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Update on Acts and Government Gazette - Bill Watch 1/2013
Veritas
January 15, 2013

Both Houses of Parliament have Adjourned until Tuesday 5th February

2013 Budget Acts Gazetted

The Finance (No. 2) Act and the Appropriation (2013) Act were gazetted on 28th December and came into force immediately. All Bills passed by Parliament during 2012 have now been gazetted as Acts.

Acts of 2012

The complete list of Acts of 2012 is as follows:

Comment: Other than Acts 4, 5, 6 and 7 for the Ministry of Finance, which come up every year, only three Acts were the outcome of a whole year’s Parliamentary work. This is a record low.

New Vacancy in House of Assembly – Death of Deputy Minister Seiso Moyo

With the death on 21st December of Seiso Moyo, MDC-T MP for Bulawayo’s Nketa constituency and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, the number of vacant seats in the House of Assembly rose to 18 out of a possible full complement of 215.

Current vacancies

All eighteen vacancies are in the 210 constituency seats.

Current membership

The 196 current members of the House fall into the following groups:

ZANU-PF: 92

MDC-T: 96

MDC: 8

Note: There has been prolonged litigation brought by dissatisfied would-be MPs for compelling the holding of by-elections. An appeal against Justice Chiweshe’s order allowing the Government until the end of March 2013 to call by-elections is now waiting a hearing in the Supreme Court. By the time a decision is reached it may be too late to be of any practical value.

Status of Bills

Government Bills already gazetted [all available from veritas@mango.zw]

Microfinance Bill – this Bill was introduced in the House of Assembly on 29th November and immediately referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]. Further proceedings must wait for the PLC’s report on the Bill’s consistency or otherwise with the Constitution. [For summary see Bill Watch 41/2012 of 4th September 2012]

Income Tax Bill – this massive Bill was gazetted on 30th November. It has not yet been introduced and referred to the PLC.

Securities Amendment Bill – this Bill was introduced in the House of Assembly on 9th October 2012 and referred to the PLC, but lapsed at the end of the last Session before the PLC had reported on it. As with any lapsed Bill, the responsible Minister, in this case the Minister of Finance, can ask the House to restore it to the Order Paper at the point reached when it lapsed.

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill – this Bill, long ago cleared by the PLC and awaiting the start of its Second Reading stage, also lapsed at the end of the last Session. The Minister of Industry and Commerce can request its restoration to the Order Paper.

Government Bill being printed [NOT yet available]

Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill – this Bill was received by Parliament from the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs late last week and has been sent to the Government Printer for printing and, in due course, gazetting.

Note: The Attorney General’s Office Act was gazetted in June 2011 but has never been brought into force. In his speech opening the present Parliamentary Session the President mentioned this Bill, saying it would 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 current Constitution. Section 76 concentrates on the Attorney General’s prosecuting functions.

Comment: The COPAC draft Constitution envisages the Attorney General’s present prosecuting functions being transferred to an independent National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] headed by a Prosecutor-General. This would mean the Attorney-General and his Office would be left with the function of legal advisors to the Government. ZANU-PF has objected to this part of the COPAC constitution and it remains one of the “unresolved issues” presently being discussed.

Question: Why is the Government persisting with this Bill before the issue of whether or not to have a National Prosecuting Authority has been agreed? The MDC would be able to block the Bill’s passage through Parliament.

Bills in the pipeline [copies NOT yet available]

Bills recently mentioned by Ministers but not yet ready include:

Banking Amendment Bill - Both in his Budget Statement in November and since then the Minister of Finance has talked of his plans for a “plethora” of amendments to legislation governing the banking sector, to include provision for mandatory “stress tests” and a Banking Ombudsman to protect the interests of customers.

Procurement Amendment Bill - Minister of Finance Tendai Biti has also made known his desire to have the Procurement Act amended to improve efficiency and reduce openings for corruption in the procurement process.

Diamonds Bill, to ensure transparency and accountability in the exploitation of the country’s diamond fields, and the receipt of Government revenue from diamond mining by the Ministry of Finance. This is another project of the Minister of Finance.

Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill - The Minister of Mines and Mining Development said last week that Cabinet has approved this long-awaited Bill. He singled out a provision for landowners to have far greater rights vis-à-vis prospectors and miners than under the present law. Exactly what this means will only become clear once the fine print in the Bill can be examined, but major changes in basic mining law principles seem to lie ahead.

Government Gazette 21st December to 11th January

Acts of Parliament [gazetted 28th December]

  • Finance (No. 2) Act (No. 6/2012]
  • Appropriation (2013) Act [No. 7/2012]

[See note at the beginning of this bulletin.]

Statutory Instruments

Extra public holiday

SI 187A/2012, gazetted on 20th December in a Gazette Extraordinary, made Christmas Eve, Monday 24th December, a special one-off public holiday, in addition to the regular public holidays on 22nd, 25th and 26th December. While there may have been good reason for the declaration, the business community complained about inconvenience caused by the last-minute nature of the declaration.

Immigration regulations SI 189/2012 provides for the use of a special identity document to facilitate movement across the Zimbabwe/Zambia border of Zambezi River Authority personnel. Note that passports will still be required.

Air service permit fees SI 190/2012 specifies new application fees for permits issued under the Air Services Act.

Local authority by-laws SIs 191/2012 and 192/2012 are Masvingo City Council by-laws dealing with bus-stops and pre-paid parking discs for use in the CBD. Thoroughfares designated by the Council for pre-paid parking bays are separately listed in a General Notice gazetted on the same day, 28th December [see General Notices below].

The first two SIs of 2013, gazetted on 11th January, are new Bindura Municipal Council by-laws covering public health [SI 1/2013] and food hygiene [SI 2/2013].

Customs duty suspensions for mining companies SIs 194/2012 and 3/2013 add to the list of mining companies to be granted customs duty suspensions.

Customs and excise measures giving effect to Budget [all gazetted in a Gazette Extraordinary dated 31st December and effective from 1st January 2013]

SI 193/2012 adds over 20 commodities to the list of items on which a 25% customs surtax is payable [e.g., cooking oils, butter, margarine, fresh cheese, washing and cleaning preparations].

SI 198/2012 makes comprehensive changes to the customs tariff.

SI 199/2012 contains detailed provision for the suspension of customs duty on certain types of motor vehicles imported by approved safari operators.

SI 195/2012 allows for the suspension of excise duty on ethanol for use as fuel.

SI 196/2012 re-enacts a provision of the Customs and Excise (General) Regulations for a customs duty rebate on goods imported for religious purposes.

VAT measure giving effect to Budget

SI 197/2012, also with effect from 1st January 2013, deals with VAT on live birds and soya meal.

General Notices

Special mining grants - GNs 3/2013 to 12/2013, gazetted on 4th December, notify the issue of special mining grants in Bulawayo, Masvingo and Harare mining districts. The grants have been issued by the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, on the authority of the President, in terms of section 301 of the Mines and Minerals Act. While the notices state the names of the grantee companies and the varying periods of the grants, they do not specify whether they are for prospecting or mining, or both, or what minerals are covered.

Masvingo pre-paid parking disc zones are specified in GN 609/2012 of 28th December [see also under Statutory Instruments above].

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