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Parliament resumes on 10th July for important bills and Mid-Term Financial statement - Bill Watch 28/2012
Veritas
July 01, 2012

Both Houses of Parliament sat last week before adjourning until Tuesday 10th July

Extra July Sittings for Parliament

The Parliamentary sitting calendar has been modified to cater for extra sittings next month to deal with urgent business. Both Houses will sit from 10th to 12th July and again in the following week. Urgent agenda items include:

Both these important Bills are expected to come up in the House of Assembly on 10th July. Passing both of them is part of the Roadmap to Elections. [If these Bills are passed and gazetted as Acts they may only be temporary. A new constitution, if approved in the forthcoming Referendum and passed by Parliament, may necessitate new Bills or Amendment Bills.]

  • Mid-Term Financial Statement/Budget: 12th July

Two weeks ago the Minister of Finance warned MPs of ‘a major revision” of his US $4 billion 2012 Budget, saying: “Part of the major revision arises out of the underperformance of the revenue targets. I can tell you that between January and May 2012, we have failed to meet our revenue target by US $194 million, almost close to US $200 million. Therefore, the figure of US $4 billion is going to be revised downwards”. This means the Minister will be presenting Amended Estimates of Expenditure and a consequential Appropriation Amendment Bill.

As a result of these extra sittings the opening of the next session of Parliament, originally scheduled for Tuesday 17th July, will be pushed back to a later date still to be notified, but probably in August.

Facilitation Team Visit Delayed

The SA facilitation team had to put off its return to Harare, planned for 25th June, because the Zimbabwean GPA negotiators were not ready to present them with a report on what progress has been in fulfilling the terms of the GPA since the Luanda SADC Summit at the end of May.

Palermo Protocol Approved by House of Assembly

On 21st June the House of Assembly passed a resolution approving the Palermo Protocol [the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children] as proposed by Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone. The Minister explained that in terms of section 111B of the Constitution the Government needs the approval of both Houses of Parliament before it can go ahead and accede to the Protocol, thereby making Zimbabwe a State party. Several MPs spoke in support of the motion, giving examples of trafficking that occur in and from Zimbabwe and stressing the need to ensure implementation of the protocol following ratification, including the passing of an Act to “domesticate” its provisions in Zimbabwean law. The Minister will ask the Senate for its approval on 10th July.

Press reports have incorrectly said that Parliament is “ratifying” the protocol. The correct constitutional position is that Parliament “approves” an international agreement and that the President as Head of State then “ratifies” it or “accedes” to it. Ratification is the procedure followed when an agreement has already been signed on behalf of Zimbabwe; accession is the procedure when it has not already been signed. In the case of the Palermo Protocol the period for signing expired in December 2002 without Zimbabwe having signed – hence the need for Zimbabwe to accede rather than ratify. After approval by Parliament the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will prepare Zimbabwe’s instrument of accession for signature by the President. The signed instrument of accession will then be deposited with the UN Secretary-General and the protocol will come into force for Zimbabwe 30 days later.

[See Bill Watch 27/2012 of 18th June for notes on the protocol. The protocol is available from veritas@mango.zw]

In Parliament Last Week

Both Houses met on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, 12th to 14th June. Once again, neither House dealt with waiting Bills.

In the House of Assembly

Prime Minister’s Questions Time [PMQs] - The Prime Minister began by referring to the lack of regular Parliamentary attendance by Ministers during the session and said he hoped the next session would see “a greater presence of the Executive”. Questions included:

Drought-affected livestock - The PM said there was a Cabinet task-force on drought problems and Government policy was to arrange movement of livestock to areas with sufficient grazing or feed.

Politically partisan statements by security force officers - The PM asserted that the majority of patriotic Zimbabweans serving in the forces “are committed to upholding the Constitution and the protection of the people of Zimbabwe”. But he then quoted from minutes of a police meeting at which a senior officer had said that every member of the police force must be aligned to ZANU-PF. He said this was unacceptable and emphasised the need for “the re-alignment of our security establishment to respect the will of the people, to respect the security of the vote, to respect the security of the persons and of course to respect the mandate of the people”.

Lowveld ethanol project - The PM confirmed the Government’s commitment to the project and the use of ethanol in fuel; he explained the problem was that the arrangement between the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority and Green Fuels had been reached without Government sanction, that it was “suspect” and that “the initial ownership structure needed to be corrected”.

