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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 24 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
August 30, 2011

Introduction

In terms of Section 63 of the Constitution, the President may prorogue Parliament at any given time. Thus, it is the constitutional duty of the President to officially open each session of Parliament. The fourth session of the seventh parliament is scheduled to be officially opened by the President on 6 September 2011. In his official opening speech, the President lays the legislative framework for parliament in relation to the programmes that the Executive wishes to pursue during the session in question and outlines the expected legislation to buttress the implementation of those programmes.

Legislative Agenda

When President Mugabe officially opened the Third Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday 13 July 2010, he outlined what promised to be a busy legislative agenda for the Third Session of Parliament, judging by the 24 Bills in total which he said would be brought before Parliament during the course of the Session. They were as follows;

1. Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill
2. Electoral Amendment Bill
3. Electoral Commission Amendment Bill
4. Referendums Amendment Bill
5. Zimbabwe Income Tax Amendment Bill
6. Deposit Protection Bill
7. Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill
8. Exploration Corporation Bill
9. National Incomes and Pricing Bill
10. Energy Regulatory Bill
11. Zimbabwe Border Post Authority Bill
12. Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill
13. Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Bill
14. Environmental Management Amendment Bill
15. Zimbabwe Examinations and Qualifications Authority Bill
16. Schools Examinations Council Amendment Bill
17. Indigenous Languages Bill
18. Medical Aid Societies Bill
19. Attorney General’s Office Bill
20. Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill
21. Media Practioners Bill
22. Women’s Council Bill
23. Trafficking in Persons Bill
24. International Agreements Bill

However, of the above mentioned Bills, only seven were introduced in parliament; namely:

  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill
  • Electoral Amendment Bill
  • Deposit Protection Bill
  • National Incomes and Pricing Bill
  • Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Bill
  • Attorney General’s Office Bill
  • Energy Regulatory Bill

Further to the above-mentioned 7 Bills, parliament also received the Older Persons Bill, which at the time of the adjournment of parliament was still at the printers. Parliament also passed the Zimbabwe National Security Council Amendment Bill and the General Laws Amendment Bill. During the course of the session under review, parliament also received a private member’s bill, namely; the Public Order and Security Amendment Bill, which was introduced in the House of Assembly by Hon. Innocent Gonese (MDC-T Chief Whip). Among other issues, the Bill sought to clarify the role of police regarding the holding of public meetings. The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs conducted extensive public hearings on the Bill around the length and breadth of the country. Public views gathered at these public hearings were used to compile a report which the committee tabled in the House of Assembly, at the second reading stage of the Bill. The Bill was unanimously passed by Members in the House of Assembly and consequently transmitted to the Senate in accordance with parliamentary procedures.

The Bill was parked in the Senate for months ostensibly on the understanding that parliamentary standing rules and orders did not allow a backbencher from one House to participate in the business of the other House. This right is only reserved for members of the executive. Thus Hon. Gonese was not able to move the motion on his Bill in the Senate until just before the end of the third session when standing rules and orders were amended to allow backbenchers to debate their private Bills in either House.

The Bill could not proceed beyond the second reading stage in the Senate as Hon. Chinamasa informed the House that the matter was under consideration by political parties’ negotiators and therefore appealed to Hon. Gonese to withdraw the Bill. However, while Hon. Gonese confirmed that he had a gentleman’s agreement with Hon. Chinamasa to suspend debate on the Bill to give chance to the negotiators to come to an agreement on the matter, he refused to withdraw the Bill, rather preferring to let it lapse with the end of the session. This therefore means that he can still revive the Bill in the next session at the stage at which it had reached.

Disruption of Public Hearings on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill

Pursuant to parliamentary procedures, the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs (chaired by Hon. Douglas Mwonzora MDC-T) and the Thematic Committee on Human Rights (chaired by Senator Misheck Marava MDC-T) conducted a joint inquiry of the public views and inputs on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill. In an unprecedented move in the history of parliamentary public hearings, some rowdy political elements disrupted the hearings in Chinhoyi, Masvingo, Mutare and Parliament Building under very flimsy reasons; that the Bill was written in English language instead of Shona language.

