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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 11 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
March 22, 2012

Introduction

On Wednesday 21 March 2012, backbenchers in the House of Assembly quizzed Ministers on various policy issues under their purview during question and answer session. However, only a few Ministers were in the House during the question and answer session. The House also debated extensively a motion by Hon. Innocent Gonese (MDC-T Chief Whip) seeking the leave of the House to introduce a Bill to amend Section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. On the other hand, the Senate debated a motion by Senator Tambudzani Mohadi (ZANU PF BeitBridge) on the need for government to increase food relief efforts in the most affected regions.

Plenary Proceedings in the House of Assembly

Question and Answer Session:

As noted above, most of the Ministers were conspicuous by their absence in the House during the question and answer session yesterday. Hence the bulk of the questions went to the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Eric Matinenga, the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Hon. Gift Chimanikire, the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Hon. Paurina Mpariwa and the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment Hon. Saviour Kasukuwere.

Members Sitting Allowances

Hon. Cairo Mhandu (ZANU PF Mazowe North) asked the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs to explain the policy regarding the Members’ sitting allowances. Hon. Matinenga explained to the House procedures regarding the pegging of Members’ sitting allowances; that this was a responsibility of the Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC), which then makes recommendations to the President for approval in terms of the Parliamentary Salaries Allowances and Benefits Act. He said the SROC recommended a sitting allowance of $75 per sitting which the President approved. However, Members were not being paid regularly due to late release of funds by Treasury because of the tight fiscal space. However, the Minister assured Members that they would be paid their sitting allowances as soon the funds were made available by treasury.

On how much each Member was owed, the Minister said this was a function of the administration of parliament and therefore referred Members to the Clerk of Parliament.

Directive by the Attorney General on the CDF Audits

Hon. Fred Kanzama (ZANU PF Mutare South) asked the Minister Matinenga to brief the House whether or not his ministry had implemented a directive by Attorney General Johannes Tomana to suspend prosecutions of MPs who had abused the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) until the ministry had audited all the constituencies. In response, Hon. Matinenga informed the House that the justice system in Zimbabwe was underpinned by various players with distinct constitutional mandates and functions. He said the role of his ministry was to oversee and account for the public funds allocated to the ministry as required by the Public Finance Management Act. If in the process of carrying out this mandate, the ministry suspected misuse of public funds it was obliged to report the issue to the police or any other government body mandated to make investigations like the Anti-Corruption Commission. He said that was exactly what his ministry did regarding the CDF anomalies. He said it was the constitutional duty of the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the CDF anomalies that his ministry noted its audits. And once the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission had concluded their investigations and were satisfied that there was a prima facie case, they would refer the cases to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution. Minister Matinenga said in terms of the law, the only body with prosecuting powers in the country was the Attorney General’s Office. However, he noted that the Attorney General’s office did not have powers to direct the police to stop investigating cases and worse still the Anti-Corruption Commission, which is an independent body.

Dual Auditing of CDF Projects

In response to Hon. Kanzama’s supplementary question why there was dual auditing of CDF projects by the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs and the Audit Office, Hon. Matinenga said that was the correct procedure. He said his ministry had a duty to carry out its own internal audits whereas the Audit Office was mandated to audit all public funds in the country and thus provided an independent audit as it were.

Infrastructure Development by Diamond Mining Companies

The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Hon. Chimanikire informed the House that principles of social corporate responsibility obliged not only diamond mining companies to plough back to the local communities where they were mining. He said this in response to a question by Hon. Shuah Mudiwa (MDC-T Mutare West) who wanted to know what diamond mining companies in Marange were expected to do in terms of infrastructural development. Hon. Chimanikire informed the House that the current policy framework was not legally binding. However, his ministry was working on amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act to create a legal obligation for all mining companies in the country to contribute to the development of local communities.

Over-pegging and Duplication of Mining Claims

Hon. Chimanikire said over-pegging and duplication of mining claims was mainly due to the fact that his ministry was still using a manual map system. He said most of the maps were now worn-out and therefore unreadable. However, he informed the house that his ministry was in the process of the uploading all the maps into a computer system and this way the ministry would be able to deal with issues of over-pegging and duplication of licences. He was responding to a question by Hon. Margaret Zinyemba (ZANU PF Mazowe South).

Cancellation of Mining Agreements

Hon. Willias Madzimure (MDC-T Kambuzuma) asked the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development if government could consider cancelling agreements it hastily entered into with various mining companies thereby prejudicing the State of more revenue. The Deputy Minister said his ministry alone could not make such a decision since the decision to award contracts to mining companies was a collective decision of the Cabinet.

Mining Activities Take Precedence over Agriculture

Hon. Zachariah Ziyambi (ZANU PF Chakari) asked the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development why government did not protect farmers from mining activities since they encroach onto their farms. Hon. Chimanikire said the current mining law placed more priority over farming activities.

