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Parliamentary Update - Bill Watch 28/2011
Veritas
July 12, 2011

Both Houses of Parliament will meet on Tuesday 12th July

Electoral Amendment Bill

The Bill was gazetted on 27th June. As 14 days have passed since it was gazetted, the Bill could be presented to Parliament this week for its First Reading. This is when the Minister responsible for a Bill – in this case Minister Chinamasa, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs – merely presents the Bill to the House, but there are no explanations or debate. It is then referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]. The PLC has up to 26 business days within which to report on its constitutionality – although the Minister could request that they expedite their report. It is to be hoped that Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs will arrange public hearings on the Bill, but nothing has been organized to date.

Roadmap to Elections

The GPA negotiators met last week and on Wednesday they signed a document assigning tentative dates for those parts of the Roadmap on which agreement had been reached previously. Disputed parts of the Roadmap, such as security sector reforms, remain unresolved and without timeframes. The new document has not been made public but individual negotiators have revealed that the timeframe envisages the Referendum on the new Constitution being held in November and the next elections in August 2012. But the negotiators also warned that everything hinges on the constitution-making process moving smoothly to its conclusion, which is far from certain.

Medium Term Plan

On Thursday 7th July the Government launched its Medium Term Plan [MTP], the successor to the Short-Term Economic Recovery Programme [STERP]. The MTP sets out the blueprint for economic growth from 2011 through to 2015.

Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] on Indigenisation Regulations

Regulations Amending the Main Indigenisation Regulations [SI 34/2011]

The PLC’s adverse report on this SI has not yet been discussed in either House [for details of the adverse report see Bill Watch 26 of 30th June]. The report may fall away entirely, because the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment has informed the PLC that he will amend the statutory instrument to align it with the committee’s report and the PLC has said it will withdraw the adverse report once acceptable amendments are gazetted.

Rules for the Indigenisation of the Mining Sector [GN 144/2011] The PLC has not reported on this General Notice, which was gazetted on the same day as SI 34/2011. An adverse report had been expected, after leading lawyers criticized the GN as not only inconsistent with the Constitution but also ultra vires the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. [Note: Notwithstanding its gazetting as a General Notice rather than a Statutory Instrument, GN 144 is a statutory instrument as defined in the Constitution; so it should have been considered by the PLC. But, in terms of Standing Orders any report on the GN should have been presented by the end of April, so it is now too late for the PLC to present a report, unless the Speaker and the President of the Senate grant an extension. Even if no PLC report is presented, interested parties can still, of course, challenge the constitutionality and legality of GN in the courts.]

In Parliament Last Week

House of Assembly

The House of Assembly did not sit last week. [It last sat on 15th June.]

Senate

57 Senators, out of a current complement of 88, were present at the Senate’s sitting on Tuesday 5th July and the Prime Minister was also in attendance. The sitting lasted a mere forty minutes before adjourning to this week. The debate on the President’s speech was concluded and the vote of thanks to the President was passed. No other business was conducted – no start was made on the three Bills listed on the Order Paper for Second Reading. The Bills were carried forward to this week as were other items listed for debate – including matters that are of high importance, such as the debate on violence in Mbare and Budiriro, the Senate Thematic Committee report on access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, and the Senate Thematic Committee report on the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in peace and security. The Prime Minister was scathing about this lack of commitment to business shown by the Senate.

Coming up in Parliament this Week

Senate

Bills

There are three Bills on the Order Paper :

All three Bills have already been passed by the House of Assembly, and all of them await their Second Reading in the Senate. The POSA Amendment Bill cannot, however, be dealt with until next week, by which time the Senate’s Standing Orders are likely to have been amended to allow Mr Gonese or any other member of the House of Assembly to present a Private Member’s Bill in the Senate, something not permitted at present.

International Agreements

The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management will present nine international agreements for approval by the Senate, all of them already approved by the House of Assembly:

  • Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
  • Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent
  • AEWA Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasia Migratory Waterbirds
  • SADC Protocol on Fisheries
  • Montreal and Beijing Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
  • Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species
  • Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
  • SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement.

Committee Reports for the Senate:

The Senate will be asked to take note of Thematic Committee reports on Social Protection Programmes and on the State of Prisons and Prisoners.

Motions:

Debate will continue on motions previously introduced, on subjects such as sanctions; the achievements of the inclusive government; violence in Mbare, Budiriro and surrounding areas; and earlier Thematic Committee reports – the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in peace and security and the report on access to treatment for HIV/AIDS.

House of Assembly

Bills

Two Bills are listed on the Order Paper :

  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill – due to be presented by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs on Tuesday 12th July. Presentation will be followed by the First Reading of the Bill, after which it will be referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for a report on the Bill’s constitutionality. Under Standing Orders the PLC has 26 “business days” within which to report back to the House, but can be granted an extension by the Speaker. The House cannot proceed to the Second Reading stage of the Bill until the PLC has reported, so further progress is likely to be delayed until well into August. [Note: A “business day” is any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday that is not a public holiday.] Public hearings are likely to be held by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs in the week commencing 18th July.
  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill – awaiting Second Reading

Motions on the Order Paper include a motion for consideration of the PLC’s adverse report on the Indigenisation Amendment Regulations [SI 34/2011] [this is unlikely to be dealt with – see above]; take note motions on Portfolio Committee reports; and motions on Public Service remuneration and on complaints of arbitrary interference with local authorities by the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development.

Questions

38 written questions are listed for reply by Ministers on Wednesday afternoon. It is to be hoped that this time Ministers will be in attendance to deal with these questions. At the last Question Time on 15th June no written questions were answered because none of the Ministers concerned turned up. [The Prime Minister last week said he will ensure that all Ministers are present for Question Time.]

Government Gazette

The Gazette of Friday 8th July contains local authority by-laws and the latest consolidated Government financial statements. [Electronic versions NOT available.]

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