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Parliament Adjourns until 28 February - Bill Watch 56/2011
Veritas
December 16, 2011

Both Houses have adjourned until Tuesday 28th February 2012

Parliament Goes into a Long Recess

The adjournment until the end of February suggests that the Government does not at present anticipate having any business ready for the House until then – and that three important current Bills will not be dealt with for at least another two months: the Electoral Amendment Bill, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Public Order and Security Amendment Bill. It is particularly regrettable that the failure to move on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill means a further delay in the “operationalisation” of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, although its members were sworn in on 31st March 2010.

Both Houses can be recalled only at the request of the President. If he so requests, then under Standing Orders the presiding officers – the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the President of the Senate – have the power to interrupt an adjournment and recall members if satisfied by representations from the President that the “public interest” requires legislators to meet before the scheduled end of the adjournment.

This Week in Parliament

House of Assembly [13th to 15th December]

Prime Minister’s End of Year Address: The Prime Minister addressed the House before the start of other business on 15th December. In a speech stressing the many problems within the inclusive government, he mentioned the slow pace of implementation of the Government’s legislative agenda, revealing that the principles of four key Bills listed by the President for the current Parliamentary session have not yet been introduced before Cabinet: these are the Referendums Amendment Bill, the Diamond Bill, the State Enterprises Restructuring Agency Bill and the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Bill. [Cabinet must approve the principles of a Bill before it is sent to the Attorney-General’s Office for drafting.] He said the Media Practitioners Bill and Criminal Law Code amendments, among other Bills meant for introduction in the previous session, had simply disappeared from the agenda. [Electronic version of full speech available.]

Bills: The House did not deal with the only Bill on the Order Paper – the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill.

Motions: Two controversial new motions by MDC-T MPs were debated.

Motion for investigation of conduct of Clerk of Parliament: This motion recited complaints against Mr Zvoma and called for a resolution to “invoke provisions of 48 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to dismiss Mr Austin Zvoma from the service of Parliament forthwith through a secret ballot process”. It caused uproar in the House on both Wednesday and Thursday, with ZANU-PF MPs invoking the sub judice rule [Mr Zvoma has lodged a High Court application for an interdict] and taking strong objections to the constitutionality and fairness of both the motion in its original form and an amendment proposed by the motion’s seconder, Hon Mushonga, which appeared on the Order Paper for Thursday. The Speaker overruled the sub judice objection and turned down a ZANU-PF request that he recuse himself from presiding over the debate because the complaints against Mr Zvoma involved his own election as Speaker. On Thursday, when debate continued despite their protests, all ZANU-PF MPs present walked out of the chamber, led by their Chief Whip Joram Gumbo. The motion was then passed in their absence, incorporating the amendment proposed by Hon Mushonga. The clumsily-worded operative part of the resolution as amended is very different from the original demand for dismissal, but still of dubious legality. It is to this effect:

  • a special 5-member committee must be appointed by the House to look into the issue and invite the Clerk to give his side and respond to the allegations raised during this motion;
  • the committee is to make recommendations to the full House on its findings whether:

i) to terminate immediately the Clerk of Parliament's contract of employment;

ii) to suspend without pay for a period of time;

iii) to demote and or reprimand the Clerk of Parliament;

· the committee shall report to the House within six weeks.

[A more detailed discussion of this contentious matter will be undertaken in a separate Bill Watch.]

Motion on Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe [BAZ] Board and broadcasting licences: There was heated debate on this motion on Tuesday, with ZANU-PF MPs strongly contesting the proposer’s assertions that the existing BAZ board had been illegally appointed and that its recent granting of two broadcasting licences had been contrary to the GPA commitment to open up the airwaves. Nevertheless this motion, too, was passed on Thursday afternoon. As the resolution adopted merely “calls for” the substitution of the BAZ Board by one properly appointed and the immediate withdrawal of the licences granted to Zimpapers Talk Radio and AB Communications, it has no legal effect; it merely records the views of the House and a request for action. [Note: Two unsuccessful applicants for broadcasting licences have said they are taking BAZ to court to get these two licences annulled. In his end-of-year address on Thursday the Prime Minister referred to the BAZ Board problem in a complaint about the “outright arrogance and intransigence” over media reform of the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, and his officials; see above.]

