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Budget to be debated Tuesday 6th December - Bill Watch 54/2011
Veritas
December 06, 2011

Both Houses will sit on Tuesday 6th December

Coming Up In Parliament This Week

House of Assembly

Budget Business: MPs are expected to start debating the Budget Statement on 6th December - notwithstanding their request last Thursday to have until the 13th to study it further. Portfolio committee chairpersons will present their committees’ reports on the aspects of the Budget affecting the Ministries they oversee, and individual members will have the opportunity to contribute.

It remains to be seen whether, even with the already-approved fast-tracking arrangements in place, it will be possible to deal with the Estimates of Expenditure, the Appropriation (2012) Bill and the Finance (No. 2) Bill [Electronic versions available from veritas@mango.zw] in the day or two available before the House adjourns to allow ZANU-PF members to attend their party conference in Bulawayo later this week.

[Comment: MPs have, correctly, pointed out that the Constitution doesn’t say that the Budget has to be approved before the end of the year. But other factors are important: for example, if the Finance (No. 2) Bill is not promptly passed, the proposed increase in the tax-free amount for annual bonuses payable for 2011 will not become law. Do MPs really want to disappoint workers banking on that exemption being applied to bonuses due later this month? A question that always arises at this time of year is why one political party holds its yearly conference at the busiest time of year for Parliament. The tradition of letting a party conference have priority over Parliamentary duties should be reconsidered.]

Other business: There are motions down for debate and, for Wednesday afternoon, a number of written questions for answers by Ministers. But these items will only be dealt with if Budget business is completed in time.

  • Motions include the motion on unconstitutional statements by some service chiefs and the motion on the indigenisation regulations.
  • Questions include questions for the co-Ministers of Home Affairs about cross-border cattle rustling affecting the Lower Zambezi Valley and the Chiredzi district, and police inaction on the invasion of Parliament on 23rd July that disrupted a public hearing on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill

Senate

Budget Bills: If the two Budget Bills are passed by the House of Assembly they will be transmitted to the Senate. If satisfied with the Bills the Senate will pass them in the normal way and they will then go to the President for his assent. If, however, the Senate thinks changes are needed, all it can do is to recommend amendments to the House. [Note: The Senate’s limited powers in relation to “money Bills” were explained in Bill Watch 53/2011 of 28th November.]

Other Business: While the Senate waits for the Budget Bills, it will be able to deal with other items on its Order Paper:

  • Motion to restore Public Order and Security Amendment Bill to the Order Paper: Hon Gonese’s motion is not likely to be dealt with.
  • Other motions: These include Senator Komichi’s motion seeking a thematic committee investigation of “unethical and unprofessional activities by the media”.

Prime Ministers Question Time Cancelled

Under Standing Orders Prime Minister’s Question Time should be held in the House of Assembly on the last Wednesday of each month, and in the Senate on the last Thursday – but if there is no sitting on the day in question, it is cancelled. So there was no PM’s Question Time in the House of Assembly on 30th November, because the House was not sitting on that day – or in the Senate the previous Thursday, when the Senate sat for only a few minutes because of the Budget. This means that the current session has seen only one PM’s Question Time in the House of Assembly, on 26th October, and none in the Senate; and that the next opportunities for MPs to question the PM will only be at the end of January – if Parliament is then sitting. This is unsatisfactory; it is a pity that a missed PM’s Question Time cannot simply be carried forward for a week rather than a month. The PM’s appearances in Parliament are already rare enough. As he is Leader of Government Business in Parliament [GPA, Article 20.1.4], it is to be hoped that the PM will not only attend Parliament more often, but also make a point of ensuring regular PM’s Question Times in future.

In Parliament Last Week

Members of both Houses were involved in a Budget Workshop and special Budget analysis committee meetings from Monday to Wednesday, so the Houses sat on Thursday afternoon only.

House of Assembly

Budget Debate postponed: Hon Zhanda, chairperson of the Budget Portfolio Committee informed the Speaker that Portfolio Committees needed more time to complete their Budget analysis.

MPs walk out on Minister Welshman Ncube: When Minister of Industry and Commerce Welshman Ncube rose to propose a motion he received a noisy and hostile reception from MPs expressing disapproval of remarks he was reported to have made about Deputy Speaker Nomalanga Khumalo, MP for Umzingwane, at a rally the previous weekend. According to Press reports the Minister had said she was no longer a member of the MDC he leads, having gone over to the MDC led by Professor Mutambara. Some 20 MPs walked out of the House.

