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House of Assembly & Senate to meet 4th September - Bill Watch 41/2012
Veritas
September 04, 2012

Both Houses resume sitting Tuesday 4th September

No Date Yet for Ceremonial Opening of Next Parliamentary Session

Parliamentary Sittings to Resume on 4th September

There has still been no announcement of a date for the official ceremonial opening by the President of the next session of the present Parliament – its fifth and final session. As a result both Houses will be sitting again on Tuesday 4th September, which is the date to which they adjourned in late July when starting their end-of-session break for the August school holidays. This break was in fact briefly interrupted by a special recall on 7th August to approve three Chinese loan agreements [see Bill Watch 39/2012 of 20th August]. It is normal practice to adjourn to a particular date. When a new opening is expected, this date is set well in advance in the expectation that a new session will start before that date.

It had been generally expected that by now the President would have proclaimed the end of the fourth session and delivered his speech to Parliamentarians opening the new session. That would have left members of the House of Assembly and Senators taking the customary adjournment to mull over the President's outline of the Government's plans for the new session and then getting down to work in earnest again on 18th September – the date earmarked on the 2012 Parliamentary sitting calendar for the start of a series of sittings scheduled to last until mid-October.

Will this week's sittings be productive? It remains to be seen whether Parliamentarians will be prepared to do something useful when they resume on 4th September. Or will they, perhaps, just meet briefly and then adjourn again to wait for the start of the new session, which cannot now be long delayed? There is still unfinished business on the order papers, particularly in the House of Assembly – and, as having Parliament sitting is a costly exercise, it would be a pity to leave this business untouched.

Parliament

On the House of Assembly Order Paper

Bills

  • National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill
    This item has been on the agenda since the beginning of the Session without action from the Minister of Industry and Commerce.
  • Private Member's Bills
    There are two Private Member's Bills listed – the Urban Councils Amendment Bill and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendement Bill [to repeal the now infamous section 121(3) of the principal Act]. But proceedings on them are effectively suspended pending the Supreme Court's decision on an application by ZANU-PF Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Ignatious Chombo for a ruling that Private Member's Bills are inadmissible during the lifetime of the GPA.

Note re Bills not yet on the Order Paper

  • Securities Amendment Bill - This new Bill was gazetted more than two weeks ago – on 10th August – it qualifies for its First Reading. If that happens, it would be referred straight to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] and would go no further pending the PLC's report. [For summary of this Bill see Bill Watch 39/2012 of 20th August].
  • Microfinance Bill - As this was only gazetted on 31st August, it does not qualify for its First Reading this week.

Report of the Privileges Committee on SMM Administrator Gwaradzimba

This report is ready to be presented by the chairperson of the Privileges Committee appointed to investigate a charge of contempt of Parliament said to have been committed by Mr Gwaradzimba in a press interview about his appearance before the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy.

Portfolio Committee reports awaiting presentation or further debate include: the Government's Agreement with Essar Africa Holdings on New Zimbabwe Steel; ZESA service delivery; Air Zimbabwe; deportations.

Motions for presentation include: resuscitation of a committee on government assurances to monitor Government follow-up action on recommendations by House committees; the need for public/private partnership arrangements for running the mining town of Hwange; allegations of corruption at the Reserve Bank.

On the Senate Order Paper

PLC Adverse Reports

The Senate's agenda lists 17 PLC adverse reports on statutory instruments. All of these were presented and explained to Senators by the PLC chairperson in July, before debate was adjourned for reaction from the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs. 16 of the 17 reports concern penalty provisions in local authority by-laws, and since July discussions between the Minister and the PLC have resulted in an agreement that there will be appropriate changes made to the by-laws [see Bill Watch 37/2012 of 6th August]. After that is done, the PLC will withdraw the adverse reports. This agreement makes further debate unnecessary, although Senators need to be formally updated on this development. As for the seventeenth report, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs has advised the Minister of Defence to repeal SI 61/2012, which criminalises unauthorised entry into the premises of an Army boarding school in Kadoma. But, the repealing SI has not yet been gazetted.

The agenda, though it looks formidable, is likely to be speedily dispatched. It would be expected that Senators had other national and constituency concerns to raise in a country which faces so many challenges.

January's New Mining Fees Still Not Repealed or Modified

The Senate adopted the PLC adverse report on Statutory Instrument [SI] 11/2012 [the controversial mining fees increases] on 28th March. But, the President has still not gazetted the repeal of the SI although under the Constitution this should have been done "forthwith" after the Senate's adoption of the adverse report. Nor has the Minister of Mines and Mining Development gazetted more reasonable fees despite statements from both him and the Minister of Finance that fees would be reviewed.

Microfinance Bill Gazetted

The Ministry of Finance's Microfinance Bill was gazetted on 31st August. The Bill provides for the registration, supervision and regulation of persons conducting microfinance business in Zimbabwe. The supervising body will be the Reserve Bank, which must appoint one of its employees as Registrar of Microfinanciers. Microfinance business is defined to cover the providing of loans and other credit facilities by individuals, financial institutions, companies and partnerships. Registration will have to be renewed annually, and will not be granted to individuals who are not "fit and proper persons" to carry on moneylending business, or to institutions or companies that are not controlled by fit and proper and suitably experienced persons. Appropriate business plans will also be required.

The Bill also makes amendments to the Banking Act and the Moneylending and Rates of Interest Act. Registered banks will have to register their microfinance divisions under the Bill. For moneylenders, registration by the Registrar of Microfinanciers will replace the present licensing under the old Moneylending and Rates of Interest Act – but the anti-usury provisions of the latter Act [which was once called the Usury Act] will be maintained in force.

Status of Bills

[one new entry – underlined]

[Bills available from veritas@mango.zw unless otherwise stated]

Passed Bills awaiting Presidential assent and gazetting as Acts

Bill gazetted and awaiting presentation in Parliament

  • Microfinance Bill [gazetted on 31st August – see summary above] [not yet available]
  • Securities Amendment Bill [gazetted on 10th August 2012]

Government Gazette of 31st August

[copies not available]

Bill - Microfinance Bill [see above]

Statutory Instruments

Collective bargaining agreement SI 140/2012 corrects an error in SI 138/2012 affecting monthly levies payable to the Motor Industry National Employment Council by workers and employers.

Customs rebate SI 141/2012 provides for a rebate of duty on the importation of CO2 compliant coolers and HFC-free refrigeration equipment during the period 31st August to 31st December 2012 only. The rebate is restricted to importers approved by the Minister of Finance.

Axle-loading regulations SI 139/2012 sets out new fees payable for registration of abnormal vehicles and permits for the use on Zimbabwe's roads of abnormal size vehicles and carriage of abnormal loads.

General Notices

Withdrawal of exclusive prospecting orders GN 352/2012 notifies the withdrawal with effect from 3rd August of 90 reservations against prospecting and pegging under the Mines and Minerals Act. These withdrawals follow the refusal of applications for exclusive prospecting orders over the areas concerned.

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