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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 1 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
January 27, 2012

Introduction

Portfolio Committees resumed their meetings Monday 16 January 2012 following the Christmas break. Given that it was their inaugural meetings in 2012, most committees have for the past two weeks been either reviewing their workplans or finishing up the compilation of their reports of enquiries they carried out last year before parliament adjourned for the festive season. Plenary sittings for both Houses resume on Tuesday 28 February 2012.

Highlights of Some Committees activities

Justice Legal Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs

The Committee met on Monday 23 January and adopted its report on the public hearings it conducted in November on the Electoral Amendment Bill. [Contents of the report cannot be disclosed at this stage until the committee has tabled the report in the House of Assembly]. Suffice to say that in compiling its report the committee was guided by views expressed by the public at the public hearings it conducted on the Bill.

The Electoral Amendment Bill lapsed at the Second Reading stage on Monday 5 September due to the prorogation of the 3rd Session of Parliament by the President. What remains to be done is for the Minister of Justice to restore the Bill to the Order Paper at the stage it had reached. It is expected that this will be done when parliament resumes its sitting on 28 February. Actually, the Electoral Amendment Bill was part of the Bills that the President mentioned in his Speech on Tuesday 6 September 2011 when he officially opened the 4th Session of the current parliament.

Budget Finance and Investment Promotion

The Committee will conduct a fact-finding visit to Chirundu Border Post to assess if the One-Stop Border Post concept is achieving its intended purpose; that is, facilitating the movement of goods and passengers in an efficient manner.

The Committee has further resolved to continue with its enquiry on the $1.3 billion RBZ debt. During the course of its enquiry last year, the RBZ Governor, Dr. Gideon Gono raised an issue of breach of privilege against the Budget Committee Chairman, Hon. Paddy Zhanda (ZANU PF). Dr. Gono alleged that Hon. Zhanda had requested for a bribe from him so that the Committee could stop the enquiry. The matter was referred to the House and Members unanimously rejected the motion to have a Privileges Committee set up to authenticate Dr. Gono’s allegations against Hon. Zhanda. Members felt this was a “red herring’ meant to divert them from their main task.

Also on the committee’s agenda is the issue regarding the surcharge levied by ZIMRA on some imported products. The Committee noted that the surcharge was not mentioned in 2012 National Budget statement. The committee will in due course engage the Ministry of Finance and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to get clarity on the issue.

Health and Child Welfare

The Committee resolved to conduct public hearings on the state of the healthcare facilities in the country. Among other issues that the committee will focus on during the public hearings are; hospital user fees, availability of drugs, ARV rollout programme, human resource situation and the general situation regarding infrastructure in hospitals and clinics. Dates have not yet been decided upon.

Transport Communications and Infrastructural Development

The Committee was scheduled to receive oral evidence from the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (ZINARA) on Monday 23 January 2012. However, ZINARA officials did not turn up for the meeting. The Committee wanted to be apprised on the collection and distribution of toll fees in 2011. The meeting has since been deferred to next Monday 6 February.

Legislative Update

Before the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill lapsed at the end of the 3rd Session, it had reached the Committee Stage. The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Patrick Chinamasa had actually proposed some amendments to the Bill, arising from the recommendations by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) and concerns raised by the Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.

The Bill seeks to give effect to the operational mandate of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. The Commission has not been able to operate since its appointment on 31 March 2011 due to the absence of an enabling legislation. It is hoped that the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Patrick Chinamasa will restore the Bill to the Order Paper in accordance with parliamentary procedures when parliament resumes its sitting on 28 February.

In October 2011, Hon. Tungwara Matimba (MDC-T Buhera Central) successfully moved a motion in the House of Assembly to introduce a private member’s Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act. The Bill seeks to reduce the powers of central government over municipal and town councils, thereby encouraging democracy at local levels. The Bill was gazetted on 16 December 2011 and awaits introduction in the House of Assembly when parliament resumes its sitting on 28 February 2012. The other private member’s Bill, namely; the Public Order and Security Amendment remains stuck in the Senate. The Bill was introduced in parliament by Hon. Innocent Gonese and was unanimously passed by the House of Assembly. However, ZANU PF Senators refused to entertain the Bill on the pretext that the issue sought to be addressed by the Bill was being handled by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) party negotiators. The other Bills currently before parliament are; the Older Persons Bill and the National Incomes Bill. The following Bills were mentioned by the President in his speech when he officially opened the 4th Session of the 7th Parliament in September 2011 as some of the Bills that the Executive would bring before parliament during the current session;

  • Referendums Amendment Bill
  • Zimbabwe Income Tax Amendment Bill
  • Exploration Corporation Bill „Ï Zimbabwe Border Post Authority Bill
  • Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill
  • Micro Finance Bill „Ï Women¡¦s Council Bill
  • Securities Amendment Bill
  • RBZ Debt Restructuring Bill
  • NRZ Amendment Bill
  • Land Developers Bill
  • State Enterprises Restructuring Agency Bill
  • GMO Biotechnology Bill „Ï Public Health Amendment Bill
  • Food Control Bill

However, so far there has not been any indication as to when we can expect to see some of these Bills being gazetted.

Resumption of Parliament Sittings

Both Houses of Parliament are currently on recess until 28 February 2012. However, portfolio committees resumed their meetings on 16 January 2012.

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