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recalled to sit on Tuesday 7th August to approve Chinese loan -
Bill Watch 37/2012
August 06, 2012
Recalled to Sit on Tuesday 7th August
Mugabe’s request, the Speaker and the President of the Senate
have recalled the House
of Assembly and the Senate to sit from Tuesday 7th August. They
had adjourned until 3rd September. Parliamentary Standing Orders
permit the presiding officers to take this step at the request of
the President if they are satisfied that the public interest so
requires. [House of Assembly Standing Order 187, Senate Standing
Committees are still in abeyance until the start of new [5th] session
Chinese Loan for Victoria Falls Airport Upgrading
The Clerk of
Parliament announced the recall late on 3rd August and said that
the recall is “to consider the ratification of agreements
and urgent public business”. No further details of the agenda
items were given in the statement, but one agreement coming up is
for a $164 million loan from China to finance the upgrading of the
Victoria Falls airport ahead of next year’s UNWTO Congress.
[Copy of agreement not yet available.] Parliament's approval of
international agreements with financial ramifications for the Government
is required by section 111B of the Constitution.
The signing of this and several other financial agreements between
Zimbabwe and China was announced in early April during a visit by
Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu. Minister of Finance Tendai Biti
signed for Zimbabwe.
the deal was signed in April, it would have been sensible to bring
it to Parliament any time since then while it was still sitting.
It is very costly to the nation to recall Parliament. Recalls to
secure urgent approval of Chinese loan agreements signed months
previously are fast becoming a Government habit. The last such recall
was in May 2011, when a long adjournment was interrupted to allow
the Minister of Defence to get Parliamentary approval of a controversial
loan agreement between Zimbabwe and China to finance the construction
of the National Defence College. The recall coincided with a visit
to Zimbabwe by a high-level Chinese military delegation. On that
occasion MPs from both MDC formations complained that Parliamentarians
were being railroaded into rubberstamping a transaction they had
not had enough time to consider properly; and there was public outrage
over the Government’s handling of the deal.
Clerk of Parliament did not mention what other business Parliament
would deal with – it is permitted, by the Standing Orders
used to recall Parliament, for the Houses to resume work on outstanding
agenda items. It is hoped that this will be done, considering the
expense of the recall.
- Items still
on the House of Assembly agenda include: presentation of the report
of the Privileges Committee on the contempt of Parliament charges
against Mr Arafas Gwaradzimba; Hon Sululu’s motion on the
need for monitoring Government implementation of Portfolio Committee
recommendations; Hon Zhanda’s motion calling for a Parliamentary
investigation into allegations of corruption at the Reserve Bank;
and Hon Musundire’s motion for the scrapping of the present
Indigenisation Regulations; as well as “take note”
motions for discussion of recent Portfolio Committee reports.
- An important
issue still to be dealt with in the Senate is the backlog of Parliamentary
Legal Committee [PLC] adverse reports on statutory instruments.
It is hoped that these can be satisfactorily cleared; it would
be regrettable to have a repeat of what happened at the end of
the Third Session, when adverse reports, including one on an indigenisation
SI, lapsed and were not heard of again.
on PLC Adverse Reports on Statutory Instruments
entry into an army secondary school in Kadoma The Parliamentary
Legal Committee [PLC] reported adversely on SI 61/2012, issued under
the Defence Act, which declared the site of the new Army boarding
school in Kadoma to be a military cantonment. The effect of the
SI was to make entry into the school site without the permission
of the officer in charge a criminal offence. The Minister of Justice
and Legal Affairs – who has Ministerial responsibility for
matters involving the implementation of the current Constitution
– has accepted the PLC’s view and has advised the Minister
of Defence that the SI must be repealed. A new SI to give effect
to the repeal is awaited.
local authority by-laws During the current Parliamentary session
there have an unprecedented number of adverse reports by the Parliamentary
Legal Committee [PLC] on penalty provisions in local authority by-laws.
16 such reports, all on the same lines, have been presented, but
not yet voted on, in the Senate by PLC chairperson Mushonga.
objection to these by-laws focuses on the need to protect the public
from the abuse by councils and council officials of provisions in
local authority by-laws on fee-charging and imposing penalties.
The PLC says the way in which penalty-creating provisions are applied
by councils and their officials infringes an alleged offender’s
right to due process as laid down in the Constitution and the Criminal
Procedure and Evidence Act [CPEA]. An example of the abuse is
that fines in practice are being imposed and collected by municipal
police officers and receipted by municipal officials without reference
to a court. This offends against the procedure laid down by CPEA
for admission of guilt deposit fines and the processing of such
fines under the supervision of the magistrates court.
of Justice and Legal Affairs has discussed these adverse reports
with the PLC and an agreed position has been arrived at, as follows:
in by-laws will be tightened up to distinguish between fees and
charges for services and penalties or fines for criminal offences
will make it clear that deposit [spot] fines cannot exceed $20
[level 3] and that levying of these fines must be strictly in
accordance with the CPEA, i.e., the paper work must be vetted
by a magistrate
officials will be gazetted as “prescribed officers”
under the CPEA, with power to invite and receive deposit [spot]
fines under the CPEA procedures.
As the agreed
position document is in general terms, it is expected to result
not only in changes to by-laws already singled out by the PLC as
constitutionally defective, but also to avoid similar problems in
New mining fees
[SI 11/2012] This much-criticised SI also attracted an adverse report
from the PLC. Both the Minister of Mines and Mining Development
and the Minister of Finance have said the tariff of fees is being
reviewed, but it is taking an inordinately long time to gazette
a new SI.
instruments affected by adverse reports Government reaction to other
PLC adverse reports on SIs is still awaited. These include reports
on: an amendment to the VAT fiscalised cash register regulations
[SI 153/2011] and sub-catchment council rates under the Water Act
[SIs 127/2011 and 10/2012].
Under the Constitution,
the Senate’s adoption of a PLC adverse report means that the
President must repeal the statutory instrument concerned or the
particular provision/s in it condemned by the PLC reports as unconstitutional.
The only way this can be stopped is for the responsible Minister
to take remedial action to alter the unconstitutional provisions
in the statutory instrument – or if the House of Assembly
were to promptly pass a resolution overruling the Senate.
[only one new
item since Bill Watch 36/2012 – see Microfinance Bill below]
unless otherwise stated]
being prepared for Presidential assent before gazetting as Acts
printed for gazetting before presentation [not yet available]
Bill [This has recently been sent to the Government Printer. In
his 2012 Mid-Term Monetary Policy Statement
Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono said this Bill was a response
to the inadequate legislative provisions for the microfinance sector,
and referred to input received from a technical committee comprising
the Reserve Bank, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Small to Medium
Enterprises, Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Zimbabwe Association
of Microfinance Institutions and the World Bank local office.]
by Cabinet, but not yet in ready
Income Tax Bill
– mentioned by the Minister of Finance in his Mid-Year Fiscal
[Bill not yet available]
Gazettes of 1st and 3rd August
This week saw
a Budget-related Gazette Extraordinary on 1st August in addition
to the regular weekly Gazette on 3rd August.
gazetted on 1st August is a Customs and Excise Tariff Amendment
increasing excise duty on petrol and diesel from 20c to 25c per
litre, with effect from 1st August. [In his Mid-Year Fiscal Policy
Review the Minister of Finance said Government did not expect this
increase to cause price increases for petrol or diesel, given the
marked drop in the international price of crude oil. Strict arrangements
would therefore be put in place to monitor retail prices.]
agreement for agricultural industry - SI 130/2012 sets out new wages
applicable from June 2012.
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