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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 07 - 8th Parliament - 2013
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
November 28, 2013

Introduction

Last week and this week MPs continued debating the Presidential Speech, challenges bedeviling the power sector, and sanctions. Hon. Innocent Gonese introduced a new motion urging the Executive to expedite the alignment of existing laws with the provisions of the new Constitution. During the Question and Answer Session on Wednesday last week, the Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Hon. Biggie Pasihomusha-Matiza was taken to task by Backbenchers regarding the demolishment of “illegal” houses in urban local authorities.

Changes to Portfolio Committees

The Speaker announced the following changes in Portfolio Committee Membership; Hon L Sibanda withdrew from serving on the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Development. This is because the Hon. Member is already serving two other committees; and Hon. Majaya moved from the Portfolio Committee on Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services to the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy.

Motion on the Presidential Speech

Hon. Sabina Thembani (Zanu-PF) and Hon. Zenzo Sibanda (Zanu-PF Tsholotsho South) debated on the Presidential Speech and urged the government to move with speed in addressing issues of poor road networks and to enact stiffer penalties for reckless drivers. The two members applauded the President for emphasising the importance of agriculture in boosting the country’s economy and urged government to shift to irrigation farming and thus build more dams especially in areas that receive little rainfall such as Tsholotsho. The members also encouraged the government to prioritise the health sector and urgently amend laws that govern health care. The Members also made a clarion call for the removal of “sanctions”.

Inquiry in the power sector in Zimbabwe

Members continued with debate on the intermittent power cuts by Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), a motion that was raised by Hon. James Maridadi a couple of weeks ago. Zanu-PF Members argued that the reason why ZESA was failing to deliver as expected was as a result of the sanctions imposed on the country by the West. Hon. Dextor Nduna (Zanu-PF Chegutu West) reiterated that the problem of power shortages was not only a Zimbabwean problem but rather a regional phenomenon. He argued that for Zimbabwe it was made worse by the fact that ZESA could not buy spare parts from Western countries since the country was under sanctions. Members applauded the introduction of prepaid meter services and noted that this was set to improve electricity supply as people were now paying upfront for what they were using. Members also bemoaned the fact that ZESA was not compensating residents for their damaged gadgets as a result of intermittent power cuts. Hon. Annastancia Ndhlovu urged government to move to other alternatives such as solar and wind energy sources which are environmentally friendly to mitigate the problem of power shortages. By addressing the problem of energy or electricity the government would have eased the burden on women since they were the ones who were hit hard by the effects of power cuts.

Hon. Edward Cross (MDC-T Bulawayo South) disputed the argument that power shortages were a result of sanctions. He blamed the problem squarely on Zanu-PF’s poor management of public resources. He accused the Zanu-PF government for failing to service and reconstruct power stations in the country over the last 34 years. He further emphasised that unless the government changed its draconian indigenisation policies, investors in the energy sector will continue to shy away from Zimbabwe and the problem of power shortages will not be solved in the near future.

Re-alignment of existing laws to the Constitution

Hon. Innocent Gonese (MDC-T Mutare) and Hon. Jessie Majome (MDC-T Harare West) introduced a motion in the National Assembly on the re-alignment of existing laws to the provisions of the new Constitution. The motion urged the Executive to expedite the process by bringing relevant pieces of legislation to Parliament for realignment in order to avoid a constitutional crisis in the country. They argued that delays in re-aligning the existing laws and also the enactment of new laws to give effect to the provisions of the new Constitution have hamstrung the establishment of public institutions and commissions provided for in the Constitution e.g. the establishment of provincial councils, appointment of several commissions such as the Gender Commission, Land Commission etc. Though such public institutions are provided for in the Constitution, there must be enabling legislation to operationalize them.

While Zanu-PF MPs embraced the motion, they sought to defend delays by the Executive in introducing the relevant Bills in Parliament. Zanu-PF Chief Whip, Hon. Jorum Gumbo, said Members should be patient as government was seized with the matter. He said the President mentioned the issue of realignment of laws to the Constitution as one of government’s top priority when he officially opened the First Session of the Eighth Parliament. He also argued that Hon. Gonese’s motion was a waste of time as MDC Members should simply have debated the issue under the Presidential Speech motion. Be that as it may, any Member of Parliament is free to introduce a motion of his choice in Parliament.

Demolishing of illegal houses in urban areas

As indicated above, the Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Hon. Biggie Pasihomusha-Matiza was taken to task by back-benchers regarding the demolishment of “illegal” houses in urban local authorities during the Question and Answer Session on Wednesday last week. Members queried why government was evicting residents who built their houses in undesignated areas and demolishing their houses without offering them alternative accommodation as happened in 2005 during the clean-up exercise (Murambatsvina). Members argued that the timing by government was not proper given the onset of the rain season.

In response, the Deputy Minister said he was not in a position to confirm or deny if government had already started evicting the affected people or demolishing their structures. However, he said government has instituted an audit of the illegal structures in Harare and Chitungwiza and hence his ministry would be guided by the findings and recommendations of the audit report on what action to take.

Winding-up of motions

Hon. Gonese indicated to the House that Hon. Khupe and Hon. Maridadi were ready to wind up their motions on cancer levy and power sector challenges, respectively. He called upon the relevant Minister to respond before the motions were withdrawn from the Order Paper.

In the 7th Parliament most Ministers ignored this requirement. However, it is now a constitutional requirement for members of the Executive to attend parliamentary sittings and respond to issues relevant to their government portfolios. It remains to be seen if the Executive will observe this requirement and also if Parliament will enforce it.

Public Hearings on 2014 Budget shelved

The Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance had planned to conduct public consultations on the 2014 Budget this week. However, for reasons yet to be explained to the public, this activity has been postponed to a later date. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development does not seem to be in a hurry to table the 2014 National Budget in Parliament. Actually, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Patrick Chinamasa indicated to Parliament at the pre-Budget Seminar last month that the law allowed him to present the Budget even in January next year.

Adjournment of Parliament

The National Assembly adjourned until Tuesday, 3rd December, 2013.

It was clear on Tuesday this week that the National Assembly did not have much business to consider in the House except for private members motions, which by the look of things have been debated exhaustively. As a result, the National Assembly sat for barely two hours on Tuesday this before it adjourned to Tuesday 3 December 2013. The situation is even worse in the Senate, where Senators are seemingly reluctant to introduce private motions for debate.

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