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The last two weeks in Parliament - Bill Watch 24/2013
Veritas
June 16, 2013

Both Houses of Parliament will sit on Tuesday 18th June

Countdown to Dissolution of Parliament

There are now only six regular sittings days left before the automatic dissolution of Parliament at midnight on 28th June

Coming up in Parliament Next Week

Unless the Extraordinary SADC Summit in Maputo on 15th June brings about a reversal of the dramatic steps taken by the President on Wednesday and Thursday [See Bill Watches 20/2013, 22/2013 and 23/2013], the Parliamentary programme for the coming week will be essentially humdrum, as follows:

House of Assembly

Bills

  • Income Tax Bill – this is listed for continuation of the Second Reading debate started last month by the Minister of Finance with his speech explaining the Bill, and continued last week with the report presented by the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion. The Minister has indicated his readiness to incorporate some of the committee’s recommended changes.

No other Bills are listed, but the short Electricity Amendment Bill gazetted on 13th June [available from veritas@mango.zw] may be brought up an urgent basis. The Bill provides for the unbundling of the Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company [ZETDC] into two separate companies, one responsible for electricity transmission, marketing and systems operation, the other for electricity supply.

Motions

Portfolio Committee reports – debate is due to continue on reports presented by committee chairpersons over the last two weeks: Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Budget Performance; SME access to financial resources; diamond mining with special reference to Marange Diamond Fields; chrome mining; the education sector. Still to be presented is a Mines and Energy Committee report on the electricity sector.

Members’ motions – also listed are a number of adjourned debates on motions such as Public Service remuneration and the historical prominence of certain prisons once used for the detention of nationalist leaders.

Question Time [Wednesday] The number of written questions carried forward has been reduced to 19. There are no new questions.

Senate

Motions

There is one new motion, to take note of the report of a delegation that attended last month’s Conference in Bahrain of the Association of Senates, Shoora and Equivalent Councils in Africa and the Arab World. Also listed are adjourned debates on delegation reports on two sessions of the ACP-EU Joint Parliament Assembly held in 2011.

Adverse PLC reports on statutory instruments - The Senate is yet to consider the Parliamentary Legal Committee’s adverse reports on three statutory instruments – the Youth Council regulations in SI 4/2013; the most recent tariff of mining fees in SI 29/2013; and the Mangwe sand extraction by-laws in SI 25/2013. These items have now been on the Order Paper but not attended to for a long time.

In Parliament 11th to 13th June

House of Assembly

  • Income Tax Bill

The Second Reading debate continued with the presentation of the report of the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion, recommending some changes to the Bill after conducting public hearings around the country.

  • Portfolio Committee reports

The House concentrated on motions from Portfolio Committee chairpersons presenting reports [a full list of reports presented recently is in Bill Watch – Committee Series 14/2013].

Question Time [Wednesday] – Matinenga on Constitutional Court’s Election Date Judgment and Other Election-related Matters

Backbenchers kept Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga busy during Question Time. On the Constitutional Court’s judgment, he explained that the court had unfortunately “ordered the impossible” but said it was feasible to approach the court “to seek an indulgence to carry out the order in an extended period”. On voter registration he told the House how the voter registration and inspection teams should be operating. On the legislative programme for Parliament he said that in its remaining two weeks Parliament would need to pass a number of pieces of legislation related to the implementation of the new Constitution, including the Electoral Amendment Bill approved by Cabinet only the day before.

On bringing the Electoral Amendment Bill to Parliament Minister Matinenga said: “Before I left Cabinet yesterday to come to Parliament, I specifically asked the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs as to when he anticipated bringing this Bill to Parliament. What he told me is that he is only able to do so next week.” [Comment: It is ironic that at that very moment only a few blocks away workers at the Government Printer’s must have been busy toiling over the printing of the Presidential Powers (Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations that were gazetted bearing the date 12th June.]

Senate

The Senate sat on Tuesday [for 15 minutes], Wednesday [for 5 minutes] and Thursday [for 36 minutes]. Nothing of any importance was done.

In Parliament 4th to 6th June

House of Assembly

The House sat on Tuesday and Wednesday only, before adjourning until 11th June. On Tuesday the Speaker announced that there would be Prime Minister’s Question Time the following day, but on Wednesday he announced it had been postponed.

Bills

Only the Income Tax Bill was on the Order Paper. It did not come up and was carried forward.

