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House sends HRC and Older Persons Bills to Senate, amended Electoral Bill to PLC – Bill Watch 32/2012
Veritas
July 15, 2012

Both Houses of Parliament will Sit AgainThis Week

Finance Minister’s Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review on Wednesday 18th July

Three Parliamentary By-Elections Ordered by Supreme Court

On 12th July the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision ordering Presidential proclamations to be gazetted before the end of August for the holding of by-elections in three Matabeleland House of Assembly constituencies. These constituencies, formerly held by the smaller MDC party, fell vacant in 2010 when their MPs were expelled from their party and as a result forfeited their seats. In terms of the Electoral Act, the proclamations must call for nominations of candidates and fix dates for nomination courts to sit and for voting. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must then conduct the by-elections following the proclamation dates. The Electoral Act allows a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 21 days between the date a proclamation is gazetted and the sitting of the nomination court; and a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 50 days for campaigning between nomination day and polling day or last polling day. So, if the President gazettes a proclamation on 31st August, polling could be as late as 10th November i.e. 71 days after the gazetting of the proclamation. Conversely, if he gazettes a proclamation, this week, on 18th July, and uses the minimum periods, polling could be as soon as the 1st September.

[Note: if the current Electoral Amendment Bill – see below – becomes law before the proclamation is gazetted, as is now feasible, the parameters for by-election dates would be different, because the Bill requires longer campaign periods, of not less than 42 and not more than 63 days. This would permit polling to be set for as late as 22nd November.]

Precedent for Other Overdue By-Elections

While the Supreme Court’s order applies only to these three vacancies, the decision creates a precedent for other similar cases – meaning that the President would have no legitimate grounds for resisting applications to the High Court for the proclamation of by-elections in such cases. In these circumstances, an appropriate response to the decision would be a Government announcement that it will apply the decision across the board to fill the other 25 constituency seats that are vacant in the House of Assembly [16 seats] and the Senate [9 seats]. Like the three vacancies directly covered by the Supreme Court’s decision, all are well overdue for by-elections which, according to the Constitution and Electoral Act, should have been set in motion by the President within 14 days of Parliament notifying him of each vacancy. [Some of the vacancies date from the beginning of the present Parliament in 2008 – one of the ZANU-PF MPs elected in March 2008 died before the opening of Parliament several months later.] The Supreme Court’s decision also creates a precedent for summoning meetings of provincial assemblies of chiefs in Manicaland and Matabeleland to fill the two chief’s seats from those provinces that are vacant in the Senate.

In the House of Assembly Last Week

Bills passed in House and Transmitted to Senate

Human Rights Commission Bill – this Bill was amended during its Committee Stage on 10th July and sent back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the constitutionality of the amended Bill. The PLC returned a non-adverse report Bill on 12th July, as expected, and the Bill was immediately had its Third Reading [a formality] in the House and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration on Tuesday 17th July.

Older Persons Bill – this Bill, which has been awaiting its Second Reading stage since the PLC’s non-adverse report was announced some time ago, went through all its stages on 12th July, without amendment and with little debate. It, too, was transmitted to the Senate for consideration on 17th July.

Electoral Amendment Bill Amended – now awaiting PLC report

Having been given its Second Reading on 10th July, the Electoral Amendment Bill went through its Committee Stage on 12th July. The amendments tabled by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs – see Bill Watch 31/2012 of 11th July – were approved and the Bill was sent back to the PLC for its report on the constitutionality of the amended Bill. If, as expected, the PLC returns a non-adverse report on 17th July, the Bill will have its Third Reading in the House and then be transmitted to the Senate.

International agreement approved

The House approved a motion proposed by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa for the ratification of the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore within the framework of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation [ARIPO]. The Protocol is designed to protect traditional knowledge [such as expertise in traditional medicines] and traditional cultural expression of folklore in developing countries, particularly within ARIPO Member States, from the current rampant illicit exploitation of that knowledge and expression without any benefit accruing to the holders. Harare is the seat of ARIPO headquarters.

Ministerial Statements

Two comprehensive Ministerial Statements were made in the House, on the:

  • 2012 Population Census – by the Minister of Finance. The census will be conducted from 17th to 27th August.
  • Power Situation – by the Minister of Energy and Power Development. The Minister went into great detail on measures being taken to ease power outages in the country.

