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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 30 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
July 11, 2012


The House of Assembly considered the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill when it resumed its sitting yesterday after 3-week long break. The Minister of Finance, Hon. Tendai Biti gave a ministerial statement in the House on the forthcoming population census.

Plenary Proceedings in The House of Assembly:

Ministerial Statement on the Population Census

In his ministerial statement, the Minister of Finance informed the House that the upcoming population census will conducted on the 17th and 18th of August 2012. He implored Zimbabweans to cooperate and take the event seriously by avoiding unnecessary movement so that they are enumerated. Hon Biti emphasized that the census was important for economic planning and delimitation of constituencies among other things.

The Minister appealed to Members of Parliament to educate their constituencies on the importance of the census. He said the population census staff would be made up largely of school teachers. Hon. Biti assured the House that he did not anticipate political problems for the enumerators given that the population census was a national programme. However, in the event of any problems that may arise on the ground, the Zimbabwe Republic Police would be there to deal with such problems. Regarding people outside the country, the Minister said that a website was being developed to cater for them. The media was called upon to play a constructive role during the census exercise.

Debate on Legislation before Parliament

Parliament finally debated the long overdue Bills; the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill. Debate on the two Bills had stalled due to disagreements on some clauses by the governing parties. On the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, the major contention by MDC-T MPs was the clause regarding cut-off date of February 2009 where the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission would start off from. MDC MPs wanted the Commission to be able to consider past human rights abuses that occurred before the stipulated date in the Bill. The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Senator Chinamasa dismissed the proposal as he argued that the Bill as it stood was a result of compromise reached by the negotiators from the three political parties. He said the issue of past human rights abuses would be handled by the National Organ on Healing, Integration and Reconciliation. The Bill passed the committee stage with amendments and thus was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee to ascertain if the adopted amendments did not violate provisions of the constitution or any other existing legislation.

The major contentious issue on the Electoral Amendment Bill was a clause stipulating polling station-based voters registers. This clause had attracted an adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee in that it violated voters’ freedoms of choice and movement. MDC-T MPs also argued that this clause will make it easy for their supporters to be targeted and thus disenfranchised. The Parliamentary Legal Committee withdrew its adverse report on the understanding that the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs would amend the clause so that the voting would be ward-based. However, this compromise will only apply specifically to the forthcoming elections. Future elections will be polling-station based. The Bill went through its second reading yesterday and awaits committee stage on Thursday this week.

The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Senator Chinamasa, suspended Standing Orders regarding the stages of bills in the House in respect of the two aforementioned Bill in order to expedite their passage.

Plenary Proceedings in The Senate:

Adoption of Motion on Measures to Curb Effects of Drought

Senator Mohadi wound up and withdrew her motion urging government to take immediate steps to curb the effects of drought and climatic change in the country, especially in region V.

Ratification of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially Women and Children

The Senate approved ratification of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially Women and Children. The Home Affairs Co-Minister, Hon. Theresa Makone introduced the motion in the Senate following its adoption by the House of Assembly on 21 June 2012 before parliament for a 3-week break. Hon. Chief Charumbira also spoke in favour of the motion but queried the delay in bringing the Protocol to Parliament. Chief Charumbira also spoke on the need to investigate the root causes of the problem and attitude of the victims involved. In addition, He also questioned the quality of passports (and other identification documents) that are specifically mentioned in the Protocol and the role of government agents in facilitating human trafficking, e.g. at boarders. Co-Minister Makone responded by informing the Senate that the Ministry would soon be tabling a bill to domesticate the Protocol and invited debate on those and other issues when the bill was tabled in the Senate. She also indicated that the Ministry was working on e-passports that she expected to be ready for issue before the forthcoming elections.

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