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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 27 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
June 14, 2012

Introduction

The entire sitting for the House of Assembly yesterday was dedicated to question and answer session, both policy and written questions, taking advantage of the large turn-out of Ministers in the House. The Privileges Committee wrapped up the cross-examination of witnesses in the Gwaradzimba case of prima facie contempt of parliament.

Plenary proceedings in the House of Assembly

Question Without Notice

This segment is reserved for impromptu questions on policy issues, where backbenchers quiz Ministers on policies they administer. The session yesterday covered issues such as depressed revenue inflows, food deficit in the country, executive interference in parliamentary activities, traffic spot fines, vacancy freeze in government departments, water situation in Bulawayo among other topical policy issues in the country.

Depressed Government Revenue Inflows

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara confirmed to the House that government was experiencing serious revenue inflows. He was responding to a question by Hon. David Chimhini (MDC-T Mutasa North) who wanted to know what measures government was putting in place to improve disbursements to government departments of money allocated to such departments in the 2012 Budget. Professor Mutambara informed the House that a special cabinet meeting has been scheduled for Thursday 13 June to specifically deal with the issue of poor revenue inflows, public finance management and the general poor state of the economy.

Food Deficit in the Country

Professor Mutambara informed the House that government was doing all it could to ensure that people in areas that were affected by the drought would not starve. He said as a short-term measure, government has introduced a grain loan scheme whereby households without adequate food would be able to access grain from government on credit. To this end, government was moving grain from surplus areas to deficit areas to fulfill the objectives of this programme. As a long-term measure, he said government was working on a 3-year rolling agricultural policy which will allow government to plan properly in advance, not the current situation where government was resorting to “fire-fighting” measures. Professor Mutambara was responding to a question posed by Hon. Margaret Zinyemba (ZANU PF Mazowe South).

Executive Interference in Parliament

Hon. Collen Gwiyo (MDC-T Zengeza West) asked the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs if it was proper for Executive Members to drag parliament to court in view of the doctrine of separation of powers. This question was an indirect reference to the Minister of Local Government and Urban Development, Hon. Dr. Ignatius Chombo who has filed an urgent application in the Supreme Court seeking to bar parliament from considering a private member’s amendment Bill on the Urban Councils Act. In his response, Minister Eric Matinenga said every aggrieved person had a right to approach the courts for redress. He, however, said in view of the separation of powers doctrine, the conduct of any arm of government in relation to the other arms of government should be in accordance with the Constitution.

Traffic Spot Fines

Hon Takalani Matibe (MDC-T Chegutu West) asked the Co-Minister of Home Affairs Hon. Kembo Mohadi to explain to the House the correct position regarding spot fines issued to motorists by the police arising out of traffic offences. The Minister confirmed that it was legal for the police to demand that motorists pay spot fines unless the offenders preferred to take the issue to court. Members were not satisfied with this answer as they argued with the Minister that spot fines were not compulsory since the law allowed a situation whereby the offender could pay the fine later whether at his nearest police station or court. Deputy Prime Minister Professor Mutambara had to intervene and directed the Minister to go and research on the correct legal position on the matter.

Government Position on Vacancy Freeze

Hon. Eliah Jembere (MDC-T Epworth) asked the Minister of Finance Hon. Tendai Biti to explain to the House if government had waivered its policy to freeze vacancies in all government departments with respect to the Ministry of Defence which recently recruited more than 4000 soldiers. Hon. Biti said that the policy was still in place. He said government adopted this policy after realizing that the economy was not in a position to sustain a huge wage bill and all government departments were advised of this policy through a circular issued by the Public Service Commission. Despite the fact that the circular gave a leeway to treasury to waive the vacancy freeze for critical posts, the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs went ahead and recruited 4600 soldiers and 1000 police officers, respectively, without seeking approval from treasury. The Minister told the House that between January and May this year, there has been an “illegal” recruitment in the civil service of more than 10 000 employees. He said this has raised the civil service wage bill to $190 million versus monthly revenue of $230 million, something that was not sustainable given that the targeted revenue from the diamond sector was not forthcoming. This has necessitated government to convene a Special Cabinet Meeting today to deal the issue.

Problems in the Administration of Local Football

The Minister of Education, Sport Arts and Culture, Senator David Coltart informed the House that problems bedeviling local football were mainly due to lack of the rule of law in the sport, political interference and questionable management competencies of the football mother body, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA). He was responding to a question by Hon. Bright Matonga (ZANU PF Mhondoro-Ngezi) who wanted the Minister to explain the poor string of results by the national football team and the alleged harassment of players by ZIFA.

Hon. Reggie Moyo (MDC-T Luveve) asked the Minister of Water Resources Development and Management Hon. Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo to explain measures government was implementing to alleviate the dire water situation in Bulawayo, given that the supply dams only had water to last for 2 months. The minister said government was aware of the plight of Bulawayo and was doing all it could to address the problem. He said his ministry was working flat out to complete the Mtshabezi water project to augment water supplies to the City of Bulawayo. He said the project was expected to be completed by mid July this year.

Written Questions

Below is a summary of some answers given by Ministers to written questions on key issues of public interest.

Disruption of Approved Public Gatherings

The co-Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Theresa Makone apologized to the House for the police’s failure to protect the public from a violent mob that disrupted public hearings at parliament on the Human Rights Commission Bill and also a public gathering in Kwekwe that had the US Ambassador Charles Ray as one of the key guests. She said once clearance has been given for a public gathering, the police should ensure that they provided adequate personnel to protect the public. On the question regarding the current status of the position of the Police Commissioner General, Minister Makone was non-committal except to say that the issue was discussed between the President and Prime Minister. Minister Makone said she and her colleague Hon. Kembo Mohadi were not privy to the outcome of that discussion.

Diamond Companies in Chiadzwa

The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Hon. Gift Chimanikire denied that there were companies in Chiadzwa involving police, central intelligence officers and prison officers. He said there were only 5 companies in Chiadzwa, namely; Mbada, Marange Resources, Anjin, DMC and Sino-Zimbabwe. However, regarding the shareholding structure of Anjin, Hon. Chimanikire revealed to the House that government owned 10%, Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) 40% and the Chinese Company 50%.

In terms of contribution to the fiscus, the Deputy Minister said that between January and May this year, diamond mines in Chiadzwa remitted $29 million to government coffers.

Political Activities in Schools Premises

The Minister of Education, Sport Arts and Culture, Senator David Coltart said political activities were not allowed within schools premises in terms of the current government regulations. However, he noted that there have been reports of increased political activities within schools premises. He informed the House that his ministry was finalizing new regulations to strengthen the current regulations, which will make it punishable for anyone who conducts political activities within schools premises.

Update on the activities of the portfolio committees

The Privileges Committee wrapped up its cross-examination of witnesses in the Gwaradzimba prima facie case of contempt of parliament. Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba was put to his defence and he denied all the press statements attributed to him which the Mines and Energy Portfolio Committee deemed offensive.

After having cross-examined all the witnesses, it is now up to the committee to consider the evidence before it and come up with its verdict. The Committee will compile a report which will spell out its findings and sanctions thereof. The report will be tabled in the House for debate and adoption or otherwise.

The decision of the House on privilege issues is final and not contestable in any court of law.

Forthcoming events

The Co-Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Theresa Makone is set to move a motion for the ratification of the Human Trafficking Convention today in the House of Assembly.

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