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Summary of the last (third) parliamentary session - Bill Watch 46/2011
Veritas
October 29, 2011

Summary of the Last Parliamentary Session

A Longer than Usual Session

The last Parliamentary session - the Third Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe - started on 13th July 2010 and ended just under 14 months later, on 5th September 2011. The Constitution does not specify the length of a Parliamentary session nor does it fix starting or ending dates; these dates are fixed by the President by proclamation published in the Government Gazette. But the Constitution states there must be a new session in every calendar year and that the gap between the last sitting in one session and the first sitting in the next must not be more than 180 days. In practice such a gap is unheard of.

Number of Sitting Days

During the session:

  • the House of Assembly sat on 48 occasions
  • the Senate sat on 33 occasions

Sittings are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, commencing at 2.15 pm for the House of Assembly and 2.30 for the Senate. Standing Orders envisage work continuing until 7 pm, but seldom did either House sit after 5 pm. There were a significant number of short sittings, when one or other of the Houses met only to adjourn after sitting for less than an hour. The Session was also marked by long adjournments – six weeks over the Christmas-New Year period, and more than ten weeks in July-October 2010 to allow legislators to take part in the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee [COPAC] outreach programme. There were some unexpected adjournments: a November-February adjournment for the Senate was caused by disorder in the Senate chamber but the Senate was recalled to deal with urgent business in December. In March the Clerk of Parliament suspended sittings of the House of Assembly after the Supreme Court unseated the Speaker. [See Noteworthy Features below.]

13 Bills Passed

In all 13 Bills were passed during the Session:

[All but two of these Bills have been gazetted as Acts – the two awaiting gazetting are the Deposit Protection Corporation Bill and the Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill. All the gazetted Acts, except the Attorney-General’s Office Act, are in force.]

3 Bills announced on the President’s Agenda that lapsed at the end of the Session:

[To date – 27th October – these Bills have still not been restored to the Parliamentary agenda.]

One Private Member’s Bill Introduced

Hon Gonese’s Public Order and Security Amendment Bill was passed by the House of Assembly without opposition, and sent to the Senate in December 2010. Debate in the Senate started on the 3rd August but was adjourned after ZANU-PF objections, resulting in the Bill’s lapsing at the end of the session. To date the Bill has not been restored to the Parliamentary agenda; debate has been adjourned on Mr Gonese’s motion to restore it to the Senate Order Paper.

Comparison of Bills Passed with Government’s Legislative Agenda for the Session

In his speech opening the Third Session on 13th July 2010 the President listed 24 Bills the Government intended to bring before Parliament during the Session. In the event only 7 out of the 24 Government Bills were introduced, and of those 7 only 4 were passed by Parliament. The 3 Bills that had not been passed by the end of the Session lapsed, in accordance with Parliamentary procedure [see list below].

4 Bills Announced by the President, introduced and passed:

  • Attorney-General’s Office Bill
  • Criminal Laws Amendment (Protection of Power, Communication and Water Infrastructure) Bill
  • Deposit Protection Corporation Bill
  • Energy Regulatory Authority Bill
  • Bills passed in addition to what was on the Government’s Legislative Agenda:
  • Appropriation (2010) Amendment Bill
  • Appropriation (2010) Amendment (No. 2) Bill
  • Appropriation (2011) Bill [Budget for 2011]
  • Finance Bill, 2010
  • Finance (No. 2) Bill, 2010 [2011 Budget measures]
  • Finance Bill 2011 [to give effect to the 2011 Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review]
  • General Laws Amendment Bill
  • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill
  • Zimbabwe National Security Council Amendment Bill

Bills Announced by the President but not introduced:

  • Civil Aviation Amendment Bill
  • Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill
  • Environmental Management Amendment Bill
  • Minerals Exploration Corporation Bill
  • Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill
  • Indigenous Languages Bill
  • International Agreements Bill
  • Media Practitioners Bill
  • Medical Aid Societies Bill
  • Referendums Amendment Bill
  • Schools Examinations Council Amendment Bill
  • Trafficking in Persons Bill
  • Women’s Council Bill
  • Zimbabwe Border Post Authority Bill
  • Zimbabwe Examinations and Qualifications Authority Bill
  • Zimbabwe Income Tax Amendment Bill

Bills Carried Forward to the Legislative Agenda for the Fourth Session

In the President’s speech opening the Fourth Session on 6th September 2011 the following bills that were on the Government’s Legislative Agenda for the previous session were re-listed:

  • Referendums Bill
  • Electoral Amendment Bill
  • Income Tax Amendment Bill
  • Women’s Council Bill/Bill to coordinate the activities of registered organisations promoting the rights of women
  • Civil Aviation Authority Bill, to split the CAAZ into a Regulator and an Operator

New Bills Listed for the Fourth Session

The following new Bills for introduction during the Fourth Session were announced by the President in his speech on 6th September:

  • Zimbabwe Investment Authority Amendment Bill, to give full legal effect to the One-Stop-Shop Investment Centre
  • Micro-finance Bill
  • Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Restructuring Bill
  • Public Health Act Amendment Bill
  • Food Control Bill
  • Land Developers Bill
  • Older Persons Bill
  • Civil Aviation Authority Bill, to split the Authority into a regulator and an operator
  • Railways Bill, to restructure the railways sector to establish a Railways Regulatory Authority, an Infrastructure Company for the railways and a Railways Operation Company.
  • State Enterprises Restructuring Agency Bill.

