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Parliament adjourns for end of session - Bill Watch 32/2011
Veritas
August 11, 2011

Both Houses of Parliament have adjourned until Tuesday 30th August

Before then it is likely that the President will have ended the present session and opened a new session - the 4th session of the 7th Parliament

End of Parliamentary Session

Both Houses met over the past two weeks. After that the Senate adjourned on Wednesday 3rd August and the House on Thursday 4th August. Although both Houses adjourned until Tuesday 30th August, it is likely that the President will before then declare this Session of Parliament over and announce the opening date for the next [the Fourth Session of this - the Seventh Parliament]. The legal instrument formally ending the present session will be a Presidential proclamation in the Government Gazette that will prorogue Parliament [suspend its sittings] and name the date for the opening of the new Session. [It is expected that this will be Tuesday 23rd August.] The new Session will commence with the traditional ceremonies and the delivery of the President’s Speech outlining the Government’s legislative and other intentions for the coming year.

Effect of the end of Session: At the end of a Session, all pending Bills and motions, and uncompleted portfolio and thematic committee proceedings, lapse. Standing Orders, however, allow for lapsed Bills and motions to be restored to the Order Paper and for the committees appointed for a new session to adopt the uncompleted work of their predecessors - and this is what usually happens. [Note: The work of the Parliamentary Legal Committee is not affected by the ending of a Session because it is a permanent committee, appointed for the life of a particular Parliament. Its adverse reports do not lapse at the end of a Session, so current adverse reports must be followed up - see Bill Watch 31/2011 of 6th August for adverse reports awaiting debate.]

Bills due to lapse

Bills that will lapse at the end of the Session because they had not been passed by at close of business on 4th August are the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, the Electoral Amendment Bill and the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill and the Public Order and Security [POSA] Amendment Bill. All these are on the House of Assembly Order Paper and will probably be restored in the new Session. The POSA Amendment Bill on the Senate Order Paper will also lapse, but as it is now to be discussed in the GPA negotiations it is doubtful if it will make it back next Session.

Motions due to lapse Motions still being debated, that will lapse at the end of the Session, include: “take note” motions on a number of Portfolio Committee reports [on the public media, prisons, Shabani-Mashava mines, revival of industry, and “constitutionalisation” of housing]; Hon Chikwinya’s motion on unconstitutional statements by Service chiefs; Hon Musundire’s motion on arbitrary interference in local authorities by the Ministry of Local Government; and Hon Mare’s motion on conditions of service for civil servants. [Comment: This failure to complete debate on motions suggests inefficient use of available Parliamentary time. The House seldom sat until 7 pm although Standing Orders envisage sittings lasting from 2.15 pm to 7 pm.]

In the House of Assembly

Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review and Finance Bill

The Minister of Finance presented his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review on 26th July. There were no amended Estimates of Expenditure, but the Minister did present a short Finance Bill to give effect to some of the fiscal measures he had announced in the Review. [Electronic version of Bill available.] The Bill was passed by the House of Assembly without amendment on Tuesday 2nd August and sent to the Senate. Adjustments to customs duty mentioned in the Review were processed by statutory instruments gazetted on 29th July [see under Statutory Instruments, below]. The Minister also mentioned various forthcoming Bills being planned by his Ministry: a Bill for a brand-new Income Tax Act [perhaps before the end of the year]; a Microfinance Bill; a Bill on the Reserve Bank’s debt [also before the end of the year]; and possible amendments to the Securities Act, Insurance Act and Pensions and Provident Funds Act to strengthen regulatory functions across the whole financial spectrum.

Other Bills

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill - this Bill, awaiting the Second Reading debate, was not dealt with before the adjournment. The responsible Minister is the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and Electoral Amendment Bill are still under consideration by the PLC. The responsible Minister for both is the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

Motions

National Healing Select Committee: Proposed On 27th July Hon Chambati of MDC-T presented a motion expressing concern that two and a half years into the GPA no programme or framework for national healing is in place and accordingly calling for the three GPA political parties to comply with GPA Article 7(1)(c) on national healing by appointing a Parliamentary Select Committee to work with experts in crafting measures and policies dealing with issues of transitional justice and national healing and to forward its report to the political parties and the Executive. [Article 7(1)(c) requires the political parties to give consideration to the setting-up of a mechanism to properly advise on measures to achieve national healing, cohesion and unity in respect of victims of pre- and post-independence political conflicts. The Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, whose work programme was launched with much fanfare in August 2009, is the advisory mechanism the parties agreed on, but it has not yet produced results.] After a spirited debate in which 27 MPs from all parties took part, some commenting on the lack of capacity afflicting the Organ on National Healing, some on the Organ’s failure to bring a policy on national healing to Parliament, some calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the motion to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee was approved on 4th August

Controversial Statements by Service Chiefs: This motion had been removed from the Order Paper at an earlier sitting when it failed to attract a quorum [25 members]. On 27th July it was restored to the Order Paper but there was no further debate. It can be resuscitated in the next Session. [The subject also featured in Question Time - see below].

Question Time - 27 July

On Statements by Brigadier-General Nyikayaramba: Minister of Defence Mnangagwa told a questioner that members of the Defence Forces have the constitutional right to express themselves, but said Brigadier-General Nyikayaramba was not representing the Defence Forces when he made the statements complained of.

Saluting by Defence Force Commanders: The Minister of Defence told the House that military tradition demands saluting only within the chain of command, which is topped by the President as Commander-in-Chief. He avoided explaining why the Commanders in practice also salute Vice-Presidents, some Ministers [including himself] and some MPs, none of whom are in the “chain of command”.

Diamond Sales: The Deputy Minister of Mines furnished details of Zimbabwe’s diamond production, and of the proceeds remitted to the Ministry of Finance from Chiadzwa diamond sales in 2010 and January and February 2011 [dividends: $90 090 484 million; royalties and taxes: $84 122 471 million; Total: $174 212 955].

Question Time - 3 August

Progress on Indigenisation Asked how many companies have complied with the indigenisation laws, the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment did not give that information but said “nobody to date has benefited from the process”; when anyone had benefited, that would be published in the press. He said indigenisation was “a process not an event”.

In the Senate

Bills

This was passed without amendments on 2nd August. It will now go the President for assent and subsequent gazetting as an Act.

  • Finance Bill

This was passed on 3rd August without amendments, having been approved by the House of Assembly, also without amendments, the day before. It will also go to the President for assent and subsequent gazetting as an Act.

  • Public Order and Security [POSA] Amendment Bill

The Second Reading debate was adjourned after Mr Gonese’s Second Reading speech.

International Agreements

On 26th July nine agreements, all presented by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management and all previously approved by the House of Assembly, were approved by the Senate in terms of section 111B of the Constitution, which requires international agreements to be approved by both Houses of Parliament:

  • 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

Motions

The Senate continued discussing Senator Komichi’s motion on violence in Harare suburbs earlier this year; the debate had not been wound up by the adjournment on 3rd August.

Statutory Instruments

  • SI 84/2011 - Amendment No. 4 to the Indigenisation Regulations [SI 21/2010] [see Bill Watch 31/2011 for details] [Electronic version of SI available.]
  • SI 88/2011 - commencement date for Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Act - 29th July.
  • SIs 85, 86 and 87 - instruments under the Customs and Excise Act adjusting customs duties following the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review [electronic versions not available].

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