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Parliamentary update - Bill Watch 10/2011
Veritas
March 15, 2011

The House of Assembly has adjourned to Tuesday 22nd March

The Senate has adjourned to Tuesday 29th March

Election of New Speaker

Following the Supreme Court judgment of 10th March setting aside the election of Mr Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of the House of Assembly, the first business of the House when it resumes is to elect a new Speaker. In terms of both the Constitution and House of Assembly Standing Orders, the House cannot transact any business until a new Speaker has been elected. [See Bill Watch 9/2010 of 13th March for more on the court case and the election of a new Speaker.]

Resumption of the House may be delayed: If preparations are not in place for an election to be held on Tuesday 22nd when the House is due to resume, the Clerk of Parliament may fix another date for the election.

If there is more than one candidate, the election, as required by Standing Orders, will be conducted by the Clerk of Parliament by “a secret ballot”. It was this secret ballot requirement the Supreme Court said had not been observed in the Moyo case - six MPs, after marking their ballot papers in the privacy of the polling booth, showed their marked ballot papers to colleagues before depositing them in the ballot box. Both the Clerk and MPs now have the Supreme Court judgment to guide them as to what constitutes a secret ballot.

Reminder: Those eligible for election are persons who are or have been members of the House of Assembly and are not members of the Cabinet, Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Lovemore Moyo is free to stand for re-election and the MDC-T are likely to support him, although no official statement has been made. ZANU-PF is still consulting, but the State press says it is “likely” that Simon Khaya Moyo, the party’s national chairman, will be nominated. He is a former MP. The other candidate in the August 2008 election was Paul Themba Nyathi, a former MP put forward by the then MDC-M, and there is talk that he may be put forward again in the hope that he may be a compromise candidate. Another suggested name as a compromise candidate has been former Speaker Mr Cyril Ndebele, who is respected by all parties.

Voting Strengths - Current party strengths in the House were given in Bill Watch 9/2010 of 13th March. The actual numbers present for the vote may be affected by MPs being unavoidably absent through illness or official travel commitments or, in the case of MDC-T MPs, detention in police cells or remand prison, although obviously the parties will do their best to get all available members to attend. The Clerk of Parliament has ruled that Lovemore Moyo cannot now resume the Matobo North seat he won in the 2008 parliamentary election and therefore he cannot have a vote.

The election is decided by a simple majority.

Parliamentary Update

Both the House of Assembly and the Senate sat last Tuesday [House 2 hours 22 minutes, Senate 1 hour 23 minutes] and Wednesday [House 3 hours 6 minutes, Senate 1 hour 21 minutes].

In the House of Assembly Last Week

Bills

General Laws Amendment Bill [See Bill Watch 7/2010 of 5th March for a commentary on the Bill.] The Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] and the Minister of Justice reached a compromise over this Bill. In order to avoid an adverse PLC report on the Bill’s amendments to the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act and the Civil Aviation Act, the Minister has agreed to:

  • withdraw the copyright clause, clause 16. This clause would prohibit the publication of texts of Acts, statutory instruments, court judgments and public records without Government permission. Veritas made submissions to the PLC and the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that this clause is an unconstitutional infringement of 20 of the Constitution, which protects freedom of expression, contrary to openness and transparency in government, and against regional best practice. [See Bill Watch 44/2010 of 31st October 2010.]
  • modify the civil aviation clause, clause 7. This clause would allow the Civil Aviation Authority to impose monetary “civil penalties” for contraventions of aviation regulations, without allowing the alleged offenders any recourse to the ordinary courts of the land. A civil penalty would be payable for every day a contravention continued. In a submission to the portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, civil aviation industry stakeholders argued that the clause would infringe their constitutional right to have their civil rights and obligations decided by the courts [Constitution, section 18]. The modification will allow these civil penalties to be challenged in court.

The Bill will receive a non-adverse report from the PLC, conditional on the agreed changes being made. This will clear the way for presentation of the Bill after the House comes back on 22nd March. Note this is a clear example that lobbying Parliament can be effective in leading to modification of government proposals and better laws being passed.

Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill received a non-adverse report from the PLC and passed its Second Reading. It now awaits its Committee Stage.

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill was introduced on 9th March and referred to the PLC. The portfolio committee will hold a public hearing on the Bill on 15th March.

Deposit Protection Corporation Bill is still awaiting its Second Reading debate [for summary see Bill Watch 8/2010 of 6th March].

Motions - Two motions were debated:

  • Right to Housing - The Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and National Housing calls for the right to housing to be recognised as a constitutional right.
  • Review of Local Authority Acts - This MDC-T motion calls for the Urban Councils and Rural District Councils Acts to be reviewed in the light of unwarranted interference in local authority management by Minister of Local Government Ignatious Chombo of ZANU-PF. MDC-T contributors accused Dr Chombo of abusing his position for personal as well as political gain.

Question Time [Wednesday]

There was a slightly improved Ministerial attendance and questions dealt with included:

Repossession of foreign-owned companies - Minister of Industry and Commerce Welshman Ncube said recent statements by ZANU-PF threatening takeover of foreign-owned companies did not represent government policy.

War veterans teaching liberation history in schools - Minister of Education David Coltart said government policy was that only qualified teachers should be employed in schools, and urged MPs not to politicise education.

Violence - Minister of State for National Healing Ndlovu said the Police Commissioner-General’s recent utterances on violence were unfortunate and undermined the work of his ministry.

International Agreements approved

The House approved two agreements under section 111B of the Constitution:

  • Zimbabwe-Brazil Agreement on Cultural Co-operation concluded in Brazil on 16th September 1999
  • International Convention against Doping in Sport.

In the Senate Last Week

POSA Amendment Bill Not dealt with. The Bill has dropped to the bottom of the agenda pending finalisation of the procedural changes needed to allow Mr Gonese to speak to his Bill in the Senate although he is not a Senator. [Electronic version of Bill as passed by House of Assembly available.]

Other Bills - None. Output is awaited from the House of Assembly.

Motions: There was brief debate on two new motions:

  • Inclusive Government’s Achievements and Failures - This was introduced by Senator S Ncube [MDC]. Lack of progress on national healing was mentioned by some Senators; others said the country was not ready for elections.
  • Peace and Security Thematic Committee’s Report on Role of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Maintaining Peace and Security in Zimbabwe. The report gives an overview of the Ministry’s functions and the challenges it faces, and catalogues the Ministry’s assessment of its achievements.

Parliamentary Committees

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono failed to give evidence to the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy on 7th March. Dr Gono pleaded other national duties and said he would attend at a later date. Continuing its investigation into the closure of the Shabanie and Mashava asbestos mines, the committee wants him to throw light on allegations of externalising foreign currency leveled against Mutumwa Mawere and his SMM companies prior to the Government’s takeover of the asbestos mining group. The Secretary for Home Affairs told the committee that his Ministry’s investigations into Mr Mawere and SMM had failed to unearth evidence of wrongdoing, leading to the lifting last year of their six-year specification under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Update on Bills

Bills Passed and Awaiting Presidential Assent and Gazetting as Acts [Electronic versions available] [Proof-reading and printing has to be completed before submission to the President for signature.]

Bills in Parliament [see above]

Bills being printed for presentation in Parliament – None

Statutory Instruments and General Notices

The Government Gazette of 11th March contained no statutory instruments at all, and no General Notices worth noting.

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

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