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Next step towards new Constitution - Enactment by Parliament - Bill Watch 10/2013
Veritas
March 25, 2013

Both Houses of Parliament Adjourned until Tuesday 7th May

Next Step towards New Constitution – Enactment by Parliament

Now that ZEC has announced a YES vote in the Referendum, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Eric Matinenga, now has the responsibility to ensure that:

  • the Referendum result is gazetted in the Government Gazette and published in national and local newspapers. [This has not been done yet, but a Gazette extraordinary is expected tomorrow.]
  • the draft constitution is prepared in the form of a Bill
  • the Constitution of Zimbabwe Bill is gazetted. [The Minister has said the Bill will be gazetted by 29th March, the beginning of the Easter holiday break.]

Under section 52 of the current Constitution a constitutional Bill cannot be introduced into Parliament – i.e., have its first reading in either House – until at least 30 days after it has been published in the Government Gazette. If the Bill is indeed gazetted by 29th March, the essential thirty-day waiting period will end by 30th April, which is a Tuesday [Parliament usually sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons]. Parliament is due to resume on Tuesday 7th May, but could be recalled earlier to sit on Tuesday 30th April.

Minister Matinenga will be the person introducing the Bill in Parliament. The Bill, according to section 52 of the current constitution, must be passed by at least two-thirds of the total membership of both the House of Assembly and the Senate, sitting separately. The Minister has said he does not anticipate Parliament needing more than a week to complete its passage of the Bill, as all parties represented in Parliament have already endorsed the draft Constitution. [Note: being a constitutional bill, it is not subject to clearance by the Parliamentary Legal Committee and, as a product of a Select Committee of Parliament, it is highly unlikely that the Bill will go for consideration to Portfolio Committees.]

Parliament’s Role After the Constitution Bill is Passed

Most of the new Constitution will only come into force after the harmonised elections, when the person elected President in the next election is sworn into office. But according to the transitional Schedule in the new Constitution [Sixth Schedule paragraph 3], certain important provisions will come into force immediately on the day on which the new Constitution is gazetted as an Act. What comes into force on this “publication day” includes the provisions about the election of members of Parliament, the Chapter about metropolitan and provincial councils and local authorities, the whole of the Declaration of Rights and the provisions about the Constitutional Court.

This means that as soon as the new Constitution has been passed, it will be necessary for the Government to bring Bills to Parliament to make essential consequential amendments to other laws, which should also become effective on “publication day”. Most important will be:

· amendment Bill for the Electoral Act [Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa is the Minister responsible for electoral matters, and he has already appointed a special committee to work on an Electoral Amendment Bill.]

  • amendment Bill for the Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act before elections, and a Bill to set up the new-style metropolitan and provincial councils, which will be coming into existence with the new Constitution.
  • Bills to remedy at least the most obvious inconsistencies between existing laws and the new Declaration of Rights, given that it will be coming into force immediately. [Minister Chinamasa has not so far mentioned this as a priority, but it should not be sidelined.]
  • Rules of the Constitutional Court must be enacted, either in a separate Constitutional Court Bill or under the Supreme Court Act, to give effect to the court’s constitutional jurisdiction.

Did Parliament Endorse Swearing-In of New Commission Chairpersons?

In a lunchtime ceremony at State House on 15th March President Mugabe swore in:

  • Justice Rita Makarau as chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC]
  • Mr Jacob Mudenda as chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

Under the Constitution, both appointments required prior consultation with the Judicial Service Commission [JSC] and the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO]. Both bodies had been asked for the views on the nominees, and the Judicial Service Commission met and responded promptly soon after the nominations were made public on 18th and 19th February. But there has been no meeting of the 25-member CSRO. It remains to be seen what explanation is given or if anyone raises objections or challenges the appointments in court.

Masvingo Governor Again Lays Down Rules for NGOs

More than 45 NGOs operating in Masvingo Province were summoned to a meeting at the Provincial Governor’s office on 1st March. Representatives attending were subjected to a roll call and questioned about their work plans and partners. They were instructed to work with government departments and the security sector in all their projects, and to avoid election-related activities. Provincial governors in fact have no legal power to regulate and control NGOs. Under the Private Voluntary Organisations [PVO] Act this falls under the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare. This time last year the same Provincial Governor’s “banning” of 29 NGOs in Masvingo province was disowned in a Parliamentary statement by the Minister [statement available from veritas@mango.zw]

Update on Bills

Bills already in Parliament

Three Ministry of Finance Bills have already been cleared by the Parliamentary Legal Committee and now await the resumption of sittings by Parliament in May. All are ready for the Second Reading stage, when the Minister will explain the purpose of the Bills and MPs can debate them in principle. These Bills [available from veritas@mango.zw] are:

Bill in the pipeline

No other Bills have been sent to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting before being introduced into Parliament.

The Minister of Finance has said that his Ministry and the Reserve Bank [RBZ] have agreed on a draft Debt Assumption Bill under which the Government will take over the RBZ’s US$1.1 billion debt, which will be housed in a “special purpose vehicle.” He plans to take the Bill to Cabinet soon [not available from Veritas].

Document Available

Veritas can now offer the Electoral Regulations updated to include the latest amendment made by SI 26A/2013 dated 13th March laying down ZEC accreditation fees for election and Referendum observers. [Available from veritas@mango.zw]

Government Gazette 13th to 22nd March

[these items are not available from Veritas]

Statutory Instruments

Public holiday on Referendum Day SI 33/2013 declaring 16th March 2013 a public holiday was gazetted during the afternoon of 15th March. A note in the SI explained that the purpose of the public holiday was to enable every employee to vote in the Referendum. [Employers would have appreciated greater warning of this declaration.]

Customs duty suspensions

SIs 34 and 35/2013 add to the growing list of mining locations enjoying long-term suspensions of duty for certain imports. SI 36/2013 grants more general suspensions.

Customs tariff SI 31/2013, gazetted late on 8th March, increased the duty on petrol and diesel from 9th March until the end of 2013.

Social workers registration fees SI 32/2013, dated 15th March, sets out new fees [registration, processing, issue and renewal of practice certificates] payable to the Social Workers Council under the Social Workers Act.

Petroleum sector licence fees SI 33A/2013 fixes licence fees for procurers, producers and wholesale and retail suppliers of petroleum fuels, biofuels [ethanol] and liquid petroleum gas [LPG]. The SI was made under the Energy Regulatory Authority Act by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority Act, with the approval of the Minister of Energy and Power Development.

Local authority by-laws SI 37/2013 fixes rents and various other charges applicable to incorporated areas under the Kadoma Municipal Council.

General Notices

Referendum notices from ZEC were published in a Government Gazette Extraordinary on 13th March, in compliance with the law. GN 133/20113 gave public notice of the printing of 12 million ballot papers for the Referendum by Fidelity Printers and their distribution amongst the country’s ten provinces. GN 134/2013 gave details of all the 9456 polling stations set up for the Referendum.

Mines and Minerals: Applications for Exclusive Prospecting Orders GNs 151-199/2013, taking up most of a Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 22nd March, notify applications to the Mining Affairs Board for exclusive prospecting orders. Each notice describes the area concerned, the name of the applicant, and the minerals intended to be prospected. Objections to the granting of the applications must be lodged not later than 19th April.

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied

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