What shocked many people more than anything, was that Parliament Building itself was not spared from the violent disruptions as the mob forced itself into the building and not only disrupted the meeting but physically assaulted the Member of Parliament for Hwange Central Constituency (MDC-T), Hon. Brian Tshuma and some independent journalists in the presence of the police and parliament security. None of the ZANU PF “demonstrators” were arrested but the police were rather keen to cancel the meeting instead of dealing with the mobsters.

In his condemnation of this incident, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Lovemore Moyo said “this act is unprecedented both in terms of its primitiveness and contempt for the authority and mandate of Parliament, as well as in its violation of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act and the related Standing Orders of Parliament”.

Electoral Amendment Bill Before the adjournment of the Parliament, the Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs resolved to conduct public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill despite disruptions on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill. It therefore remains to be seen if Parliament will facilitate safety and security measures to ensure that these public hearings are conducted in a free and peaceful environment.

The Supreme Court Ruling on Lovemore Moyo’s Election as Speaker

On 10 March 2011, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling setting aside Lovemore Moyo’s election on 25 August 2008 as the Speaker of the House of Assembly on the grounds that 6 MDC-T Members displayed their ballots before depositing them in the ballot box. Lovemore Moyo’s election was being challenged by Professor Jonathan Moyo on the basis that the election had not been conducted in accordance with the principle of secret balloting.

Lovemore Moyo (MDC-T) won the election with an unassailable result of 105 votes against 93 votes for Simon Khaya Moyo (ZANU PF). From the statistics of the election, it appeared that at least 3 ZANU PF Members voted for Lovemore Moyo.

Prime Minister’s Question Time

In its meeting on Monday 14 February 2011 the Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) agreed on the introduction of the Prime Minister’s Question Time in parliament. This would give backbenchers an opportunity to quiz the Prime Minister on government policies, programmes and executive decisions. It is anticipated that the Prime Minister’s Question Time would be broadcast live. The Prime Minister’s Question Time will be introduced in the 4th Session of Parliament, which is due for official opening by the President on 6 September 2011.

Senate Condemned Political Violence

The Senate condemned violence which gripped Harare in March this year especially the Gulf Business Complex in which shops were looted by youths under the indigenization guise. The youths said most of these shops were owned by foreigners at the expense of locals. During the same period, the suburbs of Mbare and Budiriro were engulfed by politically motivated violence where ZANU PF and MDC-T youths were engaged in violent running battles, with property worth thousands of dollars destroyed.

In introducing his motion in the House, Senator Morgan Komichi lamented what he called “police ineptitude” in quelling the aforementioned acts of violence. He said the lives of the general populace were put at “risk because of the marauding thugs” that seemed to have immunity from police arrest. Senator Komichi called upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police to professionally maintain law and order in the country and bring the culprits to book regardless of their political affiliation.

In a rare show of solidarity, the Senate unanimously condemned violence and called on the leadership of all political parties to lead by example by shunning violence in their communities.

Ratification of the Chinese Loan Agreement for the Construction of the National Defence College

MPs from both Houses were recalled from COPAC by the President on 31 May 2011 to ratify a Concessional Loan Agreement between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Export-Import Bank of China relating to the construction of the National Defence College currently underway. The Loan Agreement was concluded on the 21st of March 2011 in Harare and amounts to US$98 million, payable in 20 years with an annual interest of 2%.

Procedural matters aside, the Minister of Defence informed the House that the National Defence College was a strategic institution which will provide professional and academic courses to military officers and civilians as well up to a Master’s Degree level. He said many countries had similar institutions and thus Zimbabwe was lagging behind. Hon. Mnangagwa also explained to the House that through the construction of the Zimbabwe National Defence College, the country will realize many benefits; the major being the savings on the fiscus. He said government was currently incurring huge costs for sending senior military officers for training in other countries with similar defence colleges. The Minister further revealed to House that there were 122 senior officers or so attending training and academic courses in foreign countries at a cost of US$15 000 – $50 000 per student per year.

Members from both MDC parties were not happy with the short notice they were given to study the Loan Agreement. They felt “ambushed” by the executive so that they could just rubber-stamp the Loan Agreement without meaningful debate. Thus, they appealed to no avail to the Minister of Defence to defer debate on the Loan Agreement to a later date to allow them adequate time to study it. They pointed out to the Minister that they were not against the construction of the National Defence College per se but the manner in which the ratification process was being rushed through parliament.