Motions Two Portfolio Committee reports were presented by the committee chairpersons [see separate list of reports, below]. After Question Time on Wednesday the House approved the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control before adjourning for the week.

Senate

The Senate sat for only 5 minutes on 4th June, but until after 5 pm on both the 5th and 6th.

Bills On Wednesday both the Securities Amendment Bill and the Microfinance Bill] were passed by the Senate, with the Minister of Energy and Power Development standing in for the Minister of Finance and delivering the Second Reading speeches. There was no debate, and both Bills were passed without amendment and returned to the House of Assembly, where they had originated. The next step for both Bills is Presidential assent, followed by gazetting as Acts in due course.

Adverse PLC reports on SIs

The Parliamentary Legal Committee’s adverse reports on three SIs were carried forward, unconsidered.

Motions - The Senate passed Ministers’ motions for the approval of five international agreements [see list in separate paragraph below], and began discussion of reports of delegations to ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meetings in May and September 2011.

Parliament Has Not Been Busy – it Could Have Dealt with a New Electoral Law

Neither House has been really busy during the last fortnight. Many potential sitting hours have gone unused. The Senate has had very little to do. The House of Assembly has been more or less marking time with business that could easily have been shelved in deference to tasks of national importance such as passing essential amendments to the Electoral Law or tackling other essential pre-election reform legislation if only the necessary Bills had been brought before it.

This lack of Parliamentary activity prompts the observation that there would have been plenty of time for Parliament to deal with a fast-tracked Electoral Amendment Bill if Cabinet had been able to consider the already agreed Bill as planned on Tuesday 4th June. Why was the time not put to that use? Apparently, because the President’s prolonged absence from the country [28th May to 7th June] to attend a non-essential three-day conference in Japan [1st to 3rd June] meant there was no Cabinet meeting on the 4th June. This in turn meant that Cabinet consideration and eventual approval of the Bill was delayed until 11th June, providing the President and Zanu-PF with an excuse of sorts for claiming that the time factor justified invoking the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to amend the Electoral Act and rushing into print with the Election Proclamation. .

What has Happened to Private Members Bills

No Private Member’s Bills appear on the House of Assembly Order Paper. This situation results from the judgment of the Supreme Court on 20th May nullifying Hon Matimba’s Urban Councils Amendment Bill in the case brought by Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Ignatious Chombo to stop the Bill [noted in Bill Watch 17/2013 of 30th May]. Before the judgment the Order Paper featured both the Urban Councils Amendment Bill and Hon Gonese’s Bill to repeal section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. Also now on hold are Hon Chikwinya’s proposed Media Bill and moves to revive Hon Gonese’s POSA Amendment Bill.

Recent Parliamentary Approval of International Agreements

  • UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism
  • Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA]
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons
  • WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC].

Government Gazettes 7th to 14th June

Bill

  • The Electricity Amendment Bill was gazetted on 13th June [see above for an explanation].

Statutory Instruments [NOT available from Veritas]

Friday 7th June regular Gazette [No. 41]

  • SI 79 – Redcliff Traffic By-laws
  • SI 80 – Redcliff Animal By-laws
  • SI 81 – VAT General Amendment Regulations

Friday 7th June Gazette Extraordinary [No. 42]

  • SI 82 – Customs and Excise Suspension Amendment Regulations

Friday 7th June Gazette Extraordinary [No. 43]

  • SI 83 – Electoral (Amendment) Regulations, 2013 (No. 19)
  • SI 84 – Electoral (Special and Postal Voting) Regulations, 2013

Wednesday 12th June Gazette Extraordinary [No. 44]

  • SI 85 – Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations, 2013

Thursday 13th June Gazette Extraordinary [No. 45]

  • SI 86 – Election Proclamation [not available until between 3.30 and 4 pm]

Thursday 13th June Gazette Extraordinary [No. 46]

  • SI 87 – Electoral (Amendment) Regulations, 2013 (No. 8)
  • SI 88 – Electoral (Nomination of Candidates) Regulations, 2013
  • SI 89 – Electoral (Accreditation of Observers) Regulations, 2013

Friday 14th June regular Gazette [No. 47]

No statutory instruments

General Notices

Appointment of commissioners of oaths for voter registration purposes

GN 33A of 13th June lists a large number of individuals appointed to be commissioners of oaths for Zimbabwe “only for the purposes of voter registration 2013”.

Government financial statements for March and April

GNs 261 and 262 published on 7th June.

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

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