International agreements approved: Once order had been restored the House passed, without debate, Minister Ncube’s motions to approve:

  • the Second Revised Cotonou Agreement
  • the Trade Agreement with Kuwait

Restoration of Bill to Order Paper: The House also approved Minister Ncube’s motion to revive the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill, clearing the way for its Second Reading stage in due course.

Senate

The Senate’s 48-minute sitting was devoted to oral questions without notice. In the absence of the responsible Ministers, Deputy Minister of Public Works Senator Georgias and Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Senator Gutu valiantly responded to a variety of questions, hardly any of which related to their own Ministries, e.g. Senator Georgias spoke about unemployed nursing graduates and Senator Gutu about agricultural problems. Belatedly, the Deputy President of the Senate pointed out that questions should focus on the Ministries in which the Deputy Ministers serve. Answering a question about prisons, which come under the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Senator Gutu was enthusiastic about the recent improvement in prison conditions countrywide, and described the new Mazowe Prison complex as a model prison by international standards.

MPs to Receive Sitting Allowance Arrears

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has announced that members of the House of Assembly and Senators will be paid their sitting allowances [$75 per sitting] back to the commencement of the present Parliament in 2008. This followed his undertaking to the House during Question Time on 22nd November to take the matter up with the President and the Prime Minister. Parliamentarians had been angered by the earlier decision of the party principals that the allowances would only be paid for sittings from 1st November 2011 onwards.

House Rejects Allegations Against Portfolio Committee Chair Zhanda

On 24th November the Speaker ruled that that there was a prima facie case of breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament against Hon Zhanda, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development. The ruling followed the receipt of a letter from the Governor of the Reserve Bank alleging misconduct on the part of Mr Zhanda in relation to the Portfolio Committee’s investigation of the affairs of the Reserve Bank. Despite the Speaker’s ruling, the House expressed its confidence in Hon Zhanda by rejecting, without debate, a motion to appoint a Committee of Privileges to go into the allegations.

Alleged Contempt of Parliament: Privileges Committee Appointed

On 24th November the Speaker announced the appointment by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders of the members of a Committee on Privileges to investigate allegations of contempt of Parliament against Mr Gwaradzimba, the Government-appointed administrator of Shabani Mashaba Mines [SMM] under the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act. The members are Hon Mangwana [chairperson], Hon Mnangagwa, Hon Majome, Hon Mushonga and Hon P. Dube. The allegations arise from disparaging remarks about the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy allegedly made by Mr Gwaradzimba in the course of a press interview; at the time the Portfolio Committee was investigating the state of affairs at SMM.

Status of Bills

[Electronic versions of Bills are available from veritas@mango.zw]

Bill awaiting Second Reading

  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill [restored to the Order Paper 1st December]

Bill Gazetted and Awaiting Presentation

  • Older Persons Bill [gazetted 9th September]
  • Finance (No. 2) Bill [gazetted 2nd December]
  • Appropriation (2012) Bill [gazetted 2nd December]

Bill being Printed for Gazetting

Lapsed Bills awaiting restoration to the Order Paper

  • Public Order and Security [POSA] Amendment Bill [Private Member’s Bill – Hon Gonese]
  • Electoral Amendment Bill
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Amendment Bill

Bills Passed by Parliament awaiting gazetting as Acts

  • Deposit Protection Corporation Bill [final reading in Parliament – 2nd August. The discovery of an error has necessitated reprinting before submission to the President.]
  • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill [final reading in Parliament – 12th July. Sent to President’s Office – 30th September] [Gazetting of this Act seems long overdue. The Constitution requires the President to assent or not within 21 days of a Bill reaching him.]

Government Gazette

Customs and excise duty: SI 142/2011 of 30th November specifies the new duties on cigarettes, effective 1st December, announced by the Minister of Finance in the Budget Statement.

Changes re left-hand drive vehicles and second-hand vehicles: SI 140/2011, dated 25th November, amends sections 10 [steering system] and 65 [type approval of motor vehicle] of SI 154/2010, the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use) Regulations. The effect is as follows:

  • to repeal the ban on importing second-hand vehicles more than 5 years old
  • to repeal the ban on the use of left-hand drive heavy vehicles after 2015
  • to maintain the ban on importing left-hand drive vehicles [that ban came into effect on 31st October 2011].

[In other words, no left-hand drive vehicles at all can be imported, but all left-hand drive vehicles, heavy or light, already registered in Zimbabwe before 31st October 2011 can continue to be used indefinitely.] [Electronic version of SI available.]

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