Recent Increase in Mining Fees

The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development said the recent increase in mining administration fees and levies were necessitated by the need to open ground for exploration by compelling companies to release ground held for speculative purposes.

Late Release of BEAM Funds

Hon. Evelyn Masaiti (MDC-T Dzivarasekwa) asked the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare what measures government had taken to ensure that vulnerable children under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) were not expelled from school due to late payment of school fees as a result of late release of BEAM funds by Treasury. Minister Mpariwa said her ministry had instructed all school authorities not to expel children under BEAM for late payment of school fees as this was not a problem of their own making but government.

Banning of NGOs and Civic Society Organizations

Hon. Felix Sibanda (MDC-T Magwegwe) asked the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare on the status of NGOs and CSOs given reports that the Governor and Resident Minister of Masvingo Province had banned all NGOs operating in the province. Minister Mpariwa restated what she told parliament last week when she gave a ministerial statement on the same issue. She again informed the House that it was her and her ministry alone who had the authority to register, de-register ban or regulate the operations of NGOs and CSOs since the administration of the Private Voluntary Organizations Act fell under her ambit. She said since the formation of the inclusive government no NGO or CSO had been banned or deregistered. She further informed Members that it would be folly of government to ban or deregister NGOs given the unfolding humanitarian situation in most parts of country as a result of the drought.

Administration of Community Share Trusts

Hon. Shepherd Mushonga (MDC-T Mazowe Central) asked the Minister of Youth Indigenization and Empowerment the community share trusts were administered in the absence of legislation or regulations. In response, the Minister said that his ministry had come up with regulations to guide the process. He further said that the objective of community share trusts was to achieve a broad-based empowerment goal.

Private Members’ Motions:

Debate on the Motion to Introduce a Bill to Amend Section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act

Hon. Innocent Gonese introduced a motion in the House yesterday seeking leave of the House to introduce a private member’s Bill to amend Section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. Predictably, the debate took a very partisan route with MDC Members in support of the motion whereas ZANU PF Members vigorously opposed the motion. In its caucus meeting last week, ZANU PF resolved to oppose private member’s Bills as the party argued that Amendment No. 19 of the Constitution took away the right of backbenchers to introduce private members’ Bills in parliament.

Be that as it may, Hon. Gonese argued that the aforementioned Section 121 had been often abused by the Attorney General’s office as they always invoke it to deny accused persons bail when the presiding officer would have seen it fit to grant such bail. He said in most cases the invocation of this section appeared to be motivated by malice more than anything, as the accused is further detained for 7 days before he was brought to court. He said in a proper democracy, prosecutors should not be granted powers to overturn decisions of magistrates and judges to grant accused persons bail.

MDC Members who debated the motion argued that apart from being draconian, this piece of legislation was a colonial relic which was used by the Smith regime to detain freedom fighters without bail. They also argued that the legislation deprived suspects the benefit of the doubt as the law tended to treat the accused persons as guilty before they have actually been proven guilty. MDC Members also bemoaned the fact that when a person was later found innocent he or she was not compensated the time he/she would have spent in remand.

ZANU PF Members were clearly opposed to the motion as they argued that there would be anarchy in the country if the accused was granted bail. Their reasoning was that if granted bail, there were high chances that accused persons would interfere with the witnesses or flee the country.

Debate is set to continue this afternoon. MDC has the numbers to pass the motion and the Bill. However, the Bill may meet a different fate in the Senate.

Adoption of the Condolence Motion on the Death of Professor Mukonoweshuro

Hon. Festus Dumbu (MDC-T Zaka West) wound up his condolence motion on the death of Hon. Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro.

Plenary Proceedings in the Senate

Debate on the Motion Calling upon Government to Increase Food Relief Efforts in the Most Affected Regions.

Senator Tambudzani Mohadi (ZANU PF BeitBridge) introduced a motion in the Senate urging government to increase food relief efforts in the most affected regions in the country. She noted that most areas in the country found in ecological region 5; that is, semi-arid regions were facing starvation due to drought. She said the plight of communities in region 5 was compounded by the phenomenon of climate change as this has worsened the situation. Senator Mohadi called for government to come up with urgent policy measures to arrest the situation from further deteriorating. She called on the Ministry of Finance to set aside a special grant to buy relief food for the affected communities. She also appealed to government to prioritize the rehabilitation of dams and irrigation schemes in the affected areas so that those communities could produce their own food.

The motion was unanimously supported by Senators across the political divide.

Update on Legislation.

The Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) presented a non-adverse report on the Urban Councils Amendment Bill (H.B.5, 2011). This puts paid to the argument by the Minister of Local Government and Urban Development, Hon. Dr. Ignatius Chombo, who attempted to block debate on the Bill as he alleged that the introduction of private members’ Bills was ultra vires provisions of Amendment No.19 of the Constitution. The Bill is now set for its second reading stage.

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