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proves stumbling block on the legislative process
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
June 22, 2012
In a disturbing
development, members of the Senate this week failed to debate adverse
reports from the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) on statutory
instruments. This is disturbing because these are legislators who
have been in Parliament
for almost four years and still cannot prepare themselves properly
to execute their primary legislative responsibilities.
demanded legal training and more time before they can consider the
adverse reports. These demands cannot be justified especially coming
when the life of this Parliament is legally expected to end in June
2013. The question is why have the senators not bothered to improve
themselves all these years? How then can they justify being paid
salaries and allowances for sittings that can be described as unproductive
from a law-making point of view? We have bills such as the private
member bill on the Public
Order and Security Act stuck in the Senate because these law-makers
are ignorant of their law-making functions.
instrument is a species of delegated legislation issued either by
a minister or local authority which comes into effect upon gazetting.
The minister/local authority has to be empowered by enabling legislation
or parent Act to issue the statutory instrument. In other words,
a statutory instrument operationalises some aspects of the parent
On Tuesday, the PLC chairperson, Hon. Shepherd Mushonga (MDC-T)
issued adverse reports on the following six statutory instruments
for consideration by the Senate:
Instrument No. 25 of 2012 – Mberengwa Rural District Council
(Traffic) By-Laws, 2012
Instrument No. 28 of 2012 – Marondera Municipal Council
(Incorporated Areas)(Amendment) By-Laws, 2012 (No.31)
Instrument No. 30 of 2012- Chegutu (Incorporated Areas) (Amendment)
By-Laws, 2012 (No.18)
Instrument No. 40 of 2012 – Kariba (Incorporated Areas)
(Amendment) By-Laws, 2012 (No.33)
Instrument No. 41 of 2012 – Norton Town Council (Food Hygiene)
Instrument No. 44 of 2012 – Bindura Municipality (Chipadze
and Chiwaraidzo Annexe Incorporated Areas) (Rent Services and
Supplementary Charges) (Amendment) By-Laws, 2012 (No.18)
reports were issued on the above-mentioned statutory instruments
mainly on account of the fact that the levels of fines they impose
were above level 3 ($20), which did not require judiciary involvement.
In terms of the Criminal
Procedure and Evidence Act, any level of fine above level 3
can only be imposed or confirmed by a court of law.
Schedule 4 (8)
to the Constitution
requires the submission of adverse reports on statutory instruments
by the PLC to the Senate. If after considering a report from the
PLC the Senate adopts it (that a provision of the statutory instrument
is in contravention of the Declaration of Rights or any other provision
of the Constitution) and the House of Assembly has not resolved
otherwise within 21 days, then the Clerk of Parliament shall report
the circumstances to the President who shall forthwith, by notice
in the Gazette, repeal that provision. So in other words, Parliament
has supreme powers to repeal statutory instruments that are in contravention
of the Constitution. It is sad that Parliament is not exercising
on the aforementioned PLC adverse reports, the Senators were clearly
out of depth as they struggled to understand what they were expected
to do. Even after thorough explanation by the PLC chairperson, Hon.
Mushonga, the Senators had difficulties in offering useful debate
on the adverse reports. This resulted in debate being adjourned
to give Senators more time to reflect on the reports, despite the
fact that these reports have been on the Order Paper for several
months. When something is on the Order Paper, it basically means
it is an agenda item that can be debated anytime. You therefore
expect a legislator worth his salt to familiarize himself with the
agenda item and consult staff of Parliament or abundant expertise
in this country in order to adequately prepare for plenary sessions.
Demanding more time when the issue is set for debate is unjustified
and clearly demonstrates that the senators are reneging on their
It would also be sad if their actions can be interpreted as a deliberate
attempt to frustrate the legislative process in the country at a
time when we are all keen to see a Parliament playing a leading
role enacting legislation that advances the democratization agenda
in Zimbabwe. Given what happened this week, the question that I
pose is do we really need a Senate under a new political dispensation?
I see in the draft constitution that MDC and Zanu PF are for two
houses – Senate and House of Assembly. Is this not a mere
waste of public resources? We surely don’t need a creature
existing merely to frustrate the legislative process in the country.
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