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Opening of Fourth Session of Parliament - Bill Watch 36/2011
Veritas
September 09, 2011

The President opened the Fourth Session of Parliament on Tuesday 6th September

Both Houses adjourned until 20th September

Opening of New Session

At midday on 6th September the President opened the Fourth Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe at a gathering of legislators and invited guests in the chamber of the House of Assembly. As is customary, both Houses adjourned after the opening for two weeks to allow MPs to study the President’s speech and prepare for the debate on the traditional motion of thanks to the President for his speech. [Note: in the normal life of a Parliament there are five Sessions. If there are no early elections this Session will end about this time next year and the Fifth Session will run into 2013. According to the Constitution, under the harmonised election system the 5-year life of this Parliament started on the date the President was sworn in, 29th June 2008. If there are no early elections before 29th June 2013 Parliament must be dissolved on that date. The maximum gap after Parliament is dissolved before the next elections is four months, so harmonised elections must take place before 29th October.2013.]

Violence outside Parliament during Ceremonies Undermines President’s Call for Reconciliation

There was violent, rowdy behaviour outside Parliament while the crowd waited for the President’s arrival and during the ensuing ceremonies. Youths chanted ZANU-PF campaign songs with anti-Tsvangirai content and assaulted a police officer, a journalist and bystanders. Inside Parliament the President’s speech to legislators and assembled dignitaries included an exhortation to MPs to preach the message of national healing and reconciliation and a call to say NO to violence in all its manifestations [see below].

The President’s Speech

In his 35-minute speech President Mugabe covered various topics, including the Bills the Government intends to present during the Session and other Bills being prepared. [Electronic version of full text of speech available.] Selected extracts and highlights are:

GPA, Elections Roadmap, Constitution-making Process and Next Elections

“Significant progress has continued to be made in respect of issues germane to the Global Political Agreement. The Parties to the GPA have now agreed on key milestones and timelines in preparation for the holding of national elections......The Constitution-making process, which should see us emerge with a people-driven Constitution, is now heading for the Drafting Stage. As part of preparations for the elections to be held thereafter, the Referendum Bill, together with the amendments to the Electoral Act agreed to by the negotiating teams from the three political parties in the Global Political Agreement and adopted by Cabinet, will be tabled before this Parliament.”

National Healing

“As we forge ahead, let us continue to exert our energy in fostering unity, peace, development and equality of opportunity for all our people. Rather than amplify our differences, let us find strength in diversity, guided by the firm conviction that we are the sole guardians of our independence and sovereignty. I, therefore, wish to urge you as Members of Parliament and leaders in your own right, to preach the message of national healing and reconciliation amongst our people. Let us, therefore, in unison, say NO! to violence in all its manifestations.”

Indigenisation

“Government looks forward to full cooperation by all relevant corporate stakeholders in order to achieve win-win outcomes. I wish to assure investors that their investments in the country remain safe and to urge them to maintain compliance with the country's laws.”

Land Reform

Land Audit “The draft implementation framework and terms of reference for the National Land Audit Commission already crafted will be subjected to further refinement and necessary approval processes, following which the Audit shall commence.”

Collateral Value for 99-year leases and resettlement permits “99-year leases are being reviewed with a view to according them collateral value. This should enable A2 farmers to secure funding for their operations using the lease document. A similar process is also underway with regard to the A1 land resettlement permit.”

Juvenile Criminal Offenders & Prisons “Government is mobilising resources for a pilot project under which juvenile offenders for non-serious offences can be diverted from the criminal justice system and dealt with less formally. Serious consideration is being given to the possibility of introducing an open prison system for all local female offenders.”

Bills to be presented this Session

  • Referendums Bill
  • Electoral Amendment Bill
  • Zimbabwe Investment Authority Amendment Bill to give legal effect to the One-Stop-Shop Investment Centre
  • Income Tax Amendment Bill
  • Micro-finance Bill
  • Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Restructuring Bill
  • A Bill to coordinate the activities of registered organisations promoting the rights of women
  • Public Health Act Amendment Bill
  • Food Control Bill, to establish a Food Control Authority to ensure that food products are safe for human consumption
  • Land Developers Bill, to streamline the roles of players in the construction sector
  • Older Persons Bill
  • Civil Aviation Authority Bill, to split the CAAZ into a Regulator and an Operator
  • Railways Bill, to restructure the railways sector to establish a Railways Regulatory Authority, create an Infrastructure Company for the railways and a Railways Operation Company.
  • State Enterprises Restructuring Agency Bill

Noteworthy omissions

Bills to enhance freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly, e.g. to amend/repeal the Access to Information and Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act, the Criminal Law Code and the Broadcasting Services Act, were not listed.

Neither was there a mention of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, which has featured on the Government’s lists of Bills in previous sessions but has never been gazetted.

Government will be Working on

  • Diamond Mining Policy and a Diamond Bill, to provide the necessary framework for the efficient and effective operation of this promising sub-sector.
  • Securities Amendment Bill – the Securities Act is to be reviewed to strengthen the regulatory framework for the financial sector
  • Border Posts Infrastructure – Government is also working on legislation to create an authority that will provide and maintain physical infrastructure at all Zimbabwe’s border posts.

International Conventions to be Presented for Parliamentary approval

  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • (AU) Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa
  • Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children. [The President said Government wishes to domesticate this protocol, i.e., incorporate it into Zimbabwean law by Act of Parliament.]
  • Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area Treaty
  • Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area Treaty
  • Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area Treaty
  • Revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses
  • Statutes of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

Portfolio Committees and Thematic Committees for the New Session

After the opening ceremony both Houses met separately for a few minutes. In the House of Assembly the Speaker announced that the Portfolio Committees of the last Session would be retained until new appointments are made by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders. In the Senate, the President of the Senate made a similar announcement about the Senate’s Thematic Committees. In fact, it has become customary to maintain committee membership from one session to the next during the life of a Parliament, with occasional modifications to allow for changes in MPs’ commitments and in the membership of the House.

Next week committees will hold their inaugural meetings to draw up their work-plans for the Session. None of these meetings will be open to the public.

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