Bills that seem to have been dropped

Not mentioned in the President’s Speech on 6th September 2011 were the following Bills that were on the Legislative Agenda for the Third Session but had not been introduced by the end of that Session:

  • International Agreements Bill
  • Media Practitioners Bill
  • Trafficking in Persons Bill
  • Zimbabwe Mineral Exploration Corporation Bill
  • Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill
  • Zimbabwe Border Post Authority Bill
  • Zimbabwe Examinations and Qualifications Authority Bill
  • School Examinations Council Amendment Bill
  • Indigenous Languages Bill
  • Medical Aid Societies Bill
  • Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill
  • Environmental Management Amendment Bill

[Comment: These Bills may resurface later. It may be that the legislative agenda for the Fourth Session has been pruned to make room for the anticipated closing stages of the constitution-making process – the Parliamentary debate on the draft Constitution, the lead-up to the Constitutional Referendum and, if the Referendum result is YES, the enactment into law of the new Constitution.]

International Agreements Approved

  • Loan Agreement between Government of Zimbabwe and Export-Import Bank of China for Construction of National Defence College [Parliament was specially recalled from an adjournment to approve this controversial agreement on 31st May 2011.]
  • Loan Agreement between Government of Zimbabwe and Export-Import Bank of China relating to Zimbabwe’s 2G and 3G National Network Rollout Project being implemented by Net One
  • Agreement on the Establishment of the Zambezi Watercourse Commission
  • Convention on Wetlands
  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
  • Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
  • Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds
  • SADC Protocol on Fisheries
  • Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
  • Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species
  • SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement.

Parliamentary Committee Reports

House of Assembly Portfolio Committees

  • Committee on Local Government, Rural and Urban Development: the State of Service Delivery by the Municipalities of Harare, Chitungwiza and Norton (S.C.6, 2010)
  • Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development: Air Zimbabwe and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (S.C. 7, 2010)
  • Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology: The fee structure, implementation of the Cadetship Support Scheme and scholarships programme (S.C.9, 2010)
  • Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare: the operations of NSSA (S.C11, 2010)
  • Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises: Status of SMEs in Harare (S.C12, 2010)
  • Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals: Supply of Water Treatment Chemicals by Chemplex Corporation to Harare City Council (S.C.13, 2010)
  • Committee on National Housing and Social Amenities: Constitutionalisation of housing (S.C.1, 2011)
  • Committee on Justice Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs: The State of the Prison System in Zimbabwe (S.C.3, 2011)
  • Committee on Industry and Commerce: State of Industry and Revival Strategies (S.C.4, 2011)
  • Committee on Agriculture, Water, Lands and Resettlement: Operations of Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, Constraints and Challenges faced by Tobacco Farmers (S.C.7, 2011)
  • Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology: State of Public Media in Zimbabwe (S.C.8, 2011)
  • Committee on Mines and Energy: State of affairs at Shabani Mashava Mine (S.C.10, 2011)

Senate Thematic Committees

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

Noteworthy Features

November 2010: Uproar in Senate over Provincial Governors

On 7th October Prime Minister Tsvangirai said MDC-T would not recognise the President’s unilateral, and therefore unconstitutional, re-appointment of all ten ZANU-PF provincial governors. When the Senate next met on 9th and 10th November Senate President Madzongwe rejected MDC-T objections to the presence of provincial governors. Protesting MDC-T Senators then halted proceedings with loud singing and dancing, and the Senate adjourned until 8th February. Having made their point, MDC-T Senators did not persist in their protests when the Senate was recalled in December to deal with the Budget. The governors have continued in office and to sit in the Senate without further Parliamentary protest.

March 2011: Speaker’s Unseating and Re-Election

On 10th March the Supreme Court set aside the 2008 election of MDC-T’s Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of the House of Assembly. In a split decision [3 for, 2 against] the court ruled that the secret ballot rule had been breached during the poll when 6 MDC-T MPs displayed their marked, unfolded ballot papers to other MPs. On 29th March in a secret ballot Mr Moyo was re-elected Speaker, defeating the ZANU-PF candidate, party chairperson S.K. Moyo, apparently with the support of at least three ZANU-PF MPs.

July 2011: Disruption of ZHRC Bill Public Hearings

Joint public hearings into the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill by Senate and House of Assembly committees were disrupted and aborted in four provincial centres. At the final public hearing, in Parliament building in Harare on 23rd July, a large unruly mob invaded the venue, bringing proceedings to a standstill and assaulting an MP and journalists. No arrests were made by police at the time or later.

Continuing Problems with Executive over Parliamentary Oversight Function

A cause for complaint by MPs was continued failure by Ministers to attend Question Time on Wednesdays, thereby evading answering awkward questions. Parliamentary Committees did not always get co-operation from Ministers and bureaucrats; an example was the obstruction of efforts by the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy to visit the Chiadzwa diamond fields for on-the-spot inquiries. The same committee complained about Minister Chinamasa’s responses to its questions during the Shabani-Mashava Mine inquiry; but the Speaker ruled there was no prima facie case justifying proceedings against the Minister for contempt of Parliament.

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