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Parliament meets in wake of SADC Summit - Bill Watch 25/2013
Veritas
June 19, 2013

Countdown to Dissolution of Parliament

There are only four scheduled sitting days left before the automatic dissolution of Parliament at midnight on 28th June. Extra sitting days and late night sittings can be called as long as they are before midnight on 28th June.

In both Houses it was announced on 18th June that due to the primary elections being conducted by various political parties, and the lack of quorums in recent committee meetings, there will be no Parliamentary committee meetings after Friday 21st June.

In Parliament Yesterday Afternoon - Tuesday 18th June

The House of Assembly sat for only fifteen minutes without transacting any business and without any official explanation of developments at and following the SADC Summit. Moving the adjournment until today, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs said: “I can fully understand the concern of members. They have come in order to discuss the electoral amendments ... but there are still behind the scenes meetings which are being held. I believe that by the end of morning tomorrow, we will be having a clear indication as to where we are going. Therefore, with your leave Madam Speaker, I ask that this House adjourns until tomorrow afternoon.”

The Senate adjourned after nine minutes, without transacting any business.

In Parliament This Afternoon - Wednesday 19th June

The Parliamentary day ended without an announcement to MPs or Senators on the results, if any, of the behind-the-scenes meetings to which Minister Matinenga had alluded on Tuesday. It is known that there was a lengthy meeting of the principals and their legal advisors at State House this morning.

The House of Assembly sat for just over an hour, most of it taken up by Questions without Notice, during which Minister of Finance Biti and Minister of Energy and Power Development answered questions. Only MDC-T MPs were present. Minister Mangoma explained the policy underlying the installation of prepaid and smart electricity meters, and expressed his personal reservations about ZERA charging fees for registering generators. Minister Biti said he had provided ZEC with the requested $20 million for the current intensive voter registration exercise, and that any defects in the exercise were not caused by funding difficulties. On funding the coming elections he was adamant that the Government does not have the money to fund them.

Bills After Question Time, the House approved the fast-tracking of the Electricity Amendment Bill and the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Bill [by approving a motion suspending Standing Orders for automatic adjournment of the House, taking stages of Bills on separate days, referral to Portfolio Committees]. Both Bills then had their First Readings [merely tabling] and were referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

The Senate rose after five minutes without having transacted any business.

Coming Up in Parliament Tomorrow - Thursday 20th June

The continuation of the Second Reading debate on the Income Tax Bill is high on the House agenda. But as yet there is no sign of any of the reforms to AIPPA, POSA, the Broadcasting Services Act, “among others”, referred to in the Facilitators Report to the SADC Summit [see below].

The outcome of today’s meeting with the principals and their legal advisors will hopefully result in a last minute rush of business to fulfil the Facilitator’s and the SADC Summit’s recommendations.

SADC Extraordinary Summit: 15th June: Maputo

The postponed SADC Extraordinary Summit took place in Maputo on 15th March. President Mugabe had used the delay to gazette Presidential Powers amending the Electoral Act and a proclamation calling elections to be held on 31st July [see Bill Watch 20 and 22/2013 of 13th June].

The Summit received a progress report on the implementation of the GPA from its facilitator for Zimbabwe, SA President Zuma and also reports from the parties to the GPA. The final communiqué commended President Zuma for his efforts in “ensuring full implementation of the GPA”, and set out the Summit’s decisions on Zimbabwe as follows:

“8.4. Summit endorsed the report of the Facilitator and its recommendations which includes, among others, the following issues

1. Media Reform;

2. Upholding the Rule of Law;

3. The role of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC);

4. Election Date, Validity of Electoral Regulations; and

5. Deployment of SADC observers

8.5 Summit acknowledged the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on the elections date and agreed on the need for the Government of Zimbabwe to engage the Constitutional Court to seek more time beyond 31 July 2013 deadline for holding the Harmonised elections.

8.6 Summit urged the three parties to the GPA to undertake immediate measures to create a conducive environment for the holding of peaceful, credible, free and fair elections.”

