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Inaugural PM's Question Time & Another Private Member's Bill - Bill Watch 47/2011
Veritas
November 01, 2011

Both Houses of Parliament sat last week and adjourned until 15th November

Inaugural Prime Minister’s Question Time in House of Assembly

Prime Minister’s Question Time was inaugurated in the House of Assembly on Wednesday 26th October, taking up the hour immediately after the opening prayer at 2.15 pm. Questions put to the PM by MPs included:

  • Are there contradictions within Cabinet on indigenisation policy? The PM said No, asserting that the policy is to encourage every Zimbabwean to participate but not to contradict the “whole thrust of promoting investment” because “everyone would agree that the idea is not to share a small cake, the idea is to grow the cake so that we can all share”. A follow-up question on the ZIMPLATS Community Share Trust was disallowed by the Speaker as raising matters that should be dealt with by the appropriate Minister.
  • What is Government policy on unfinished projects, some as much as 10 years old? The PM, referring in particular to nearly completed building projects, replied that the policy is to complete unfinished projects before implementing new projects.
  • What is Government doing to ensure Zimbabwe is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals? The PM said lack of resources meant the Government might not achieve all the MDGs on time, but it was doing well with health services.
  • What is Government doing about ending the broadcasting monopoly and opening up the airwaves? The PM assured the Houses that the GPA principals regarded it as “critical” that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board be reconstituted. He added that the principals had directed Minister Shamu accordingly and that there have to be multiple media voices.
  • What is Government policy on stopping inter-party political violence? The PM said violence was not taking place at the higher levels, but in the villages and on farms. The government would be convening a meeting of national executives of all political parties to come up with a code of conduct for parties down to branch or ward level.
  • Are the current delays in the constitution-making process caused by lack of funding? No, said the PM, funding has been provided. Delays are caused by other factors.

[The (uncorrected) Hansard record of the question and answer session can be accessed on the Parliamentary website.

Next PM’s Question Time for the House will be on Wednesday 30th November [last Wednesday of the month].

Inaugural Prime Minister’s Question Time in Senate Cancelled

The first PM’s Question Time in the Senate was scheduled for Thursday afternoon but was called off after the Prime Minister sent his apologies, saying he would not be able to attend. The next opportunity for Senators to question the Prime Minister will be on Thursday 24th November [last Thursday of the month].

MPs at Victoria Falls This Week

This week most Parliamentarians will be attending the Pre-Budget Seminar, which will run from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday 5th November at Elephant Hills, Victoria Falls. The Houses will not sit. The only committee meetings will be on Monday and Tuesday [details not yet available from Parliament].

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

The 13-page final communiqué of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Western Australia, dated 30th October, contained one brief paragraph on Zimbabwe: “The Heads of Government agreed ….. to look forward to the conditions being created for the return of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth and continue to encourage the parties to implement the Global Political Agreement faithfully and effectively”.

What Happened in the House of Assembly Last Week

New Private Member’s Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act: On 25th October after brief debate the House approved a motion giving leave to MDC-T backbencher Tangwara Matimba, MP for Buhera Central, to bring in a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act “by reducing the powers of central government over municipal and town councils, thereby encouraging democracy at local levels”. Hon Matimba then handed in a copy of his Bill. Parliament will now send the Bill to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting. Once it has been gazetted Hon Matimba will be able to introduce it and it will be read the First Time. From then it will follow the stages applicable to all Bills – scrutiny by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] and the appropriate portfolio committee, Second Reading, etc. [Electronic version of Bill available from veritas@mango.zw] [Reminder: Only Government Bills may be introduced without the leave of the House. Private members have the right to introduce Bills, but must obtain the leave of the House before doing so. This is the first move to bring in a Private Member’s Bill since MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese was given leave to introduce his POSA Amendment Bill in late 2009.]

Other Bills: The three lapsed Bills have not been revived:

  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission [ZHRC] Bill: Minister of Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa has not yet given notice of a motion to restore this Bill to the Order Paper.
  • Electoral Amendment Bill: Mr Chinamasa has not given notice of a motion to restore this Bill either. Even if the Minister gets it restored to the Order Paper, further proceedings will have to wait for the PLC’s report to be tabled. The PLC has already drafted an adverse report, identifying aspects of the Bill it considers unconstitutional but the draft has not been made public.
  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill: A motion already on the Order Paper by the Minister of Industry and Commerce proposes the restoration of this Bill to the Order Paper.
  • International Agreement approved: The Statute of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Motions

Motion on diamond mining operations at Marange/Chiadzwa diamond fields approved: On Wednesday MDC-T MP Eddie Cross delivered a detailed speech proposing his motion, which calls for nationalisation of the diamond fields; for mining to be carried out only by a reputable company, selected by international tender, and in partnership with the Government and the community; and for halting illicit dealing in diamonds by removing all unauthorised persons from the fields securing the boundaries against unlawful entry. Citing the example of Botswana, Mr Cross gave figures illustrating that under his proposals Chiadzwa could generate $2.8 billion annually for the fiscus. Several MPs made contributions in support of the motion, and it was approved unopposed on Thursday.

