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High Court orders holding of 3 Matabeleland by-elections - Bill Watch 44/2011
Veritas
October 17, 2011

Both Houses of Parliament have adjourned until Tuesday 25th October

Bulawayo High Court Orders By-Elections

In a judgment handed down on 13th October Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Ndou has ordered President Mugabe to announce within 14 days dates for the holding of by-elections in the House of Assembly constituencies of Lupane East, Nkayi South and Bulilima East. The 14 days will start running when the order is delivered to the President’s office. The last time the High Court ordered the holding of overdue by-elections was in 2008 after the deaths of candidates caused the cancellation of polling in three constituencies in the March general election. The Government complied with the court order and the by-elections were held on the same day as the Presidential run-off election at the end of June 2008.

So far there has been no official comment; the responsible Minister – the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa – only returns to his office today after presenting Zimbabwe’s Universal Periodic Review report on human rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council last week. [If the Government were to appeal to the Supreme Court, it would be unlikely to succeed, so an appeal would be little more than a delaying tactic.]

The House of Assembly seats for these constituencies have been vacant since August 2009, when MDC-M notified the Speaker that the sitting MPs had been expelled from the party and no longer represented its interests in Parliament. The MPs concerned – Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu – then automatically lost their seats in terms of section 41(1)(e) of the Constitution.

Reminder: Under Article 21 of the GPA the three GPA parties agreed that for one year they would not contest by-elections against each other, but would leave the party that formerly held a vacant seat to field a candidate unopposed by the other two parties. The one-year pact was later extended by agreement of the party principals. But this did not change the Constitution, which entitles voters in constituencies to have their representatives in Parliament, or the Electoral Act, which requires the prompt holding of by-elections.

The High Court’s order has wide implications. These are not the only vacant Parliamentary seats. Vacancies have been occurring since July 2008 and no by-elections have been called. There are now 18 vacant seats in the House of Assembly and Senate. Calling by-elections is the duty of the President, not the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and the Electoral Act says the President must call a by-election within 14 days of a vacancy being officially notified to his office.

UN Periodic Review [UPR] of Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Performance

The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs presented the Government’s UPR report at a meeting of the working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council [HRC] on Monday 10th October. For those with appropriate Internet access video footage of the entire 4-hour proceedings can be viewed at www.unmultimedia.org /tv/webcast /2011/10/upr-report-of-zimbabwe-12th-universal-periodic-review.html. The Minister blamed shortcomings in the country’s human rights record on “illegal” international sanctions. In accordance with HRC rules, the views of other stakeholders [Zimbabwean and international human rights organisations] were presented and these are summarised in a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] in a report in which many of the assertions in the Government report are challenged and a rather different picture of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe presented. The OHCHR also produced a compilation of the information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, including observations and comments by Zimbabwe, and other relevant official United Nations documents. Electronic versions of the Government report and the two OHCHR documents are available from veritas@mango.zw Out of 177 recommendations to improve the country’s human rights situation the Minister rejected 67 [including the scrapping of POSA and AIPPA and “security sector reform”]; will respond to 31 at the HRC’s next session in 2012; and accepted the remainder. Of those accepted, many were “soft options” to respect economic, social and cultural rights given adequate resources, and unlikely to halt the many serious human rights violations in Zimbabwe. But it is promising that the Minister undertook that the Government would work with civil society in the human rights field.

Zimbabwe Near Bottom on 2011 Ibrahim Index of African Governance

Once again, repeating the 2010 rankings, Zimbabwe is ranked near the bottom of the just-released 2011 Ibrahim Index of African Governance:

  • 51st out of the 53 African countries [the Index is based on data from 2010, so it excludes the newly independent South Sudan]
  • 12th out of their grouping of 12 Southern African countries.

Only Chad [No. 52] and Somalia [No. 53] have lower rankings. Just above Zimbabwe are the Central African Republic [No. 50] and the DRC [No. 51]. The top five places are held by Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles and South Africa. Although Zimbabwe has done reasonably well on Infrastructure [15th position, scoring 37 out of 100, against an African average of 31] and Education [24th position, scoring 49 against the average 51], it is way down the list for Participation and Human Rights [47th position, scoring 27 against the average 45]; Safety and Rule of Law [51st position, scoring 28 against the average 53]; Business Environment [52nd position, scoring 9 against the average 50]. Full data on this year’s Index rankings can be found at www.moibrahimfoundation.org.