Service Chiefs and Politics

The row between MDC-T and Service Chiefs spilt into the House of Assembly. MDC-T Members; Hon. Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T Mbizo Constituency) and Hon. Innocent Gonese (MDC-T Mutare Central Constituency) introduced a motion in the House condemning the unprofessional behaviour of some military officers. MDC-T MPs charged that by dabbling in politics, the military chiefs were in breach of the Constitution and the Defence Act, and therefore there was an urgent need to rein them in. They further argued that if the Service Chiefs wanted to engage in politics, they should first resign from the army and form their party or join parties of their choice.

On the other hand, ZANU PF Members tried to disassociate their party from Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba's utterances by saying that he was expressing his personal views; not the views of ZANU PF or the army. They said in that respect, he was exercising his democratic right of freedom of speech.

President Mugabe was sucked into the debate as he lashed out at MDC-T MPs for introducing the motion in the House. While addressing members of his party, he said parliament had no authority to discuss his “generals” and anybody who had problems with his “generals” should approach him because he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces.

MDC Members refused to buy this notion and pointed out that they were within their mandate as MPs to debate the behavior of the Service Chiefs. They argued that military officers were public officials whose conduct was governed by the Constitution and legislation passed by parliament. Furthermore, they were paid by government through resources appropriated by parliament.

The call for security sector reforms has divided the Global Political Agreement (GPA) partners. The two MDC formations have been vigorously pushing the agenda as part of the election road-map facilitated by SADC. ZANU PF, on the other hand, is vehemently opposed to security sector reforms under the guise that this was a regime change agenda by Western countries.

Alleged Breach of Privilege by Hon. Chinamasa and Mr. Gwaradzimba

During the presentation of the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy on the State of Affairs at Shabani-Mashava Mines (SMM) on 13th July 2011, the Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Chindori-Chininga, raised procedural issues on which he asked the Speaker to make a ruling. He stated that the Committee noted that two of the witnesses, namely, Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba and Honourable Patrick Chinamasa breached provisions of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act [CAP 2:08].

The Committee noted that Mr. Gwaradzimba was at fault for publishing a potentially defamatory statement in the Newsday on Friday 4th March 2011 thereby demeaning the proceedings and the character of the Committee. The Committee further noted that Hon. Chinamasa could have lied under oath regarding the possession of bearer share certificates that he promised to avail to the Committee but apparently failed to honour his promise.

In his ruling, the Speaker informed the House that there was no prima farcie case of breach of privilege against the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Chinamasa but rather it was the Mines Committee that failed to exhaust all laid down procedures to obtain the documents it wanted from the Minister. However, the Speaker ruled that there was a prima farcie case of breach of privilege against Mr. Gwaradzimba. Now that the 3rd Session of Parliament has come to an end, it remains to be seen whether the Mines Committee will resuscitate the matter in the 4th Session.

Contempt of parliament constitutes a serious offence which attracts a maximum custodial sentence of 12 months. There has been a precedent before. Hon. Roy Bennet (MDC-T) was sentenced by parliament for 12 months in prison.

Presentation of the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement

The Minister of Finance, Hon T. Biti (MP), presented the Mid Year Fiscal Policy Review (MYFPR) to Parliament of Zimbabwe on the 26th of July 2011. The review was presented in line with the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22; 19], Section 7, which obligates the Minister to update Parliament regularly, on the state of the economy and government accounts for transparency. The Review provided a half year account of fiscal performance (expenditure and revenues), of government, and the outlook for the remainder of 2011.

The striking thing about the 2011 MYFR was that it marked a departure from tradition that had characterized Zimbabwe’s fiscal planning landscape under an unstable macroeconomic environment, which had accounted for a graduation of this into a mini-Budget. It was purely a technical update on the budgetary performance for the year to June 30th, whilst giving direction on fiscal performance for the remainder of the year 2011. It was thus a re-focused output with no major policy proposals apart from marginal movement on revenue measures.

Promotion of Equality, National Healing, cohesion and Unity

The House of Assembly had the occasion to debate the slow pace in the implementation of national healing and transitional justice mechanisms by government as directed by Article 7 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The motion was introduced in the House by Hon. Tall Severino Chambati (MDC-T Hurungwe West) and Hon Gabriel Ndebele (MDC-T Matobo South).

Members bemoaned the apparent lack of political will by the executive in dealing with political conflicts in the country which occurred pre-independence and post independence. They argued that the Organ of National Healing and Integration and the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) had failed to address the issue of political violence in the country as evidenced by an upsurge in cases of politically motivated violence.

