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New Parliamentary session opened; adjourned to 15th November - Bill Watch 50/2012
Veritas
November 08, 2012

The President Officially Opened the new Parliamentary Session on Tuesday 30th October

Both Houses then Adjourned until Thursday 15th November [Budget Day]

Opening of Fifth and Final Session of Seventh Parliament

President Mugabe opened the fifth and final session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday 30th October. Immediately after the ceremony, both Houses reassembled separately and adjourned until Thursday 15th November. That is the day earmarked for the presentation of the 2013 Budget by the Minister of Finance.

The President’s Speech at the Opening Ceremony

[full text available from veritas@mango.zw]

The President’s speech on this annual occasion gives him an opportunity to highlight key developments in the previous year and Government intentions for the year ahead, in particular what Bills the Government plans to introduce during the session.

Short session likely - President Mugabe started with a warning that the session is “likely to be an abridged one”. This hint at an early end to the present Parliament was followed by an unequivocal statement of the President’s intention that the next elections be held by the end of March 2013.

Comment: The other GPA party leaders, Mr Tsvangirai and Professor Ncube, have since said they do not share this intention. Constitutionally, Parliament can continue until 28th June 2012, and the elections could be as late as 28th October.

New Constitution - The President referred to the just-ended COPAC Second All Stakeholders’ Conference on the draft constitution and the need for COPAC to now “work frantically to produce a Report of the Conference” to enable progress to be made towards the constitutional Referendum – and, if the Referendum vote is YES, the introduction in Parliament of the Bill for the new constitution for it to be passed into law.

Legislative Agenda

  • New Constitution

The Bill for the new constitution will be presented if the Referendum vote is YES.

Bills for new Acts [4 Bills]

  • Constituency Development Fund Bill – to strengthen accountability in the management of funds allocated to MPs for development in their constituencies, given experience gained since the CDF was introduced and the irregularities unearthed by the audit of those funds that commenced last year.
  • Diamond Bill – to give effect to Zimbabwe’s Diamond Policy, which has now been agreed and is designed to guide the development of the local diamond industry. There will be consequential amendments to the Precious Stones Trade Act.
  • State Enterprises and Parastatals Management Bill – to codify the Corporate Governance Framework for these bodies.
  • Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill – to set up a legal framework for the Tripartite Negotiating Forum. This body brings together government, business and labour in negotiations over key socioeconomic matters. It was established in 1998 accordance with International Labour Organisation Convention No. 44. Its success has been limited by lack of a legal framework.

Bills to amend existing Acts [4 Bills]

  • Zimbabwe Investment Authority Amendment Bill – to enhance Zimbabwe’s competitiveness as an investment destination.
  • Civil Aviation Amendment Act – to provide for the separation of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe into two entities: the Airports Management Administration and the Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority. This will enable Government to better discharge its international obligations and responsibilities with respect to aviation safety oversight and security functions.
  • Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill – this long-awaited Bill seeks to facilitate increased mineral production, provide a more competitive mining legislative framework, facilitate continuous exploration and local beneficiation of minerals.
  • Attorney General’s Office Amendment Bill – to amend provisions in the Attorney General’s Office Act that potentially infringe upon the independence of that office as enshrined in section 76 of the Constitution. The principal Act was gazetted on 10th June 2011 but has not been brought into force. Presumably it will remain in limbo until this Bill has become law. Meanwhile members of the Attorney General’s Office remain part of the Public Service, a situation which is incompatible with a truly independent Attorney General’s Office.

Comment:

  • The first 2 of these bills were on the President’s legislative agenda when he opened the Fourth Session in September 2011, but they were not introduced in Parliament.
  • The bill to amend the Mines and Minerals Act was mentioned when the President opened the Third Session in 2010, but the Minister of Mines and Mining Development did not bring it to Parliament.
  • The Attorney General’s Office Amendment Bill is the only new Bill of the four.

This is one indication of how little of their planned legislative work the Inclusive Government has actually placed before Parliament. Of the 14 Bills listed in the President’s Speech at the beginning of the last session, only one – the Electoral Amendment Bill – was introduced and passed. Those that were not even introduced included the Referendums Bill, Reserve Bank Restructuring Bill, Public Health Amendment Bill, Food Control Bill, Land Developers Bill and Railways Bill – and none of these is on the President’s list for this session.