Motions

Waste disposal and management in Harare/Chitungwiza – the chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism proposed that the House take note of the committee’s report on waste disposal and management, which concludes that determined effort is required from the local authorities and the Environmental Management Authority to arrest problems in these areas before they get out of hand.

Question Time

Questions without notice raised issues including difficulties being experienced by would-be investors notwithstanding the introduction of the One Stop Shop Investment Centre; distribution of funds from the Youth Development Fund by commercial banks; NSSA investment decisions; the provincial spread of agricultural training colleges; deterioration of the National Sports Stadium; scrapping of hospital user fees for expectant mothers.

Questions with notice

The Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, responding to a question about a district administrator compelling kraalheads to attend a ZANU-PF meeting, confirmed that it is wrong for district administrators to dabble in politics. Other questions on the Order Paper were not dealt with for lack of Ministerial attendance.

In the Senate Last Week

Bills

As expected [see Bill Watch 30/2012], there was no further debate on Mr Gonese’s motion to restore his POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper.

Palermo Protocol Approved by Senate

On 10th July the Senate 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. Like their colleagues in the House of Assembly last month, Senators spoke in support of the motion. Minister Makone assured Senators that she would be back in Parliament next Session with a Bill to domesticate the Protocol, i.e., give it legal effect in Zimbabwe. Now that both Houses of Parliament have approved the Protocol, the Government can proceed to deposit Zimbabwe’s instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General. The Protocol will finally become fully binding on Zimbabwe 30 days thereafter. [See Bill Watch 27/2012 of 18th June for notes on the protocol.]

Motions

  • Public Service ghost workers There was further debate on this motion.
  • PLC Adverse Reports on SIs The chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, Hon Mushonga, presented another batch of adverse reports on statutory instruments. Again, all the reports criticise penalty provisions in local authority by-laws on the basis that the provisions concerned are inconsistent with the procedure for small admission of guilt fines laid down by the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, and therefore unconstitutional. There are now seventeen adverse reports on SIs awaiting further debate by the Senate, to end with decisions whether or not to adopt the adverse reports. [For the consequences of Senate adoption of an adverse report on a SI, see Bill Watch 24/2012 of 5th June.]

Thursday Question Time Questions Without Notice were marred by poor attendance by Ministers, although Hon Zvidzai, Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development dealt valiantly with a variety of questions on local government issues, including several complaints about unqualified “special interest councillors” being forced on local authorities by Ministerial appointment. Questions with Notice were not dealt with at all.

Coming up in the House of Assembly This Week

Bills

  • Electoral Amendment Bill – as soon as the PLC returns a non-adverse report on the Bill, it will receive its Third Reading and be transmitted to the Senate to be passed by that House.
  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill – this Bill is at the top of the Order Paper, awaiting its Second Reading. But as it has been there practically all the Session waiting for the Minister of Industry and Commerce to deliver his Second Reading speech, it may not be dealt with.

Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review

The Minister is due to present this on Wednesday 12th July – and is expected to follow it up with Amended Estimates of Expenditure for 2012 and an Appropriation (2012) Amendment Bill to give effect to them.

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Bills

The Senate is likely to have a busy week dealing with Bills transmitted from the House of Assembly. On 17th July it will receive the two Bills the House passed on Thursday:

  • Human Rights Commission Bill
  • Older Persons Bill.

Later in the week it will be receiving from the House of Assembly the:

  • Electoral Amendment Bill
  • Appropriation (2012) Amendment Bill, if as anticipated the Minister of Finance’s Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review necessitates a downward revision of Estimates of Expenditure for the year
  • any other Bill passed by the House next week, e.g., the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill it the House of Assembly [see above].

Motions

The Senate is still faced with continuing debate on the PLC’s seventeen adverse reports on SIs [see above] and on several other motions.

Question Time

If the Senate is still sitting on Thursday afternoon, proceedings will commence with questions, for which two hours are set aside.

New Bill being Printed by Government Printer

Parliament has received the Securities Amendment Bill from the Minister of Finance and sent it to the Government Printer for printing. The Bill may be gazetted during the coming week, but cannot be presented until the next Session of Parliament. The official text of the Bill will become publicly available when it is gazetted. The Bill has been under preparation for some time, and was one of the Bills mentioned by the President when he opened the present Parliamentary Session. It is designed to strengthen the regulatory framework for the financial sector, including the largely self-regulated Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Government Gazette of 13th July

No Bills, Acts nor statutory instruments were gazetted.

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