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A lame end to the seventh Parliament - Bill Watch 27/2013
Veritas
July 03, 2013

The Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe Sat for the Last Time on Thursday 27th June

Parliament was officially dissolved on midnight of 28th June, five years from the day President Mugabe was sworn in as President in June 2008. There did not have to be a Presidential proclamation dissolving Parliament because it had sat for its full 5-year term and was therefore automatically dissolved in terms of section 63(4) of the former Constitution [“Parliament ... shall last for five years, which period shall be deemed to commence on the day the person elected as President enters office ... and shall then stand dissolved.”]

The last sittings of both the House of Assembly and the Senate took place on Thursday 27th June. The House sat for an hour, the Senate for 15 minutes. It was a disappointing end to a Parliament that during its 5 years had not done much. The country had been hoping to see MPs enacting a raft of democratic reforms – changes to POSA, AIPPA, and so on – before Parliament dissolved.

The disappointment was highlighted in the wrap-up remarks of the the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs: “It was the vain anticipation of some of us that maybe the Constitutional Court would be able to sit and determine the various constitutional applications which were placed before it before this Seventh Parliament’s life comes to an end, but that has not been possible. Those constitutional applications which would have been relevant to a further sitting of this House are only going to be before the court, I am told, next week Thursday, 4th of July, 2013.

Proceedings in the House of Assembly

Death of Hon Chindori-Chininga - Moving tributes were paid to the late Edward Chindori-Chininga who died in a vehicle accident on 21st June. Contributors from all sides spoke of his exceptional qualities, and the significance of his work as the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy. Before passing a motion expressing sympathy for the Chindori-Chininga family, all present joined in singing Mariya naMarita.

In his wrap-up remarks the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs expressed disappointment [see below] and thanked “the members who have contributed to making this Parliament possible and I wish that a number of them would be able to come back in the next Parliament. For a number of us, today would be our ‘last supper’. [Mr Matinenga has already announced his coming departure from politics and return to full-time legal practice.] May I then move for the adjournment of the House.”

The last entry in the journal of the House reads: “The House adjourned at a quarter past three o’clock pm”.

Proceedings in the Senate

President of the Senate Ednah Madzongwe began the afternoon’s proceedings by announcing that there was no business, wishing Senators well in their future endeavours and exhorting them ”to always put Zimbabwe first before anything else”. Senator Chief Charumbira and other Senators paid tribute to Mrs Madzongwe’s firm leadership of the Senate. The Senate then adjourned for the last time after sitting for 15 minutes.

In Parliament on Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th June

House of Assembly

Bills - On Tuesday the House passed both the Electricity Amendment Bill and the Income Tax Bill, the latter with substantial amendments proposed by the Minister of Finance. Both Bills were immediately transmitted to the Senate. There were no other Bills on the Order Paper.

Question Time on Wednesday took up the House’s entire 88-minute sitting. The Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the Minister of Home Affairs were present to answer questions. Topics on which Ministers responded included:

Unsuccessful GPA meetings following SADC Summit - Minister Matinenga gave an admirably clear account of the previous week’s unproductive engagement, or lack of engagement, between the GPA parties following the SADC Summit in Maputo on Saturday 15th June:

  • on Tuesday 18th June the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs filed a Constitutional Court application asking for a two-week extension of the election date. The application, said Minister Matinenga, was filed “unbeknown to the other members of the Inclusive Government”.
  • on Wednesday 19th June there was a meeting at State House “where the three parties in the Inclusive Government met in order to agree on a common position with regard to the disputed election date. Aligned to this were also attempts to seek agreement on what should be done with regard to both SIs 85 and 86 of 2013 and subsequent statutory instruments”. The meeting did not come to an agreement. Presentations were made by Minister Biti for MDC-T and Minister Coltart for MDC. Minister Chinamasa, for ZANU-PF, said he wanted until Friday to respond and this was granted, although “a lot of us were of the view that the issue was an urgent one, and that the Minister could have responded if he wanted to, but he did not”. But it was agreed that a smaller committee might possibly meet to agree on an affidavit for a joint court application. Accordingly, Ministers Chinamasa, Ncube and Biti stayed behind for that purpose but failed to reach agreement..
  • on Friday 21st June Minister Matinenga arrived at State House at 10 am for the follow-up meeting. At 10.30 am those present were told the President was not available and they should return at 12.05 pm. Minister Matinenga did so, and was joined by the MDC representatives. They waited until 1 pm without anyone from ZANU-PF, let alone the President, showing up. “On realising that nobody was going to attend on behalf of ZANU-PF, we then went back to our respective offices.”

