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MDC-T Minister & Deputy Minister Sworn In - Bill Watch 43/2011
Veritas
October 11, 2011

The House of Assembly sat last week and continues on 11th October

The Senate resumes on 11th October after a two-week break

MDC-T Minister and Deputy Minister Sworn In

A new MDC-T Minister and Deputy Minister were sworn in by President Mugabe yesterday:

  • Mrs Lucia Matibenga, MDC-T MP for Kuwadzana, as Minister of Public Service [she fills the vacancy created by the death on 4th August of Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro]
  • Mr Seiso Moyo, MDC-T MP for Nketa, as Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development [this post has been vacant since the inclusive government was sworn in February 2009 because President Mugabe refused to swear in the original MDC-T nominee, Senator Roy Bennett. MDC-T have at last given up on what was at one point a major “sticking point” between the parties. Mr Bennett remains a Senator, but his prolonged absence from Zimbabwe and from Senate sittings means he could lose his Senate seat if Senators so resolve.]

Universal Periodic Review [UPR] on Human Rights Instruments

The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs is in Geneva to present the Government’s UPR report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Governments were so dilatory in fulfilling their reporting obligations under international human rights instruments that there is now a system under which each country comes up automatically every four years for review. [Electronic version of Government’s UPR report available from veritas@mango.zw.]

Budget Strategy Paper Launch

On 5th October Minister of Finance Tendai Biti made a Ministerial statement, enlivened by a Power Point presentation, introducing the Government’s 2012 Budget Strategy Paper [BSP] to the House of Assembly. [The BSP can be downloaded from the Ministry’s website at www.zimtreasury.org/downloads/921.pdf. It is a pdf file of approximately 1.2 MB. If you do not have Internet access please request a copy from veritas@mango.zw.] When presenting his mid-term Fiscal Policy Review on 26th July the Minister told the House the BSP would be launched in early August, so that all stakeholders would have ample time to study it and made suggestions. The budget speech in Parliament will probably be late November, so there is still time for inputs direct to the Ministry or at country-wide Ministry consultations, or at Parliamentary public hearings [see below].

In his foreword the Minister says the BSP has been developed “to underpin participatory democracy, inclusivity and ownership in policy formulation. The Budget is an important fiscal element that must belong to the people and a BSP serves to guarantee bottom-up participatory approach in budget formulation.” The BSP is therefore being made available to the public “for full participation by stakeholders in order to build consensus on the priorities that should guide the preparation of the 2012 Budget. The document should also guide Ministries and public sector institutions in the formulation of their 2012 Budget Proposals.”

Highlights Budget formulation will be guided by estimated revenue for 2012 of $3.4 billion [2011 $2.7 billion]. Of that at least $2.1 billion will have to be earmarked for the public sector wage bill, including pensions; other recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure will have to come out of the remaining $1.3 billion. The Ministry hopes to get at least $500 million from international donors, for allocation under the vote of credit to “off-Budget” projects that cannot be funded from revenue.

Role of Budget Portfolio Committee in Budget Formulation The BSP will assist the House of Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion to fulfil its responsibility under section 28(5) of the Public Finance Management Act which provides that “the Minister [of Finance] may through the appropriate portfolio committee of Parliament, seek the views of Parliament in the preparation and formulation of the national annual budget, for which purpose the appropriate portfolio committee shall conduct public hearings to elicit the opinions of as many stakeholders in the national annual budget as possible.”

Public Hearings The portfolio committee is finalising plans to hold public hearings in all ten provinces starting on 17th October [details to be announced later].

Ministry of Finance Consultative Process The Ministry of Finance is conducting its own 2012 budget consultative process, launched on 29th September.

Last Week in the House of Assembly

Bills None of the Bills that lapsed at the end of the last Session were restored to the Agenda. These include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Queries about BIPPA with Iran The Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion ran into trouble when, in a somewhat cursory fashion, he asked the House to approve a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed with Iran in 1999. MPs demanded a fuller explanation and justification of the agreement, and asked how the indigenisation policy would impact on an agreement signed long before the policy was introduced. Debate was then adjourned. [Note: There are two other BIPPAs coming up for approval – one with India, also signed in 1999, and one with Botswana signed in March 2011.]

Motions

Action on “Asiagate” soccer match-fixing scandal There being no contributions from MPs, the proposer Hon Madzimure wound up the debate and the motion was passed. As the main thrust of the motion is the appointment of a Parliamentary committee to investigate the scandal, the next step will be the setting up of the committee. Under Standing Orders its members will be appointed and given their terms of reference by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee.

