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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 35 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
October 10, 2012

Introduction

For the past four months Parliament of Zimbabwe has been sitting on an ad hoc basis characterized by long breaks. Parliament resumed business yesterday after a month-long break and immediately adjourned to 15 November 2012. The House of Assembly only debated one motion before its adjournment yesterday whereas the Senate dispensed with adverse reports on some statutory instruments which have been before the Senate for some time.

Plenary proceedings in the House of Assembly

Debate on the Motion on Ministers' Lack of Cooperation

As indicated above, the House of Assembly debated only one item before it adjourned to 15 November 2012. Hon. Anadi Sululu (MDC-T Silobela) introduced a motion in the House bemoaning the condescending attitude of the Executive Members towards the Legislature as evidenced by their non-attendance to committees' oral evidence sessions as well as sittings of the House during Question and Answer Sessions. Hon. Sululu also lambasted Ministers for failure to respond to Committee reports in the House as required by parliamentary procedures. He also observed that Ministers were not giving feedback to Parliament on the progress of programmes under their purview. He thus proposed the establishment of a Special Parliamentary Committee that will evaluate and monitor Minister's responsibilities and obligations to parliament.

The motion was extensively debated by backbenchers across the political divide. Members lamented the fact that the Executive only took parliament seriously if they wanted MPs to pass their Bills and ratify loan agreements and international convention. Members across the political divide bemoaned the party whipping system, which they described as a negation of democracy as it constrained them from expressing independent views. They also noted that most Ministers were their seniors at political party level and thus it was difficult to rein them in.

Some Members also cited a blurred governance structure at parliament as contributing to the challenges they were experiencing in dealing the Executive. They noted that the parliament's supreme-making body, the Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) was dominated by members of the Executive. It was therefore difficult for that Committee to implement sanctions against Members of the Executive who were breaching parliamentary procedures and practices. Thus, the backbenchers recommended that the composition of the SROC should be made up of backbenchers only. Members also cited blurred functions of the Speaker and the Clerk of Parliament to the undermining of the authority of parliament by Members of the Executive.

Members also recommended that in the future, there should be a complete separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature. To this end, they argued that members of the Executive should be appointed outside parliament, as it obtains in the American government system.

Plenary proceedings in the Senate

The Senate finally made a resolution on the following statutory instruments, which have been pending before the House for quite some time; 25, 28, 30, 40, 41, 44,55,58,62,63,66,71,73,78,90 and 93 of 2012. The Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) had issued adverse reports on the aforementioned statutory instruments mainly owing to the fact they empowered local authorities to charge penalties above Level 5, of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07] without recourse to the courts of law. In order to comply with provisions of Section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Hon. Patrick Chinamasa, struck an agreement with the Parliamentary Legal Committee to amend the wording of the aforementioned statutory instruments by substituting the "penalty" with "fee" or "fine".

However, with respect to Statutory Instruments 71, 90, and 93 of 2012, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs concurred with the observation of the Parliamentary Legal Committee that those statutory instruments were ultra vires the Urban Councils Act for being in excess of the maximum level of criminal penalties allowed by that Act to be imposed under by-laws. Thus, Hon. Chinamasa assured the House that the offending sections of the aforementioned statutory instruments will be sent back to the Attorney General's Office for re-drafting.

Prorogation of the 4th Session

There is still no confirmation as to when the President will prorogue the 4th Session of Parliament to pave way for the official opening of the 5th and last session of this current parliament. This session had been expected to end in July or early August this year. As a result of this confusion, parliament has been sitting in an ad hoc basis. While debating the above-mentioned motion by Hon. Sululu, Members argued that this was a deliberate ploy by the Executive to cripple the operations of parliament.

Adjournment of Parliament

As indicated above, the House of Assembly adjourned to 15 November 2013. The Senate is sitting this afternoon to ratify the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore within the Framework of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization. After dispensing with this item, the Senate is also expected to adjourn to 15 November 2012.

Forthcoming Events

Public Hearings on the 2013 National Budget

The Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion is scheduled to embark on a countrywide public consultative process on the 2013 National Budget staring on Monday 15 October 2012 as per attached schedule:

Team 1

Date Time Venue
Monday 15 October 0900-1100hrs Marondera (Farmers' Hall)
Tuesday 16 October 1430-1630hrs Mutare (Queens Hall)
Wednesday 17 October 1130-1300hrs Masvingo (Civic Centre)
Thursday 18 October 1130- 1300hrs Chiredzi (Chitsnga Hall)
Friday 19 October 0900-1100hrs Beitbridge (Holiday Inn Express)

Team 2

Date Time Place
Monday 15 October 0900-1100hrs Chinhoyi (Cooksie Memorial Hall)
Tuesday 16 October 2012 0900-1100hrs Kwekwe Theatre
Tuesday 16 October 2012 1400-1600hrs Gweru (Gweru Theatre)
Wednesday 17 October 0900-1100hrs Bulawayo (Small City Hall)
Wednesday 17 October 1400-1600hrs Gwanda (Gwanda Club)
Thursday 18 October 1100-1300hrs Lupane (Lupane Community Hall)
Friday 19 October 0900-1100hrs Victoria Falls (Chinotimba Hall)

Pre-Budget Seminar

Parliament will be conducting a pre-Budget Seminar for all Members of Parliament on 1 - 5 November 2012. The seminar is an annual activity meant to enhance the contribution of members on the process of budget formulation and prioritisation ahead of the presentation of the 2013 national budget statement on the 15th of November 2012.

Visit the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust fact sheet

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