The Minister’s summing-up of the situation as of the afternoon of 26th June, therefore, was: “What we have experienced in the past week or so points to an election which is not going to produce results which are not disputed” – as opposed to “not just elections for the sake of it, but elections which are free and fair, elections which are not disputed and elections in which every citizen of this country is able to vote and has been registered.”

Unpaid allowances for Parliamentarians - Minister Matinenga assured MPs concerned about their outstanding allowances that the imminent dissolution of Parliament would not extinguish their legal right to payment.

Display of force numbers on ZRP uniforms - Minister Makone explained that although all uniformed police should display their force numbers visibly on all police uniforms, financial constraints had made full compliance impossible.

Police confiscation of short-wave radios - In the course of an at times confusing series of exchanges with MPs, Minister Makone conceded that it was wrong for police to confiscate radio receivers and that confiscation should not be carried out as a form of censorship of broadcasts from certain outside broadcasters. She said two-way radios incorporating transmitters are illegal, and that confiscation of illegally imported radios on information from the customs authorities was in order.

Police role in ZANU-PF primary elections - Minister Makone said that while police could be present at party primary elections to maintain order, if they had been used to carry ballot boxes, count people or to verify anything on behalf of parties, that was an illegal activity, and no-one could be blamed for thinking it a misdirection of state resources.

UNWTO Conference and the elections - Minister Mzembi assured the House that UNWTO had recently judged “our state of preparedness to be satisfactory and our level of collaboration with the Zambians to be excellent”. On the probable proximity of the elections to the conference, he expressed optimism that a peaceful and stable election would be a “branding opportunity for the country and the global endorsement of destination Zimbabwe”.

Senate

Bills - On Wednesday the Senate dealt rapidly with both the Electricity Amendment Bill and the Income Tax Bill as passed by the House of Assembly on Tuesday. Second Reading speeches for both Bills were delivered by the Minister of Energy and Power Development. Having got his own Bill through all stages in a few minutes, the Minister stood in for the Minister of Finance and managed to sum up the voluminous Income Tax Bill in four short paragraphs. Senators had no contributions to make or questions to ask on either Bill, and passed both without amendments. The Senate adjourned after sitting for only 28 minutes.

Motions - During Tuesday’s 12-minute sitting the Senate adopted without further discussion the motions to take note of reports of delegations to ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly sessions held in 2011. [Correction: We incorrectly said in Bill Watch 26/2013 of 25th June that the sitting ran for only 5 minutes.]

Parliamentary Business Left Unfinished

House of Assembly

The House left behind a large amount of uncompleted business. 18 motions at various stages of debate did not receive further attention; 13 “deferred” questions were also abandoned.

Unanswered questions - The 13 questions, for reply by Ministers, had been on the Order Paper and been unanswered by the Ministers concerned, some since February and others since 22nd May. Among the May questions were one for the Minister of State for Security about the Ministry’s policy on CIO officers who are openly politically partisan and hold provincial and Central Committee positions in ZANU-PF, and one for the Minister of Mines and Energy seeking details about the value of the Government’s financial stake in diamond mining operations in the Marange diamond fields. There have been many complaints from MPs during this Parliament about Ministers failing to attend Question Time and answer questions addressed to them, as well as instances of Ministers refusing to attend Parliamentary committee hearings. The Prime Minister has on several occasions promised MPs he will bring errant Ministers into line, apparently without any really lasting effect.

Comment: To prevent this situation in the next Parliament an amendment to Standing Orders could be made providing for flagrant cases of Ministerial defiance to be treated as contempt of Parliament, and Ministers found guilty to be punished accordingly.

Senate

Adverse PLC reports not considered

The Senate rose for the last time without discussing the adverse reports on statutory instruments that had been awaiting their attention since the beginning of June. This means that the adverse reports [available from veritas@mango.zw] cannot now result in the President being obliged to repeal or amend the three statutory instruments concerned, as he might have had to if the Senate had passed motions approving the reports. But interested parties are not without remedies. Those who believe, as the PLC did, that the SIs are legally unsound, can still seek declarations of nullity from the High Court. [Reminder: The SIs are: the Youth Council regulations [SI 4/2013]; the tariff of mining fees [SI 29/2013]; and the Mangwe sand extraction by-laws [SI 25/2013].]

Why no PLC report on the Presidential Powers Regulations amending the Electoral Act?

The PLC had time to table a special report in the Senate on the controversial SI 85/2013 which was gazetted on 12th June. Regrettably, no such report was tabled. Perhaps the members, or some of them, thought the SI “too hot to handle”, given that its questionable validity was the subject of discussion at the SADC Summit on 16th June and seemed destined to be taken to the Constitutional Court. Or perhaps they saw no point in reporting to a Senate scheduled for dissolution two weeks later, particularly when the Standing Orders deadline for reporting would be the end of July.

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