General Mujuru Condolence Motion: The House approved a motion restoring this motion to the Order Paper. The motion fell away on 21st September for want of a quorum in the House. Debate took up most of the House’s time on Thursday, with appreciative contributions from all sides of the House, and will continue.

Restoration of other lapsed motions The House passed resolutions restoring the following lapsed motions to the Order Paper:

  • to present the report of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government on local government Service Delivery in Harare, Chitungwiza and Norton
  • to present the report of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy on the state of affairs at Shabani-Mashava Mines.

Question Time There was improved attendance by Ministers after a poor showing two weeks before. Issues raised included:

  • Abuse of Constituency Development Funds Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Matinenga declined to “put the record straight” regarding press reports of MPs abusing CDFs. Saying he had no control over the press, he advised aggrieved MPs to sue for defamation.
  • Withholding of birth records by hospitals The Minister of Health said he would stop hospitals insisting on payment of “user fees” before releasing birth records.
  • Retention of Revenue by Government Departments The Minister of Finance confirmed the existence of a policy allowing some Government departments to retain part of the revenues they generate for operational costs, e.g., the police can retain traffic fines they collect. As the correct constitutional position is for all revenues to be deposited into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Minister said he would be revisiting the policy with a view to reversing it.

Parliamentary Legal Committee

The PLC submitted a non-adverse report on all statutory instruments gazetted during August 2011. This means it found no inconsistencies between any of the month’s statutory instruments and the Constitution.

Coming up This Week in the House of Assembly

Bills No progress is expected on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill or the Electoral Amendment Bill. The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, who is the Minister responsible for both Bills, will be out of the country all week.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs is due to start public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill on 17th October.

Motions Items listed on the Order Paper include:

  • the General Mujuru condolence motion
  • the Third Session motions which were restored to the Order Paper last week [listed above]
  • a condolence motion on the death of the late Public Service Minister, Professor Mukonoweshuro
  • a motion calling on the Government to nationalise all diamond mining operations on the Marange Diamond Fields and secure the fields against unauthorised access by fencing
  • a motion calling for the withdrawal of the Indigenisation and Empowerment Regulations [SI 21/2010] and the indigenisation requirements for the mining industry [GN 114/2010], as being contrary to the Government’s economic revival policy and as having been made without Cabinet authority and in contravention of international agreements
  • Government motions seeking approval of international agreements, including BIPPAs with Iran, India and Botswana.

Question Time There are already 20 written questions listed; more may be added before Wednesday. Issues raised include:

  • for the Minister of Agriculture: who benefits from ARDA Silobela?
  • for the Minister of Water Resources Development and Management: what is being done about continuing water shortages in Bulawayo?
  • for the co-Ministers of Home Affairs: why are birth certificate records kept only in Harare, making them inaccessible in the provinces?
  • for the Minister of State Security: why are three named members of CIO still in full-time State employment when they hold positions on the ZANU-PF Central Committee?

Coming up This Week in the Senate

There are only two items on the agenda:

  • Motion to Restore POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper This is item 1, and Hon Gonese has said he intends to press ahead with it. ZANU-PF is expected to oppose the motion. The Bill was passed by the House of Assembly in December 2010. Senate proceedings started on 2nd August when Mr Gonese delivered his speech moving the Second Reading of the Bill. On 3rd August, after Minister Chinamasa raised objections to the Bill being debated while changes to POSA were on the agenda of the GPA negotiators, debate was adjourned. The Bill then lapsed at the end of the Third Session.
  • Motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening the session.

Expulsion from House of Assembly: Tracy Mutinhiri

Following receipt of 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, the Speaker wrote to her notifying her that her seat had become vacant. [Constitution, section 41(1)(e).] As a result party strengths in the House are as follows: ZANU-PF 96; MDC-T 97; MDC-M/N 8.

Status of Bills

Bills Passed by Parliament awaiting gazetting as Acts

Bill Awaiting Presentation

  • Older Persons Bill [gazetted 9th September] [Electronic version available from veritas@mango.zw.] The Bill is being considered by the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Government Gazette

30th September No Bills, Acts or statutory instruments were gazetted.

7th October SI 116 contains meat by-laws for Norton. SIs 117, 118 and 120 suspend customs duty for a few mining companies. SI 119 grants a rebate of customs duty on water treatment chemicals imported by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority and local authorities. [Electronic versions NOT available.]

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