International agreement for Parliament’s approval

The African Charter on the Values and Principles of Public Service Administration will be presented for approval by both Houses in terms of section 111B of the Constitution. This charter was adopted by the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in January 2011, and it has since been signed by 21 countries but ratified by only 2 of those 21. Zimbabwe has not signed it. The Charter seeks to improve public service delivery, combat corruption, protect the rights of citizens as users of public service and to promote sustainable development on the continent.

Closing remarks on political differences and violence

In closing the President said: “As we look ahead, irrespective of our political differences, let us continue to be bound together as Zimbabweans, and to maintain a disciplined focus on the task of developing our country for the benefit of our current and future generations. Let us also continue to engender within ourselves the belief that we are masters of our own destiny and the resolve to jealously guard our hard-won independence and nationhood, hoisting national unity as our solid bond. To this end, I wish to appeal to all our leaders, followers of our Parties and other organisations and stakeholders, including the media, to adopt the pledge to work genuinely for national unity and cohesion. Let us all shun violence in all its manifestations and latent forms, especially as we look forward to our national elections.”

Important Expected Bills Omitted

Bills to amend or repeal laws that restrict civil liberties:

These have been expected ever since the inception of the Inclusive Government.

  • Anti-Trafficking in Persons Bill

In his last year’s speech the President gave notice of the Government’s intention not only to accede to the UN Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, but also to give legal effect to it in domestic law. Also, when the Senate approved Zimbabwe’s accession to this Protocol in July, co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone promised Senators that she would be back with the Bill this session.

  • Income Tax Bill - This is in fact being printed – the Minister of Finance had previously told Parliament he wants it passed before the end of the year.

Budget Bills

Two money Bills to give effect to the 2013 Budget will come up later in the month – the Appropriation (2013) Bill and the Finance Bill. These Bills are never referred to in the President’s legislative agenda because they are part of the normal end-of-the-year Budget routine.

Status of Bills as at 5th November 2012

No Bills on the Agenda for 15th November

There are no Bills listed on the agenda for either House when Parliament resumes on 15th November. This is because the Bills left uncompleted at the end of the last session have lapsed in accordance with Parliamentary Standing Orders. Any lapsed Bill may, however, be restored to the agenda if the House of the Assembly or Senate so resolves.

Lapsed Bills from 4th Session that could be revived

Bill awaiting Second Reading

Bill being considered by Parliamentary Legal Committee

Private Member’s Bills held up pending Supreme Court decision

[See Bill Watch 20 and 21 of 15th May 2012]

Bill in Pipeline

  • Microfinance Bill [gazetted on 31st August] – ready for presentation in Parliament
  • Income Tax Bill – being prepared by Government Printer

Government Gazettes of 26th October and 2nd November

Statutory Instruments

VAT SI 168/2012 makes the changes to the VAT system with effect from 1st August 2012, as promised by the Minister of Finance in his Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review Statement. Domestic electricity, soya beans, seed cotton and white sugar are now zero-rated for VAT purposes.

Collective bargaining agreements - SI 169/2012 notifies new wages for the motor industry for the period July-December 2012. SI 170/2012 sets out complete conditions of service for the textile industry.

Road-tolls Victoria Falls Bridge - SI 171/2012 specifies the fees payable for use of the bridge by minibuses, buses, heavy vehicles and haulage vehicles, ranging from $5.00 to $30. Light motor vehicles are not subject to the toll.

Labour Act: Arbitrators SI 173/2012 contains regulations governing arbitrators appointed under section 98(6) of the Labour Act to handle disputes. A code of ethics is included.

Local authority by-laws - SI 172/2012 contains by-laws governing the use and conservation of communal and resettlement land in the Makonde Rural District Council’s area.

General Notices

Land acquisition

  • GN 489/2012 notifies the Government’s compulsory acquisition of a 1785-acre farm in Makonde district, under the special no-objections-allowed constitutional procedure for taking land for settlement for agriculture.
  • GN 490/2012 gives preliminary notice of its intention to acquire, under the Land Acquisition Act, approximately 1000 hectares on the outskirts of Harare for urban development; affected parties have the right to object.

Increase in Magistrates Court Jurisdiction in Civil Cases

Bill Watch 49/2012 of 19th October gave notice of SI 163/2012, gazetted on the 19th October. [SI 163 is now available from veritas@mango.zw]. The SI makes changes to the monetary limits on the jurisdiction of the magistrates court in civil cases. The amounts are as follows: for cases based on “liquid documents” [e.g. cheques, promissory notes] the limit is now $5 000 [was $1 000] and for other cases it is now $10 000 [was $2 000].

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