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Parliament in recess until May - Bill Watch 15/2012
Veritas
April 02, 2012

Both Houses of Parliament have adjourned until Tuesday 15th May

Committee meetings have been suspended until Monday 7th May

Six-Week Break for Parliamentarians

The Senate and the House of Assembly have started a six-week break and will only resume sittings on the 15th May. This is in accordance with Parliament’s policy that no sittings be scheduled during school holidays or weeks coinciding with public holidays and national events. April sees not only the Easter and Independence Day public holidays but also the school holidays. 1st May is the Workers’ Day public holiday.

Parliamentary Committee Meetings

Thematic Committee and Portfolio Committees to resume 7th May

These committees will have a slightly shorter break – all Thematic Committee and Portfolio Committee meetings are suspended from Monday 2nd April to Monday 7th May.

Other Committees

Committees such as the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] will meet as necessary.

Effect on Bills

The break will hold up progress on all Bills on the Order Papers. Bills affected include:

In the House of Assembly

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill

The Second Reading debate was concluded on 27th March, but the Committee Stage has not started. The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs has tabled amendments he intends to propose for adoption during the Committee Stage [for details see Bill Watch 14/2012 of 28th March].

Electoral Amendment Bill

On 27th March the Speaker told the House that the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] has given an adverse report on this Bill. This means that the House cannot proceed to the next stage [Second Reading] of the Bill until the PLC chairperson, Hon Shepherd Mushonga, has proposed the adoption of the adverse report in the House and the House has decided whether or not to adopt the report – in other words, whether or not the clauses in question are inconsistent with the Constitution. Any clause the House finds to be inconsistent with the Constitution will then have to be dropped from the Bill or amended so as to remove the inconsistency. [Please note: The text of the adverse report has not been released, so it is not yet available. It is unlikely to be released until the PLC chairperson has proposed its adoption in the House.] It is possible that during the break the Minister responsible – Hon Chinamasa, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs – will negotiate with the PLC on amendments which will remove the need for an adverse report. Even if this is done the Bill cannot proceed until the House sits again.

Proposed Private Member’s Bill to repeal section 121(3) of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act

Hon Gonese has delivered his speech proposing the adoption of his motion requesting the leave of the House to introduce this Bill and there have been contributions from several MPs, both for and against the motion. The object of the Bill is to take away the power of a prosecutor to stall the release of an accused person on bail for 7 days while the Attorney-General considers whether or not to appeal against the granting of bail. Debate was adjourned to give the responsible Minister – the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs – an opportunity to reply to points raised.

Proposed Private Member’s Bill to amend Urban Councils Act

Hon Matimba’s has already spoken in support of his motion for leave to introduce this Bill and several MPs have contributed to the discussion. A contribution from the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development is expected before there is a vote on whether to allow the Bill to be introduced.

Older Persons Bill

This is a Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Bill waiting for the Minister’s Second Reading speech.

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill

This Bill is waiting for the Second Reading speech from the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

In the Senate

POSA Amendment Bill

The Senate has still not completed discussion of Mr Gonese’s motion asking for his Private Member’s Bill to be restored to the Senate Order Paper after it lapsed at the end of the previous Parliamentary Session in September 2011. This item will therefore be carried forward for continuation of the debate when the Senate resumes in May. The Senate is waiting for a contribution to the debate from the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

Note on Private Members Bills

Special procedure for Private Members’ Bills

Government Bills - These are Bills that are taken to Parliament by Ministers to give effect to Government policy. They are originated in the responsible Ministry, but must also be approved by Cabinet and drafted in proper legal form by the Attorney-General’s Office before being sent to Parliament. Parliament then sends them to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting. The gazetted Bill is then introduced by the responsible Minister in Parliament - either in the House of Assembly or in the Senate.

A Private Member’s Bill - A Bill introduced by a backbencher - has to follow a different preliminary procedure. The backbencher wishing to introduce it must first get it privately drafted. He or she must then propose a motion in the House or the Senate seeking leave to introduce the Bill. If he or she is able to persuade a majority of fellow members that the Bill is worth considering further, leave will be granted by the passing of a resolution, and the Bill will be sent by Parliament to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting. Thereafter it will be introduced in the House of Assembly or the Senate by the private member responsible for it, and from then will follow the same course as a Government Bill - First Reading, referral to the Parliamentary Legal Committee, etc.

Clarification of GPA’s effect on Private Members’ Bills

Bill Watch 16/2012 of 19th March 2012 discussed a recent ZANU-PF contention that Article 20 of the GPA, as enshrined in Schedule 8 to the Constitution by Constitution Amendment No. 19, takes away the right of private members to introduce Private Members’ Bills. The contention was described as “questionable”. That unduly polite description did not accurately convey the Veritas’ view of the contention, which is in our view INCORRECT. The quoted provisions of Article 20 do NOT justify the conclusion that the GPA takes away the constitutional right of a private member to introduced a Private Member’s Bill. They do no more than emphasise that any Inclusive Government Bill must be approved by Cabinet.

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