ESSAR iron and steel project - Cabinet had, the PM said, resolved the problem about iron ore mining rights. He acknowledged that there should have been proper consultation between the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development before the deal was signed.

Civil Service salaries - While denying there was any Government policy to freeze wages, the PM reminded MPs that the country is “really in a budgetary squeeze”, with diamond revenue expectations not having been realised

Broadcasting Authority Board - The PM insisted that the position was unchanged, i.e., the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity was still under orders to regularise the position. The Minister was “out of line” if he had assured the House that the Board had been regularly appointed.

Ministerial Statement on UNWTO 2013 Conference - Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Walter Mzembi made a statement to the House on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO] Conference to be co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia at Victoria Falls in October 2013. He outlined the Government’s plans for making the event a success.

Motions

There was lively debate on motions in the House of Assembly which sat longer than usual hours.

  • Price of cotton

The House approved a motion by Hon Bhasikiti-Chuma of ZANU-PF referring to the plight of cotton growers and calling on the Government to fix the price of cotton “so that cotton farmers can benefit from the land reform”. MPs from all sides supported the motion in a debate taking up all of Tuesday afternoon’s lengthy sitting.

  • Peaceful Pre and Post-Elections Transition

On Wednesday Hon Chitando of MDC-T proposed a motion calling on the Government to put in place mechanisms to ensure a peaceful pre and post-election transition, and urging SADC and the AU to ensure that their member states subscribe to the ethos of African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The motion was fully debated and supported on all sides; it was approved on Thursday after further discussion.

In the Senate

PLC adverse reports

On Tuesday the whole sitting was devoted to consideration of the Parliamentary Legal Committee’s adverse reports on six statutory instruments. The reports were presented by PLC chairperson Hon Mushonga. No vote was taken and debate will continue when the Senate resumes. [For a list of the SIs concerned see Bill Watch 24/2012 of 6th June.]

Motions

New motions were introduced on the following:

  • Public Service ghost workers

Senator Makore introduced a motion expressing concern over the lack of expeditious response to the reports of ghost workers within the Public Service and calling on the Public Service Ministry to clean up the payroll and report to Parliament as a matter of urgency.

  • Remuneration of teachers

Senator Chief Musarurwa introduced a motion referring to the low remuneration of teachers and urging the Government to take appropriate measures to alleviate their plight.

  • Report on the International Women’s Conference on Women and Technology, held in Bangalore, India, in February 2012.
  • Report on the Conference of the African Parliamentary Union [APU] held in Khartoum, Sudan .
  • Thematic Committee report on the indigenisation and empowerment policy which was presented by the acting chairperson of the Thematic Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment, Senator Hlalo [available from veritas@mango.zw].
  • Thematic Committee report on access to clean water in Masvingo and Bulawayo [available from veritas@mango.zw].

Government Gazette of 22nd and 29th June

[NOT available from Veritas unless otherwise stated]

Customs duty Four statutory instruments were gazetted:

  • a new customs tariff [SI 111/2012] and new surtax tariff [SI 112/2012]
  • suspensions of duty for the purposes of section 9J of the main regulations [SI 113/2012]
  • suspensions of duty for three specified mining companies for periods of 3 or 5 years [SI 114/2012]

Collective bargaining agreement – 2012 minimum wages for the leather and shoe, sports equipment, animal skin processing and taxidermy, and leather goods manufacturing sector [SI 115/2012]

Local authority by-laws – Chitungwiza service charges [SI 117/2012] and rents [SI 118/2012].

Firewood, timber and forest produce controls SI 116/2012, effective from 2nd July, contains detailed regulations made under the Forest Act by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management and designed to protect Zimbabwe’s trees. Firewood sellers and traders, timber traders and farmers using firewood for flue-curing or flame-curing tobacco will need licences to cover their activities. The use of msasa, munhondo, mopane and certain other trees for curing tobacco is prohibited except under stringent conditions. Persons transporting or exporting more than half a cubic metre of firewood or timber will need a permit. Licences and permits will be issued at district level by Forestry Commission officials or local authority officials authorised by the Commission. In addition to criminal penalties for breach of the regulations, control measures include provision for seizure, pending court proceedings, of both wood and vehicles used to transport it that may be liable to forfeiture on conviction.

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