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Parliament adjourns once again - Bill Watch 40/2011
Veritas
September 26, 2011

The House of Assembly has adjourned until Tuesday 4th October

The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday 11th October

Parliament Adjourns Once Again

Why the adjournment? The justification given for the unscheduled adjournment to October is that essential Parliamentary stenographers have been diverted to COPAC for this week to assist in the completion of COPAC’s National Report on the outreach process. It is astonishing that MPs and Parliament have been inconvenienced in this way. COPAC separated its funding out from Parliament and has a lavish amount of funding both from the fiscus and from donors. It could have hired stenographers. Parliamentary running costs are considerable even when it is not sitting. These continual adjournments cost the tax payer money. Also the voters expect more of their legislators – very little Parliamentary business has been done over the past three years.

An Unproductive Parliamentary Week

Both Houses sat on the afternoons of Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd September. The Senate’s sittings were brief, dropping to only 20 minutes on Thursday. The House of Assembly put in longer hours: 2 hours 35 minutes on Tuesday, 2 hours 41 minutes on Wednesday, 1 hour 50 minutes on Thursday. The House of Assembly then adjourned for 10 days and the Senate for 17 days.

In the House of Assembly

The Minister of Industry and Commerce gave notice of a motion to restore this Bill to the Order Paper at the stage reached last Session, i.e., cleared by the Parliamentary Legal Committee and awaiting Second Reading stage.

A motion to restore this Bill was expected, but notice of such a motion from the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs has not yet been lodged.

Again, a motion to restore this Bill was expected, but notice from the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs has not yet been lodged.

Motions:

  • the debate on the motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening the Session commenced
  • a condolence motion on the death of General Solomon Mujuru was proposed and seconded, but the debate on the motion was aborted because the House was obliged to adjourn for lack of a quorum [a quorum is 25 members, and there were only 22 present]; in terms of Standing Orders the motion then lapsed. This extraordinary lack of respect for the memory of a major national figure is inexcusable – the motion was prominently on the Order Paper distributed to all MPs before the sitting, and both proposer and seconder delivered their speeches. Hon Bhasikiti, the proposer, has given notice that he will ask the House to restore the condolence motion to the Order Paper.
  • a motion seeking the appointment of a Parliamentary committee to investigate the “Asiagate” soccer match-fixing scandal was proposed and seconded, but the debated was adjourned.

Question Time:

No written questions appeared on the Order Paper. Poor attendance by Ministers marred Questions without Notice and drew adverse comment from a backbencher, Hon Kanzama of ZANU-PF. The few Ministers present included:

  • National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Mutsekwa, who answered several questions about housing problems and said cheaper innovative technologies for new housing were being considered.
  • Public Works Minister Gabbuza, who pleaded lack of funds when asked about his Ministry’s failure to maintain Government buildings.
  • Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Matinenga, who, when asked about constituency development funds [CDFs], confirmed that the Ministry of Finance had not released any money for CDFs since the beginning of 2011. He said Government income was going to higher priorities, like civil servants salaries, clinics and hospitals, leaving nothing to spare for CDFs.
  • Deputy Minister of Education Dokora, who said school curricula were undergoing a periodical review. Pleading the sub judice rule, he declined to be drawn on the effect on Anglican Church schools of recent evictions from Anglican Church property at the behest of the breakaway Kunonga element.

In the Senate

Mr Gonese gave notice of a motion to restore his Private Member’s Public Order and Security Amendment Bill to the Senate’s agenda at the stage reached in the last Session.

Motion: Senators started debating the traditional motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening the present Session on 6th September.

On the House of Assembly Agenda for 4th October

Bills: National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill

International Agreements: The Minister of Industry and Commerce has given notice of his intention to seek approval of several international agreements signed by Zimbabwe:

  • 2009 Interim Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Eastern and Southern Africa
  • International Coffee Agreement of 2007
  • Second Revised Cotonou Agreement between the EU and ACP States
  • Trade Agreement with Kuwait.

Motions: Motions awaiting debate include:

  • Condolence motion on death of late Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro
  • ·Motions to restore uncompleted Third Session motions to the Order Paper, on [1] unconstitutional statements by Service Chiefs, [2] the Mines and Energy Portfolio Committee’s report on Shabani-Mashava Mines, [3] the Local Government Portfolio Committee’s report on local authority service delivery in Harare, Chitungwiza and Norton
  • Motion to restore General Mujuru condolence motion to the Order Paper following last week’s lapsing for want of a quorum.

Ministers’ Question Time - Wednesday Thirteen Questions with Notice are listed, including:

  • for the Minister of Finance, questions on soiled bank notes; exploitation of bank customers by high charges and low interest rates; retailers’ practice of giving change in kind instead of coins
  • for the Minister of State Security, to explain the full-time employment in the Central Intelligence Organisation of three named individuals who are members of ZANU-PF’s Central Committee
  • for the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, to explain the absence of a Diamond Mining Law and the secrecy surrounding the mining companies operating in the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

On the Senate Agenda for 11th October

There are only two items: the debate on the President’s speech, and Mr Gonese’s motion to restore his POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper. Whether the POSA motion will be passed is uncertain, given the unenthusiastic reception accorded to Mr Gonese’s Second Reading speech on 2nd August and Minister Chinamasa’s unsuccessful efforts the following day to get Mr Gonese to withdraw his Bill on the basis, since disputed by MDC-T, that continued discussion might prejudice the ongoing GPA negotiations.

Prime Minister’s Question Time

This was to have been inaugurated in both Houses on 29th September but will not now take place because of the adjournment of both Houses. It is not on the Order Paper so far for either House when they reconvene.

Pending Expulsion from House or Assembly: Tracy Mutinhiri

Parliament has received written notice from ZANU-PF that as a result of Dr Mutinhiri’s expulsion from the party she no longer represents its interests in Parliament. This means automatic forfeiture of her seat. The Speaker made no announcement to the House last week. When the Speaker confirms the vacancy, he is likely to do so with effect from the date he received the party’s notice; that is what was done in 2009 when the then MDC-M disowned three expelled MPs.

Status of Bills

Bills Passed by Parliament awaiting gazetting as Acts

Bill Awaiting Presentation

  • Older Persons Bill [gazetted 9th September]

Update on Legislation

Energy Regulatory Authority Act brought into force SI 111A/2011 brought the Energy Regulatory Authority Act (Act 3/2011) into force on 22nd September.

Statutory Instruments [electronic versions NOT available]

The Government Gazette of 23rd September contained four SIs applicable to Bulawayo only: shop licence fees [SI 112], dog licensing fees [SI 113], supplementary charges [SI 114] and rents [SI 115].

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