Professor Mukonoweshuro condolence motion: Hon Dumbu introduced his motion to extend condolences to the family of the late Minister of Public Service and MP for Gutu South, who died on 5th August. Debate was adjourned to permit further contributions.

Motion on unconstitutional statements by service chiefs restored to Order Paper: The House resolved that Hon Chikwinya’s lapsed motion be restored to the Order Paper to allow further debate.

Portfolio Committee report on state of affairs at Shabani-Mashava Mines: The House approved a resolution “taking note of” the portfolio committee’s report, which criticised the Government’s handling of this issue. [Electronic version of report available from veritas@mango.zw.]

Questions: The hour following Wednesday’s inaugural Prime Minister’s Question Time was devoted to Ministers’ responses to MPs’ written questions previously put down on the Order Paper. Topics covered included:

Copies of birth certificates: Co-Minister of Home Affairs Makone explained the birth registration system and said it is not necessary for people to come to Harare to get copies of long birth certificates; they are obtainable at provincial registry offices.

Contribution to GDP by arts and culture sector: The Deputy Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, giving a detailed reply, said the sector contributes 14%-16% of the GDP [approximately $500 billion in 2007, more than the agricultural sector’s $400 billion]. The arts and culture sector is also a major factor in the success of the closely-related tourism sector.

NSSA pensions: The Minister of Labour and Social Services gave an overview of the various NSSA pension schemes and said pensions were being reviewed with a view to an increase next year.

Improving O level pass rates: The Deputy Minister of Education went into detail about the Ministry’s plans to improve exam results, including: achieving by the end of 2011 a book-to-pupil ratio of 1:1 for the 6 core secondary school subjects; restoration of subject-specialist education inspectors to enhance service delivery by subject teachers; and the abolition of hot seating.

BEAM disbursements: The Minister of Labour and Social Services explained that to qualify for BEAM [Basic Education Module] funding a child must already be registered at a school, but unable to pay fees; the neediest beneficiaries are selected by a committee of the school community, bearing in mind the community’s BEAM budget allocation; once validated by a school community meeting, the beneficiaries list is verified by the district education officer and the district social welfare officer before approval at provincial level. The social welfare department conducts spot checks to curb abuse.

MDGs: The Minister of Labour and Social Services also explained her Ministry’s coordinating role in Zimbabwe’s efforts to achieve the MDGs on time, and gave the Government's list of priorities: 1. eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2. achieve universal primary education; 3 reduce child mortality.

What Happened in the Senate Last Week

Bills

Motion to Restore POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper adjourned again: This meant that there was no further debate on Mr Gonese’s motion to revive his Private Member’s Bill. On 11th October Mr Gonese’s made a speech urging Senators to pass this motion, and debate was adjourned until Minister Chinamasa could be present to elaborate on his contention that the Bill should not be proceeded with because it is under consideration as part of the GPA implementation negotiations.

International Agreements

The Senate approved the following agreements already approved by the House of Assembly:

  • Statute of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology approved by the House of Assembly on Tuesday
  • Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements with India, Iran and Botswana.

Status of Bills

Bills Passed by Parliament awaiting gazetting as Acts

  • Deposit Protection Corporation Bill [final reading in Parliament - 2nd August]
  • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill [final reading in Parliament - 12th July]

[These Bills have been awaiting the President’s assent for some time. The President’s absences from the country should not hold things up - the Constitution allows an Acting President to assent to Bills.]

Bills Awaiting Presentation

  • Older Persons Bill [gazetted 9th September] [Electronic version available from veritas@mango.zw]
  • Urban Councils Amendment Bill [Private Member’s Bill - see above]

Government Gazette

No Bills or Acts were gazetted on the 21st nor on the 28th October.

Statutory Instruments

21st October: SI 121 set out Bulawayo Cemeteries amendment by-laws.

28th October: SIs 122-125 provided for customs rebates and suspensions.

SI 126 enacted new domestic workers wages and allowances effective 1st October [this is the first such statutory instrument since 2007]; wages range from $85 to $100 per month; allowances, for workers not living on the employer’s premises cover accommodation [$50 per month], transport [$25 per month] and lights, fuel and water [$15 per month in total]. [Electronic version of SI 126 available from veritas@mango.zw]

General Notice 459/2011 of 28th October under the indigenisation regulations fixes net asset value of $100,000 for businesses in the manufacturing sector and specifies four annual stages to achieve the 51% indigenous shareholding. [Electronic version available from veritas@mango.zw]

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