President Zuma’s Facilitator’s Report to the Summit

The Summit endorsed President Zuma’s report and as its recommendations form the basis of the Summit communiqué, it needs to be read in conjunction with the communiqué.

Significant developments

The report lists significant developments since the gazetting of the new Constitution on 22nd May [an event that had already been welcomed at a meeting of SADC Heads of State on 26th May during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa]:

  • the Constitutional Court’s election date judgment of 31st May
  • the President’s election proclamation of 13th June
  • the President’s by-passing of Parliament with the Presidential Powers regulations amending the Electoral Act
  • the letter dated 7th June sent to President Zuma by five political parties in Zimbabwe explaining concerns about the practicality of the 31st July elections deadline set by the Constitutional Court.

31st July election date questioned The report comments that in the light of these developments the proposal to hold the elections on 31st July is “fraught with legal contestation, political dispute and heightened tensions even within the Inclusive Government” and says that the challenge to the Summit is “to take up a position that will bring the parties together in order to minimise these tensions and carve out a roadmap that is realistic, that meets the concerns of the different parties and reassures the citizens of Zimbabwe through a process of accommodation”.

Elections Roadmap not adequately implemented Stressing the crucial importance of the July 2011 Roadmap, the report confirms that “regrettably most of the items that were agreed upon by the parties” have not been adequately implemented.

Recommendations

The report concludes with two pages of recommendations, requesting SADC to “to urge the three parties to the GPA to consider the following immediate measures as a means to defuse the rising tensions and contestations, and to make Zimbabweans have confidence in the elections”:

a) Media reforms - Reiterating that it is essential that the playing field in the media arena should be conducive to free and fair elections that the State-controlled media institutions need to conform to the “requirements of impartiality”, but recognising that the limited time available calls for more than the appointment of new boards for the institutions, the report recommends the creation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee drawn from the three GPA parties and from within Cabinet, with sufficient powers to “curb hate speech and calls for regime change from whatever quarter, including external radio stations”

b) JOMIC - The report recommends that, “JOMIC should be brought into full scale activity in order to ensure that there is no intimidation and violence, that the rule of law is maintained, and that the requirements of the GPA are adhered to”. On the role of the facilitation team and the SADC Troika representatives in JOMIC, the report says that they should participate in JOMIC processes but not be party to decision-making [this agrees with the MDC position; Zanu-PF wanted them to be restricted to receiving reports from the JOMIC co-chairs].

c) Rule of Law This recommendation covered two subjects:

  • the role of the security forces The report refers to section 208 of the new Constitution [which is already in force and explicitly prohibits partisan conduct, furthering or prejudicing political party interests, and violating peoples’ rights.] The recommendation is that President Mugabe must publicly “draw the attention of the heads of the security forces, their members, as well as the public of Zimbabwe that section 208 of the new Constitution henceforth governs their actions” and “It is important that this is done publicly so that members of the security forces as well as the public are made aware of these requirements.”
  • POSA, AIPPA, etc It would also be “helpful”, recommends the report, if such legislation as POSA, AIPPA and the Broadcasting Services Act, “among others”, are aligned to the requirements of the new Constitution.

d) Election date, validity of electoral regulations and other issues

The report observes that it would not be helpful for these issues to have to be resolved in the courtrooms, and that it would be more constructive if the three parties, with the assistance of the Facilitator and support of SADC, quickly resolve these matters with due regard to the practical realities and to the rule of law. It is at this point that the report refers to going back to the Constitutional Court, in the following words “It would then he possible to make an intervention with the courts in order to make the necessary adjustments”. [Note: Neither the report, nor the Summit communiqué stipulates that there should be a 14-day extension to the poll date.]

e) Deployment of SADC observers

Noting that both MDCs want early deployment of observers, the report says this can be left to be resolved through the SADC Secretariat.

Annexed to the Report are three documents:

  • President Mugabe’s Election Proclamation
  • The letter dated 7th June addressed to President Zuma by the five political parties
  • Zimbabwe Elections Roadmap with Timelines of July 2011.

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