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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 8 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
March 18, 2011

Introduction

The House of Assembly and the Senate were not sitting this week as they had adjourned to 22 March and 29 March respectively but Committees continued with their meetings. Below is an update of activities of some Committees during the week under review.

Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce

The Committee conducted a public hearing on Tuesday 15 March 2011 at Parliament on the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill (H.B. 10, 2010). The Bill seeks to amend the parent Act, which was enacted in 2007 during the height of hyper-inflation to establish a National Incomes and Pricing Commission whose mandate was to develop pricing models for goods and services produced in this country with a view to balancing the viability of producers and the incomes and welfare needs of the people of Zimbabwe.

Among other things, the Amendment Bill seeks to downgrade the status of the Commission to that of a Board.

Noted organizations that attended the public hearing and submitted their inputs included Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), the National Incomes and Prices Commission (NIPC), Retailers Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ), the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and Zimbabwe Indigenous Economic Empowerment Organization (ZIEEO).

The above-named organizations were not agreed on the Bill; ZNCC, representing sentiments of the business community were strongly opposed to the Bill, arguing that it would affect the economy. ZNCC representatives said notwithstanding the need to regulate abuse of the market forces by the business community, they believed that a market economy was the best model to achieve business and economic growth. They further indicated that controls had resulted in shortages by decreasing production levels and also harmed entrepreneurship. The Committee also heard that when discussing anything to do with controls, there was need to take into account variables like an increase in the Consumer Price index, an increase in VAT and Excise duty, interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations among other factors. The representatives pointed out that these were real costs of production that could not always be claimed as input costs hence the need to consider the costs when talking of controls. On the Bill, the representatives lauded the composition of the proposed board, which includes a number of stakeholders from the private sector.

On his part, the ZIMTA representative highlighted his organization's concern with the proposed shift from a commission to a board. He argued that, inherently, a board was weaker than a commission as the proposed board would be subject to a Minister who might be driven by his/her political inclination. The representative also indicated that they were worried about the proposed repeal of controls on incomes and argued that the repeal would widen the salary and benefits gap between executives and workers. In addition, he also lamented the proposed removal of service charges from the ambit of the commission/board, which would harm the economy and the general populace.

In their remarks, NIPC representatives indicated that the amendment was aimed at regularizing what was already the order of the day and to clean up the parent Act and the controls that existed in the Zimbabwe Dollar environment. The representatives further pointed out that at the moment, the NIPC was limited to monitoring, advising and researching on what was happening in terms of prices and incomes compared to other countries in the region. As such, the Act needed to reflect what was obtaining on the ground. The Committee also heard that the changes were necessary because the market economy was not perfect and the proposed changes would allow the proposed board to provide consumers with up-to-date data on food prices in different shops.

The Retailers Association of Zimbabwe representative told the Committee that the Commission and the NIPC Act had not worked and consumers were worse off because they couldn't get much from the shops. The representative welcomed the current arrangement of allowing competition and market forces to determine prices. The Committee also heard that national employment councils (NECs) were effective enough to deal with income issues. As such, the Association welcomed the proposal in the Bill limiting the Commission's role.

In her remarks, the CCZ representative Mrs. Siyachitema pointed out that the market forces were imperfect and that her organization had observed that profiteering and inflation was creeping back into the economy and competition had not translated into low prices. She acknowledged that although the Commission had played its part, her organization feared that no one would be left to regulate market forces if the NIPC were to be abolished.

Views gathered by the Committee from the public hearing would form the basis of the Committee's report and recommendations on the Bill.

Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy

The Committee heard oral evidence from the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM). The committee was seeking clarification on the unbundling exercise of NOCZIM and if any tender procedures were flouted when the Ministry of Energy and Power Development purchased fuel from NOOA, a South African Company. The Chairperson of the Committee informed the committee that the Clerk of Parliament had advised him that it was not wise for the Committee to continue its investigations into the procurement of fuel as it was now subject of a police investigation. The committee resolved that it would forge ahead with its own enquiry as it had been the first to investigate the issue and also that it had enquired into cases which were before the courts before without compromising anyone or anything.

