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Urban Councils Amendment Bill suspended sub judice: Parliamentary Update - Bill Watch 22/2012
Veritas
May 23, 2012

The House of Assembly has adjourned until Tuesday 5th June

The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday 12th June

Private Member’s Bills

Speaker’s Sub Judice Decision

Private Member’s Bill to amend Urban Councils Act suspended pending Supreme Court decision

On Tuesday 15th May – the first sitting of the Parliamentary week – before any other business, the Speaker informed the House that debate on the Private Member’s Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act was suspended. His announcement read “following the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development’s decision to approach the Supreme Court regarding the proposed amendment of the Urban Councils Act, debate stands suspended in terms of Standing Order 62(d) until a judicial decision on the matter has been made.” There was no discussion. The Bill is now listed at the very end of the House of Assembly’s Order Paper, where it will remain until there are further developments. It is impossible to predict how long this suspension will continue. The Minister’s application seeks a Supreme Court order stopping further consideration of the Bill; he claims that during the subsistence of the GPA it is unconstitutional for private members to introduce Bills. [For comments on the Minister’s application, the sub judice rule and the implications for the principle of separation of powers and Parliament’s legislative efficiency and efficacy, see Bill Watches 20 and 21/2012 of 15th May.]

Possible effect on other Private Member’s Bills

There are other Private Member’s Bills before Parliament, neither of which was discussed last week:

POSA Amendment Bill
The Senate is part of the way through a debate on Mr Gonese’s motion to restore this Bill to the Senate Order Paper. The Bill – passed by the House of Assembly over a year ago – lapsed at the end of the last Parliamentary session in September 2011.

Proposed Private Member’s Bill to repeal section 121(3) of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act
The House of Assembly is part of the way through its debate on Mr Gonese’s motion requesting leave to introduce this Bill.

It remains to be seen whether the two presiding officers of Parliament – the Speaker and the President of the Senate – will apply the sub judice rule to suspend discussion of these Bills also on account of Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development’s pending application in the Supreme Court. [Note: Although the Minister’s application specifically refers only to the Urban Councils Amendment Bill, a court ruling in favour of his main argument would stop all Private Member’s Bills as long as the GPA lasts. If these Bills too are affected, important reforms will be considerably delayed as finalisation of applications to the Supreme Court often takes a long time.]

No Movement on Key Government Bills

There was no discussion of the two key Government Bills on the House of Assembly Order Paper:

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill - The Committee Stage of this Bill was expected to start on 17th May, but the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, who is the responsible Minister, did not attend. The Minister has already tabled amendments he intends to propose for adoption during the Committee Stage; these include changes to meet objections from the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] [for details see Bill Watch 14/2012 of 28th March]. This is an urgent Bill – as the Human Rights Commission chairperson told the visiting UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay during their meeting yesterday. He said the Commission cannot start work until this Bill has been enacted into law.

Electoral Amendment Bill - The PLC’s adverse report on this Bill, announced by the Speaker on 27th March, means that the House cannot proceed to the next stage [Second Reading] of the Bill until it has considered the adverse report and decided whether or not to adopt it. The fact that there is an adverse report has been announced in the House, but the report was not tabled for discussion. If the House adopts the adverse report, any clause found to be inconsistent with the Constitution will have to be dropped from the Bill or amended so as to remove the inconsistency. [Note: The official text of the PLC report is not available until PLC chairman has tabled it in the House.] In the past it has sometimes been the practice for the Minister responsible for a Bill to hold discussions with the PLC and agree to introduce amendments himself which will obviate the need to table an adverse report. This happened with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill [see above].

Last Week in the House of Assembly

The House sat on three afternoons last week, on the 15th, 16th and 17th May

Bills

The two other Government Bills on the House of Assembly Order Paper did not come up for discussion:

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill - This is waiting for the introductory speech from the Minister of Industry and Commerce Welshman Ncube. The Bill was introduced during the last Parliamentary session, which ended in September 2011. This Bill has been on the Order Paper for many months without any move from the Minister.