Pre-Budget Seminar for Parliamentarians

The Pre-Budget Seminar for all MPs will be held at the Elephant Hills complex, Victoria Falls, from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday 5th November.

Portfolio Committee Public Hearings This Week

Bill Watch - Parliamentary Committee Series bulletins dated 12th and 14th October have given details of this weeks countrywide public hearings on:

Last Week in the House of Assembly

The House sat on 11th and 12th October, and for 14 minutes on 13th October.

Bills

As expected, no steps were taken to restore the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill or the Electoral Amendment Bill to the Order Paper. This was because the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, who is responsible for both Bills, was out of the country all week on official duty in Geneva. The other Bill waiting to be restored is the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill; a motion to restore it has been put down by the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

BIPPAS approved without debate or objections, the House approved Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements with Botswana, India. There was no further queries about the BIPPA with Iran, despite MPs’ complaints the previous week that the Minister had not laid a sufficient basis for its approval. The agreements were then transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

Motions

There was progress on:

  • the General Mujuru condolence motion - One MP suggested that public lack of confidence in the police force necessitates the appointment of independent investigators into the circumstances of his tragic death.
  • the motion calling for the withdrawal of the Indigenisation and Empowerment Regulations [SI 21/2010] and the indigenisation requirements for the mining industry [GN 114/2011] and their replacement by revised versions addressing broad-based programmes - MDC-T MP Alexio Musundire proposed the motion in a short speech stressing the conflict between the regulations and the Government’s economic revival policy, and calling for new regulations that would create an atmosphere for economic revival and foreign direct investment and would allow ordinary Zimbabweans rather than an elite clique of already rich people to enjoy the benefits.

Question Time

Issues raised on Wednesday 12th October included:

Effect of indigenisation policy on foreign investment - the Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion acknowledged that investors are concerned about the investment law, with the result that implementation of by the Zimbabwe Investment Centre is affected by a “wait and see” attitude on the part of investors. But the Minister also said that the 51% indigenisation requirement is flexible enough to permit a lesser investments approved percentage to be negotiated in special cases. [This seems contradicted by Zimbabwe’s next-to-bottom ranking for “Business Environment” in the Ibrahim Index.]

Chiadzwa diamond mining - The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development explained that the law governing diamond mining is presently set out in the Mines and Minerals Act and Precious Stones Trade Act, but that the Attorney-General’s Office is engaged in drafting a Bill for a separate Diamonds Act.

Last Week in the Senate

The Senate sat on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th October, then adjourned till the 25th October.

Motion to Restore POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper Hon Gonese spoke in support of his motion to restore this lapsed Bill to the Order Paper. ZANU-PF Senators spoke in opposition, referring to Minister Chinamasa’s assertion last session that the Bill should not be further debated because POSA is being considered by the GPA party principals. Eventually Mr Gonese moved the adjournment of the debate until Minister Chinamasa could be present to explain the position further.

Motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening the session. There were brief contributions to this ongoing debate.

Looking Ahead to the Sittings Starting on 25th October

As Parliament will not be sitting this week - or, because of the Victoria Falls Pre-Budget Seminar from 2nd to 5th November, during the week after next - the three or four sitting days from 25th October are likely to be busy. The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs can be expected to push for his Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and Electoral Amendment Bill to be restored to the Order Paper and taken through both Houses during the week.

Status of Bills [no changes]

Bills Passed by Parliament awaiting gazetting as Acts

  • Deposit Protection Corporation Bill
  • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill
  • Bill Awaiting Presentation
  • Older Persons Bill [gazetted 9th September] [Electronic version available from veritas@mango.zw.]

Government Gazette 14th October

No Bills, Acts or statutory instruments were gazetted.

The Government’s Consolidated Statement of Financial Performance for the month of July 2011 was included in this Gazette.

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