tuesday 22nd February. [The only other Cabinet meeting this year was on 8th February.] No extra Cabinet meeting was scheduled although there is a backlog of work awaiting Cabinet attention.

    South African facilitation team members arrived in Harare on Tuesday to work with representatives from each of the three GPA parties and others on the "roadmap" to the next elections. They met JOMIC, MDC-T, MDC, ZAPU, ZANU-PF and, on Friday, the party principals.

    The GPA principals [Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara] met on Friday morning.

    The Mutambara/Ncube dispute has still not been resolved and will not be until the end of the court case brought by dissenting MDC-M members challenging the validity of the leadership changes made at the party's congress in January.

    Rising violence in the country is causing further rifts between the two main parties.

    Parliamentary Update

    In the House of Assembly Last Week

    Bills

    The Deposit Protection Corporation Bill did not come up for Second Reading. The Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance, Economic Planning and Investment Promotion has asked for more time to consider the Bill in the light of representations made to it by the banking sector.

    Two Bills are under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]:

    • General Laws Amendment Bill [Electronic version available] [See Bill Watch 41/2010 for an opinion that the Bill's clause imposing copyright protection on the texts of Acts, statutory instruments and court judgments is unconstitutional.]
    • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill

    Both Bills have had their First Reading, but there will be no further proceedings until the PLC has reported on their consistency or otherwise with the Declaration of Rights and other provisions of the Constitution. The PLC meets on Tuesday 1st March.

    Motions

    Tuesday's sitting might have ended without debate on any of the 16 agenda items had not Hon F.M. Sibanda made a brief contribution to the take-note motion on the Education Portfolio Committee's report on early childhood development. On Wednesday there was brief debate on portfolio committee reports on Air Zimbabwe, the Civil Aviation Authority and the operations of NSSA.

    Question Time [Wednesday]

    Questions Without Notice

    Standing Orders restrict questions without notice to questions seeking information on matters of Government policy, although the Speaker occasionally allows some relaxation of this rule if a Minister is prepared to answer a question seeking factual information. When members want factual information, questions should be submitted in writing and they are printed in the Order Paper. This gives Ministers time to obtain the required information. Topics covered last week included:

    • Cabinet responsibility for Budget - Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara confirmed that formulation of the national Budget is a collective Cabinet responsibility and that if individual Ministers have problems with Budget allocations the proper forum to air them is Cabinet rather than political platforms.
    • Security forces personnel and Constituency Development Funds - The Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs stated that security force personnel should not be playing any part in the administration of CDFs.
    • Political activities at schools - Asked about political harassment of teachers, the Minister of Education said he had issued a circular banning the use of schools for political purposes. Later this would also be covered by regulations.
    • Alleged presence of Zimbabwe National Army personnel in Libya - Asked whether press stories about ZNA personnel being in Libya in support of Colonel Gaddafi were true, the Minister of Defence did not answer directly, but said the Minister of Foreign Affairs might know whether there are "African mercenaries" in Libya; he did, however, concede that the Defence Act does not allow serving ZNA members to participate in "events outside this country where they use arms".

    Written Questions With Notice

    There were 25 questions on the Order Paper for reply by Ministers, 12 of them dating back to last November. Only one was dealt with, by the Minister of Education. The other Ministers concerned were not present. Both the Speaker and MPs expressed dissatisfaction with the absentee Ministers' cavalier disregard of the House, and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara undertook to ensure their presence in future. Both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have given similar undertakings previously.

    In the Senate Last Week

    The Senate resumed on Tuesday after a one-week break.

    Ruling Excluding Ministers and Deputy Ministers from Participation in Private Motions

    On Tuesday the President of the Senate ruled that Ministers and Deputy Ministers cannot introduce or debate private motions in the Senate, saying this is the preserve of backbenchers. Following this ruling Senator Tapela [MDC], Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, was not allowed to give notice of a motion, although Senator Georgias [ZANU-PF], Deputy Minister of Public Works, had proposed an anti-sanctions only two weeks before. The President of the Senate said this had been a mistake. The ruling is regarded as controversial, given that Standing Orders are silent on the issue and that in the past Ministers and Deputy Ministers have taken part in debates on private motions.

    Motions

    On violence - On Tuesday Senator Komichi [MDC-T] introduced his motion condemning the "unabated incidents of violence in Mbare, Budiriro and surrounding areas and calling on the police to maintain law and order professionally and bring the culprits to book. Debate continued on Wednesday. There were some heated exchanges when members accused each other's parties of responsibility for fomenting the violence.

    On Inclusive Government's achievements and failures - Deputy Minister Tapela's notice of this motion was disallowed [see above], and notice of the motion was then given by Senator S Ncube [MDC].

    The anti-sanctions motion was withdrawn by Deputy Minister Georgias following the Senate President's ruling [see above] and it was removed from the Order Paper.

    POSA Amendment Bill

    The Second Reading debate on Mr Gonese's Private Member's Bill to amend the Public Order and Security Act [POSA] did not commence. It is unlikely to come up until Parliament completes processing the amendment to Standing Orders which will permit Mr Gonese to speak to his Bill in the Senate – the amendment was approved in principle by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee on 14th February [see Bill Watch 5/2010].

    Update on Bills

    Bills Passed and Awaiting Presidential Assent and Gazetting as Acts [Printing of these Acts for the President's signature is not yet complete.]

    Bills in House of Assembly [See In the House of Assembly This Week, above]

    Bills Gazetted and Awaiting Introduction

    National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill [gazetted 5th November 2010]. [Electronic version available] This Bill provides for the downgrading of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission to a board with much reduced powers and functions. Powers to fix prices and pricing standards and control rentals, incomes and service charges are repealed. The board will be an advisory body tasked with research and monitoring functions. Price control will be covered by regulations and orders under the Control of Goods Act, as it was before 2007.

    Bills being printed for presentation in Parliament - None

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