Older Persons Bill - This Bill still awaits the PLC’s report. It was referred to the PLC on 20th March.

International Agreements Approved

The House approved two agreements in terms of section 111B of the Constitution:

  • International Plant Protection Convention of November 1997
  • Convention for the Establishment of the African Centre for Fertilizer Development of 1985. [Zimbabwe hosts this centre. It has been operational since 1991.]

Motions on Portfolio Committee reports took up most the House’s week:

Willowvale Flats

The committee chairperson wound up the debate and the motion was adopted.

Vocational Training Centres

The Portfolio Committee’s report, based on visits to 14 centres countrywide, was introduced by its chairperson and was debated at length. Underfunding, lack of resources and loss of land to the land reform programme were noted, as well as previous misuse of VTCs for partisan political purposes during election campaigns. MPs of all parties supported the VTC concept as long as that misuse was avoided.

Local authority service delivery in Gutu and Chiredzi

The committee’s report was presented by its chairperson. Debate will follow when the House resumes.

ZIMRA operations at border posts

The committee’s report was presented and sparked lively debate from MP of all parties. Debate will continue when the House resumes.

[All these reports available from veritas@mango.zw – please specify which is/are required.]

Question Time [Wednesday]

This took up the first two hours of the sitting, with Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara fielding many of the questions in the absence of other Ministers. Of interest was his response to a question on the election road map [this will be covered in detail in the next Bill Watch]. He read out a reply from the Minister of Transport explaining the “new” motor vehicle registration number system, but not the current innovations affecting vehicle licensing. The DPM also talked about the need for a proper valuation of mining rights, relating this to the problems over ZISCO and ESSAR’s iron ore mining rights. Minister of Energy and Power Development Elton Mangoma responded on power shortages and related issues, citing failure to maintain and development infrastructure for decades, and revealing that the Batoka Gorge hydro-electric power project could proceed soon. On the Chipinge ethanol project he referred to the confusion prompted by the involvement of several Ministries.

Last Week in the Senate

The Senate also sat on three afternoons last week, the 15th [for 23 minutes only],16th and 17th May.

Bills

  • POSA Amendment Bill - This agenda item was adjourned without discussion [see above in Private Member’s Bills].
  • Other Bills - There were no other Bills on the Order Paper. The Senate is waiting for Bills from the House of Assembly.

International Agreements

On the 17th May the Senate approved the two agreements approved by the House of Assembly earlier in the week [see above].

Motions

Debate continued on motions on Thematic Committee reports on (1) the provision of education in resettled areas and (2) the ARV therapy roll-out programme, and on Senator Mohadi’s motion calling for assistance to farmers in drought-stricken agricultural region 5.

Question Time [Thursday]

Questions without notice took up an hour of the sitting on 17th May, with Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara providing the answers. On electricity supply problems he said the long-term solution lay in hydro-electric power, e.g., the Batoka Gorge project with Zambia [7 years to complete once agreed], and the Inga Dam project in the DRC [which would have the capacity to supply not just Southern Africa but the entire continent and therefore needed regional and continental co-operation]. On resuscitating industry in Bulawayo, he mentioned the slow draw-down from the $40 million Distressed and Marginalised Industries Fund on account of stringent conditions set by banks.

Government Gazette 18th May

Acts and Bills: None

Statutory Instruments [electronic copies NOT available from Veritas]

  • Collective bargaining agreement - Grain Marketing Board undertaking [SI 89/2012]
  • Local authority rents and charges by-laws - Chinhoyi Municipal Council [SI 90/2012]; Bindura [clamping and tow-away by-laws - SI 87/2012]; Bindura [hairdressers shops - SI 88/2012]; Chinhoyi [cemeteries charges - SI 91/2012]; Gokwe [cemeteries - SI 86/2012]

General Notices

Government financial statements

GN 165/2012 notifies the publication as supplements to the Gazette of the Government’s consolidated statements of financial performance for the month and quarter ending 31st March 2012.

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

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