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resumes Tuesday 5th February – Bill Watch 4/2013
February 04, 2013
of Parliament Will Resume Sitting on Tuesday 5th February
Constitution to be Tabled in Parliament 5th February
will the Parliamentary debate start?
At a press conference
at 6 pm on 31st January the Constitution Select Committee [COPAC]
officially announced its intention to table the draft
and present the Select Committee’s report when Parliament
resumes on Tuesday 5th February. COPAC have emphasised that:
- the draft
is for MPs’ information only - it is only if there is a
YES vote in the Referendum that it will be gazetted as a Bill
which they will be asked to pass.
- only the
report will be debated
- they expect
the debate to end on Thursday with the adoption of the report.
There is no
other equally pressing business competing for Parliamentary time
[see below] so completion of the proceedings this week is achievable
- unless Parliament insists on debate. But, as the Principals have
reached agreement and both MDC parties and the ZANU-PF Politburo
have thrown their weight behind the Principals’ agreement,
and SADC has been told the constitution
is ready for Referendum, the Parliamentary Party Caucuses and
Whips will have strict instructions to adhere to COPAC’s timetable.
As the COPAC
Select Committee is a joint committee of both Houses, the draft
constitution and the report must go to the Senate as well as the
House of Assembly. The Senate proceedings can run at the same time
as those in the House; there is no need for the Senate to wait until
the House of Assembly has finished.
members’ business usually has precedence on Wednesdays in
the House of Assembly and Thursday in the Senate, the importance
and urgency of the debate on the COPAC report should override everything
An early conclusion
to the proceedings in Parliament is needed – even though Article
6 of the GPA allows Parliament up to a month. Time is very tight.
If the Referendum is to be held before the end of March or in early
April, and the end of June is now being touted as an election date,
the sooner the proceedings are over and the draft constitution can
be taken to the country the better.
on the Agenda in Parliament this Coming Week
Bills No Bills
are on the Order Paper for when the House resumes. The current Bills
and the stages they have reached are as follows:
Bill - still being considered by the Parliamentary Legal Committee
[PLC] after its First Reading last year. The Second Reading stage
of this Bill cannot commence until the PLC has presented its report.
- Income Tax
Bill - gazetted, but has not yet had its First Reading. It awaits
introduction by the Minister of Finance. After First Reading it
will have to go to the PLC for its report on the Bill’s
Amendment Bill - introduced last Session and considered by
the PLC but lapsed at the end of the Session before the presentation
of the PLC’s non-adverse report. The Minister of Finance
needs to get the House to restore it to the Order Paper, so that
the Second Reading stage can begin.
General’s Office Amendment Bill - not yet gazetted, so cannot
be introduced yet. The page-proofs are still with the drafter
for checking, so it is unlikely to feature in the House until
the following week.
[The first three
Bills are available from email@example.com.
The Attorney General’s Office Amendment Bill is NOT yet available.]
Motions In order
of appearance on the Order Paper for 5th February, after the usual
motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening the Session,
the list includes motions calling for:
- all Government
departments to remit all revenues collected directly to Treasury,
without retaining funds for own use, and Treasury to ensure adequate
remuneration of Government workers
Skhombula and Gonakudzingwa prisons to be recognised as monuments
in honour of leaders such as President Mugabe and late Vice-President
Nkomo and others who underwent imprisonment in them.
- the Sports
Minister to dissolve the Sports and Recreation Commission and
make recommendations to Parliament for the achievement of success
in al sporting disciplines, and the Finance Minister to allocate
adequate resources for sports development.
No Bills are
listed on the Order Paper.
Motions - Apart
from the motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening
the Session, the only motion listed for discussion is MDC-T Senator
Marava’s motion calling for Government action towards eventually
abolishing the death penalty, and in the interim the establishment
of a legally binding moratorium on the passing of any more death
sentences. [Note: Journalists invited by the Commissioner of Prisons
on an official press tour of Harare Central Remand Prison on 1st
February were told that there have been no executions in the past
12 years and that there are 76 prisoners, 2 of them women, awaiting
Private Member’s Bill Case: Supreme Court Reserves Judgment
Court has reserved judgment in this case, having heard argument
from both sides in the constitutional application in which Minister
of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development seeks an order
stopping Parliamentary proceedings on the Private Member’s
Bill to amend
Councils Act. Bill
Watch 1/2013 explained the background to the case and its ramifications.
Supreme Court’s decision, further proceedings on this Bill
are still suspended in terms of the Speaker’s sub judice ruling
of 15th May 2012.
Others - Two
other Private Member’s Bills reached Parliament last Session,
but lapsed uncompleted at the end of the Session:
Amendment Bill –This was stalled in the Senate all last
Session, so has gone for well over a year without being dealt
with by the Senate. Mr Gonese has indicated that he intends to
ask the House of Assembly to send the Bill, as passed by the House,
to the President for assent – as allowed by the Constitution
[see Bill Watch 2/2013 of 18th January].
Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill – Mr Gonese has already
put down a motion seeking leave to restore to the Order Paper
his original motion, introduced last Session, to bring up this
Bill, which would repeal section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure
and Evidence Act [see see Bill
Watch 2/2013 of 18th January].
It remains to
be seen whether MDC-T MPs will continue to observe the apparent
de facto moratorium on these other Private Member’s Bills
that we referred to in Bill Watch 2/2013 of 18th January.
Media Bill MDC-T
MP Settlement Chikwinya has not yet put down a motion seeking leave
to bring up his proposed Media Freedom and Transparency Bill. MDC-T
have said they must have media reform [among a raft of other reforms]
before the election. Opposition from ZANU-PF is likely – speaking
for ZANU-PF, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Chinamasa has
rejected the idea of media reform at this stage. [Note Zimbabwe
has dropped 16 places to 133 out of 179 in the latest Press Freedom
Index issued by Reporters without Borders.]
of Vice-President Nkomo Affects House Voting Strengths
The death on
17th January of Vice-President John Landa Nkomo altered voting strengths
in the House of Assembly to:
- ZANU-PF 91,
MDC-T 96, MDC 8.
is required to fill the seat, as this was an ex officio seat attached
to the vice-presidency, not a constituency seat.
Were it not
for the GPA,
it would not be necessary for this second Vice-President’s
post to be filled. Section 31C of the Constitution
allows for one or two Vice-Presidents, as the President sees fit.
But Article 20 of the GPA, which is in Schedule 8 and has temporary
constitutional status for the duration of the GPA, envisages that
there will be two Vice-Presidents, to be nominated by the President
and the 1987 Unity Accord require the party to have two vice-presidents.]
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