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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 14 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
April 05, 2011

Introduction

Parliament set for the first time yesterday after the tension-filled sitting last week in which Lovemore Moyo (MDC-T) was re-elected Speaker of the House of Assembly, beating his rival Simon Khaya Moyo (ZANU PF) by 105 votes to 93 votes. The House considered two Bills, namely; General Laws Amendment Bill (H.B. 8, 2010) and Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill (H.B. 9, 2010).

General Laws Amendment Bill

The Bill seeks to amend several Acts of Parliament in an omnibus fashion as stated below. In his second reading speech, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs said the amendments were precipitated by the need "to correct errors that have been noted in the existing legislation since the enactment of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2005 (Act No. 6 of 2005)." He further stated that the Amendment also sought "to make minor amendments that may not warrant the introduction of a separate Bill for each enactment. The nature of the amendments is basically to correct errors, address administrative issues and to bring consistencies in statutes affected by other amendments."

1. The Administrative Court Act (Chapter 7:01)
2. The Judicial Service Act (Chapter 7:18)
3. The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07)
4. The Ombudsman's Act. (Chapter 10:18)
5. Police Act (Chapter 11:10)
6. The Civil Aviation Act (Chapter 13:16)
7. The Indigenization Act (Chapter 14:33)
8. The Health Services Act (Chapter 15:16)
9. Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14)
10. The Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27)
11. The Procurement Act (Chapter 22:14)
12. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act (Chapter 22:15)
13. Printed Publications Act (Chapter 25:14)
14. The Labour Act (Chapter 28:01)
15. The Rural District Councils Act (Chapter 29:15)
16. Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15)

Of major concern to the House was the proposed amendment of the Rural Districts Councils Act and the Urban Councils Act with respect to the procurement procedures for the local authorities. The amendment seeks to centralize the procurement processes in local authorities, such that they will be handled by the State Procurement Board as provided for in the Procurement Act.

The Chairperson of the Local Government Portfolio Committee, Hon. Lynette Karenyi objected to the proposed amendment as she argued that the move was a step backwards. She observed that the centralization of procurement processes for local authorities would compromise the quick procurement of goods, promotion of local shops, companies and entrepreneurs and the independence of urban councils. Hon. Karenyi also said that stakeholders who made representations before her committee noted that the proposed amendment would result in;

  • Centralization
  • Increased relocation and closure of factories
  • Loss of jobs and shifted employment opportunities
  • Prolonged delays in service delivery
  • Corruption
  • Absence of accountability

Stakeholders were also concerned whether the State Procurement Board would have capacity to deal with emergencies in all the 91 local authorities in the country. Hon. Karenyi further noted that the proposed amendment was against the spirit of decentralization and devolution of power to local authorities. She also argued that "there can never be correlation between centralization and efficiency" and thus centralizing the procurement process would have ripple effects in the whole local government procurement system in Zimbabwe.

The Chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Douglas Mwonzora presented his committee's report on some clauses of the General Laws Amendment Bill. The major highlight of his report was in respect to Clause 16 of the Bill, which seeks to amend the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act [Cap 26:05] by making the following public documents or information copyrightable;

(a) official texts of enactments;
(b) official texts of Bills prepared for presentation in Parliament;
(c) official records of judicial proceedings and decisions;
(d) notices, advertisements and other material published in the Gazette;
(e) applications, specifications and other matters published in the Patent and Trade Marks Journal referred to in section 95 of the Patents Act [Chapter 26:03];
(f) official texts of international conventions, treaties and agreements to which Zimbabwe is a party;
(g) entries in, and documents that form part of, any register which is kept in terms of an enactment and is open to public inspection;
(h) such other documents of a public nature as may be prescribed

Hon. Mwonzora observed that this would violate the BEN Geneva Convention which stipulates every citizen has the right to free access to all the laws and statutes of that country. He also noted that the proposed amendment was in violation of Section 20(1) of the Constitution, which provides as follows;

Except with his own consent or by way of parental discipline, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference….

After listening to arguments by Hon. Karenyi and Hon. Mwonzora, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Chinamasa conceded to the House that the arguments they were advancing made a lot of sense and therefore agreed to withdraw proposed amendments with respect to the procurement process in local authorities and the amendment to the Copyright Act. He said the issue of the procurement process was better dealt with in a separate legislation and would therefore advise the Ministers of Finance and Local Government accordingly.

The concession by Hon. Chinamasa demonstrated what portfolio committees can achieve in terms of their legislative scrutiny role.

Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill (H.B. 9, 2010)

The House of Assembly passed the Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill (H.B. 9, 2010) yesterday. The Bill has been transmitted to the Senate.

Adjournment of the House

The House adjourned to Wednesday 6 April 2011. On Wednesdays, the business of the House of Assembly is dominated by backbenchers business.

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