The Acting Chief Executive Officer Ms. Mangezi informed the Committee that at its inception in 1983 the sole responsibility of NOCZIM was to procure petroleum products for the petroleum market in Zimbabwe. The policy was changed in 2004 when the market was liberalized and opened up for other players to be able to procure petroleum products. Government approved the unbundling process in 2010 and NOCZIM was split into two companies, namely; PetroTrade and National Oil Infrastructure Company. PetroTrade deals with the trading and distribution of petroleum products whereas the National Oil Infrastructure Company deals with the management and maintenance of infrastructure.

On tender procedures, Ms. Mangezi informed the Committee that the system was governed by the Procurement Act which was administered by the State Procurement Board. She further pointed out that there was a list of suppliers approved by the State Procurement Board; this was done to guard against "fly by night" operators who may dupe the state.

On the NOOA fuel deal, which has created problems for the Minister of Energy and Power Development, Ms. Mangezi informed the committee that NOCZIM had nothing to do with the procurement of fuel from the said company. She said to-date NOOA had delivered 1.4 million litres.

The Committee was also informed that since its inception to-date NOCZIM had never declared dividends to government, the sole shareholder, because it had always operated at a loss because of the subsidy policy.

On the same day, the committee also received oral evidence from the Reserve Bank Governor, Dr. Gideon Gono on the Shabani Mashava Mines (SMM) Holdings wrangle between Mr. Mutumwa Mawere and government. He said the Reserve Bank was of the view that SMM matters should be handled "administratively rather than criminally". Thus there was a need for the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Chinamasa, the SMM Administrator, Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba and Mr. Mawere to come together to the drawing board and map a way forward so as to restore the economic wellbeing of SMM Holdings. Dr. Gono also urged all the parties involved in the SMM saga to stop politicizing the issue.

Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare

The committee toured Harare Central Hospital and Beatrice Infectious Hospital jointly with the Thematic Committee on HIV/AIDS. The objective of the fact-finding visit was for Members to appreciate the state of the health institutions and its impact on health service delivery. During the tour the joint-committees made the following observations:

  • That the casualty and outpatients departments needed a facelift.
  • That the nurses' and doctors' residencies were in a deplorable state and there was need for urgent renovations. There was also need to build more staff quarters as nurses were currently sharing rooms originally meant for one person.
  • There was need for a new mortuary or the completion of the one that was initiated 10 years ago as the current one had become small and the refrigerators were dysfunctional. Corpses were rotting due to the malfunctioning of the refrigeration system.
  • Regular water outages at the institution were compromising service delivery.
  • The laundry facility was in a pathetic state as 90% of the machinery dysfunctional.

Thematic Committee on Gender and Development

The Committee received oral evidence from Varume Svinurai/Vukani Madoda, a men's forum which advocates for men's rights. The organization is advocating for the amendment of Sections 65-68 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23, which deals with rape. They submitted that Sections 65 and 66 of the said Act only recognize a rapist as a male person. In terms of this Act, when a woman rapes a man the offence is not defined as rape but aggravated indecent assault. In that sense the men's forum felt that the current position of the law was in conflict with the international call for gender equality and elimination of all forms of discrimination based on gender.

The men's forum argued that violence and sexual abuses have broken gender barriers. They pointed out that of late Zimbabwe had been reporting cases of women who had been raping men at gunpoint.

It was also submitted that there were reported cases of boys below the age of 12 years who were made to have sexual intercourse with older women or who were sexually molested by older women.

Election for Speaker

Following the invalidation by the Supreme Court of the election of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of the House of Assembly, it was expected that elections for a new Speaker would take place on Tuesday 22 March 2011 when the House resumes its business. However, indications so far are that the election may be deferred to a later date in order to allow parties to mobilize their Members to ensure that they are all available on the voting day.

Information at hand, suggests that the Attorney General Johannes Tomana has written to the Clerk of Parliament, advising that Lovemore Moyo reverts to being a Member of Parliament representing his Matobo North Constituency which he held before he was elected Speaker of the House of Assembly in August 2008. There have been conflicting legal opinions on the matter. Thus the Attorney General's legal advice to Parliament seems to have put the issue to rest.

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