Senate [13th December only]

Budget Bills passed: The Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Management, Hon. Gorden Moyo, presented the Budget Bills to Senators on behalf of the Minister of Finance. The House passed the three Bills without calling for amendments:

  • Finance (No. 2) Bill
  • Appropriation (2012) Bill
  • Appropriation (2011) Amendment Bill.

The Bills will now be sent to the President for his assent. They are expected to be gazetted as Acts before the end of the year.

International agreements approved

The Senate approved the following international agreements:

  • Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed in Mauritius on 29th August 2009 between the Eastern and Southern Africa states (ESA) and the European Union (EU)
  • International Coffee Agreement of 28th September 2007.

Bulawayo Court Interdict against Mutambara a Temporary Bar

On 15th December Justice Kamocha of the Bulawayo High Court confirmed and extended the scope of an earlier interdict granted to MDC against Professor Mutambara. This is a final decision in that particular court case which was an application for an interdict on Professor Mutambara acting as MDC party president and GPA principal until a decision in the main court case which is sub judice in the High Court in Harare. Therefore this is an interim bar on Mutambara. In the yet to be heard case in Harare, the anti-Ncube and pro-Mutambara faction have challenged the validity of the January 2011 party congress at which Professor Ncube was elected party president. The Bulawayo court decision is valid for the time being, so that Professor Mutambara is:

  • prohibited from "purporting to be president” of the MDC and exercising any function vested in the president of the MDC or interfering with the structure and organs of the party [which was the position under the earlier provisional interdict]
  • expressly barred from attending any meeting of whatever description of the principals in the inclusive Government or any regional or international body as a principal in the GPA. The court ruled that Prof Ncube immediately became the principal in the GPA upon his election as president of the party

Professor Mutambara has already said that he will appeal to the Supreme Court against the Bulawayo court decision. The noting of an appeal will immediately suspend the operation of Justice Kamocha’s interdict, thereby lifting the prohibitions against Professor Mutambara pending the hearing of the appeal. The matter is still not settled. In all this, Mutambara’s position as Deputy Prime Minister of the country is not affected.

Ex-Deputy Minister Mutinhiri

Tracy Mutinhiri, former ZANU-PF MP for Marondera, automatically ceased to be a Deputy Minister by operation of law on 14th December – three months after her Parliamentary seat became following her expulsion from ZANU-PF. Section 31E of the Constitution lays down that no-one can hold office as Minister or deputy Minister for more than three months without being a member of Parliament.

Status of Bills

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

Bills passed by Parliament awaiting gazetting as Acts

  • Finance (No. 2) Bill
  • Appropriation (2012) Bill
  • Appropriation (2011) Amendment Bill
  • Deposit Protection Corporation Bill
  • Small Enterprises Development Corporation Amendment Bill

Bill awaiting Second Reading in the House of Assembly

  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill

Bill gazetted and awaiting presentation

Bill being printed for gazetting

Lapsed Bills awaiting restoration to the Order Paper

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

Government Gazette

Trade marks – Banjul Protocol Notice – SI 147/2011, dated 16th December 2011, sets out the text of the Banjul Protocol on Marks, an international agreement within the framework of the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation. The Protocol has had the force of law in Zimbabwe since 10th September 2010, the date of commencement of the Trade Marks Amendment Act (10/2001). Publication of the text by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs is obligatory under section 97A of the Trade Marks Act, as amended by Act 10/2001.

Public Holiday on 27th December – GN 588/2011 from the co-Ministers of Home Affairs confirms that both 26th and 27th December are public holidays this year.

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied

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