While Members were agreed across the political divide that there was an urgent need to stem violence and institute transitional mechanisms, they differed on which category of victims to compensate. MDC MPs tended to focus on post-independence conflict such as Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and victims of the 2008 Presidential Run-off elections. ZANU PF MPs objected strongly to this saying the country should not open healed wounds but should focus on the pre-independence conflict where the Smith Regime killed thousands of recruits in training camps in Mozambique and Zambia.

Other motions presented in the House of Assembly tackled issues regarding the structural dislocation of the economy, welfare of MPs and civil servants, political violence in the aftermath of the 2008 harmonized elections and interference in the administration of local authorities by the Minister of Local Government.

Oversight and Representational Functions

Members of Parliament, both in their individual capacities and committees they serve continued to exert pressure on the executive; calling for greater accountability and transparency in the manner government policies were formulated and implemented. They did this through question and answer session and motions in the House.

Committees also exhibited renewed zeal to tackle national issues in a very aggressive and non-partisan fashion. Thirteen Portfolio Committee Reports were tabled in the House of Assembly whereas 5 Thematic Committee reports were tabled in the Senate. Portfolio Committee Reports in the 3rd Session were;

  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology on the State of Public Media in Zimbabwe. (SC. 8, 2011)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs on the State of the prison system in Zimbabwe (S. C. 3, 2011)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy on the state of affairs at Shabani Mashava Mine (S.C. 10, 2011)
  • First Report on the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Water, lands and Resettlement on the Operations of Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, Constraints and challenges faced by Tobacco Farmers. (S.C. 7,2011)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce on the State of Industry and Revival Strategies. (S.C.4, 2011)
  • Third Report of the Portfolio Committee on National Housing and Social Amenities on the constitutionalization of housing (S.C. 1, 2011)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises on the status of SMEs in Harare (S.C 12, 2010).
  • Second Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology on the fee structure, implementation of the Cadetship Support Scheme (CSS) and provision of scholarship programme. (S.C 9, 2010)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the operations of NSSA (S.C 11, 2010)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Rural and Urban Development on the Public Hearings on the State of Service Delivery by the Municipalities of Harare, Chitungwiza and Norton. (S.C.6, 2010)
  • Second Report of the Portfolio Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals on the Supply of Water Treatment Chemicals by Chemplex Corporation to Harare City Council (SC. 13, 2010) First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development on Air Zimbabwe and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (S.C. 7, 2010)
  • First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises on the Status of SMEs in Harare (S.C 12, 2010)

Thematic Committee Reports Tabled in the 3rd Session were;

  • First Report of the Thematic Committee on Human Rights on the State of Prisons and Prisoners (S.C. 5, 2011).
  • First Report of the Thematic Committee on Millennium Development Goals on Social Protection Programmes (S.C. 9, 2011).
  • First Report of the Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS on the access to treatment
  • Second Report of the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security on the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in promoting and safeguarding peace and security in Zimbabwe
  • First Report of the Thematic Committee on Indigenization and Empowerment on the Indigenization and Empowerment Policies and Programmes (S.C.6, 2011)

Regrettably, Ministers did not respond to all the above-mentioned reports as required by parliamentary procedures. To a large extent, parliament administration is to blame for failure to ensure that Ministers responded to committee reports. In terms of Standing Order No. 168, the Business of the House Committee should specify the period within which a Minister should respond to a committee report upon presentation of the report. Previously before being amended, the Standing Order expressly stated that Ministers should respond to committee reports within 10 days upon tabling in the House. The Business of the House Committee never met in the 3rd Session to discharge this function.

Again, Ministers dodged question and answer sessions many a times during the 3rd session of parliament despite repeated appeals by the Speaker and the Leader of the House (Prime Minister). Backbenchers raised wide-ranging questions on topical policy issues and developmental challenges affecting their respective constituencies. Some questions dating as far back November 2010 remained unanswered and lapsed with the end of the 3rd session.

Forth Session

As indicated above, the 4th Session of the 7th Parliament is set to be officially opened by the President on Tuesday 6 September 2011. If elections are going to be held next year, the 4th Session is expected to be a busy one as crucial legislation such as a new Constitution, Electoral Amendment Bill and other legislation to do with the election roadmap are expected to be passed by parliament.

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