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Zim Asset & in Parliament 19 to 26 November - Bill Watch 58/2013
Veritas
November 29, 2013

Both Houses of Parliament sat last week

The National Assembly also sat on Tuesday 26th September

Both Houses will meet again on Tuesday 3rd December

Zim Asset

Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation

October 2013 - December 2018

On 19th November the Zim Asset document was made available to members of Parliament. In both Houses the presiding officers requested all members to read the document thoroughly in preparation for a workshop to be conducted by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning on a date still to be notified. The document has been approved by the Cabinet.

Senator Morgen Komichi sworn in

On Tuesday 19th November Senator Komichi of MDC-T was sworn in and took his seat as a Senator for Manicaland.

Reminder: Senator Komichi could not be sworn in when most other members of Parliament were sworn in on 3rd September because he was in remand prison standing trial on charges of fraud and contravening the Electoral Act. The trial ended on 7th November with his conviction on both charges, and two sentences of imprisonment, one of 8 months wholly suspended on condition of good behaviour and one of 10 months wholly suspended on condition that he performs 350 days of community service. He has noted an appeal against conviction and sentence, but has started performing his community service because the magistrate refused to suspend the community service obligation pending determination of the appeal.

Pending a final court decision on these appeals by the courts, Mr Komichi remains a Senator with full rights. If his appeal is unsuccessful, the sentence of imprisonment imposed on him will automatically result in his Senate seat falling vacant in terms of section 129(1)(i) of the Constitution.

In Parliament 19th to 26th November

Both Houses sat on all last week’s sitting days - Tuesday 19th, Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st November. The National Assembly also met on Tuesday 26th November. The next sittings of both Houses will be on 3rd December.

Senate

The Senate sat for 1 hour 13 minutes on Tuesday and 59 minutes on Wednesday, but Thursday’s Question Time sitting lasted for 1 hour 55 minutes.

Ministerial statement on Quality Education Award to Zimbabwe

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education announced:

  • the award to Zimbabwe of a Research Medal at the Ninth Session of the Assembly of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Quality Education, which the Minister described as Africa’s recognition of Zimbabwe’s pole position in providing quality education. The Assembly was held in Paris in November.
  • the Education Infrastructure Expo and Conference to be held at the Harare International Conference Centre on 29th and 30th November, with the objective of mobilising national stakeholders towards a partnership approach to education as a national development priority. The Minister said Government could not provide all resources on its own.

Motions

Continuing motion on President's speech: Contributions included Senator Chief Mtshane drawing attention to the need to rehabilitate the country’s irrigation schemes, as more than half of them are not working.

Cancer policy - Senator Lilian Timveous introduced her motion recommending a clear Government policy document on awareness, counselling, screening for and treatment of cancer, and charges for cancer patients. She was seconded by Senator Marava. Debate continued on Wednesday with speakers from all sides supporting the motion.

Need for harmonisation of existing legislation with the new Constitution - On Wednesday debate resumed on MDC-T Senator Marava’s motion of 8th October. Zanu-PF Senators suggested that as the Minister of Justice had given assurances that the Government was alive to the problem and was working on the necessary legislation, there was no need to continue debating the motion. However, there was no response from the Minister or his deputy, and further debate was postponed.

Question Time [Thursday 21st November]

  • Demolition of houses and structures

The Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing explained that, although Government did not want to frighten people, it intended to put an end to the illegal settlements that had sprung up over the last five years: “what we want is to bring order and that order will surely come”. But a proper audit was being carried out to identify such settlements clearly. Examples of illegal construction were: erection of houses in wetlands, along sewer lines, under power lines and on roads, and setting up tuck-shop’s without regard to planning and public health regulations.

  • Education for disabled children

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education confirmed that it is Government policy that disabled and able-bodied children should learn together in the same schools and classrooms.

  • Purpose of Ministry for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education

Minister of State Hungwe explained to Senators that education should be about more than speaking English and obtaining academic certificates and degrees, without having the skills necessary to drive rural and industrial development. The aim, he said, was to produce “cadres who can deliver”.

Answers to other questions

  • on disposal of solid waste - the Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing said the earmarking of at least 5% of national revenues for provincial and local authorities under the new Constitution, should result in improved service delivery by the responsible local authorities.
  • on whether Mt Darwin qualifies for municipal status - the Deputy Minister said No.
  • on measures to improve the lot of public servants in rural areas - the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said the Civil Service Commission had already resuscitated the 5% rural allowance and wanted to increase it, and was working to alleviate problems of housing and transport, and was considering other strategies.
  • on land for former farmer workers - the Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement said they are free to apply for land but there is no special provision for them.

National Assembly

The four National Assembly sittings lasted for 4 hours 11 minutes, 2 hours 13 minutes, 1 hour 12 minutes and 1 hour 16 minutes. By the end of these sittings, there were several long-running debates that remained uncompleted, even though no further backbench contributions seemed forthcoming. MDC-T Chief Whip Gonese commented that there was now a need for Ministers to respond to points raised.

Motions

On Tuesday 19th November proceedings started with contributions to the ongoing debates on the President’s speech opening Parliament on 17th September.

Alignment of laws with new Constitution

MDC-T Chief Whip Gonese then introduced his motion criticising the Government for its lack of urgent action on this topic, seconded by Ms Majome. Both made long and comprehensive speeches. Mr Gonese, among many other examples of laws needing urgent amendment, instanced the now unconstitutional provisions on the imposition of the death penalty and police and court procedures relating to arrested and accused persons. He pointed out that as long as the relevant laws remain unaligned there is a danger that people will be denied their new constitutional rights, whatever the Constitution says. Zanu-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo suggested it was premature to criticise the Government for inaction so early in the life of the new Constitution, particularly when the Government was already well aware of the problem and the President had said when opening Parliament that action would be taken. Prolonged debate, he said, would be more appropriate when the relevant Government Bills reached Parliament. Debate continued on Wednesday and Thursday with further detailed contributions from MDC-T MPs.

Motions on lifting of sanctions and Establishment of a Women’s Bank - Debate continued.

Power sector problems - Debate also continued on this motion, both last week and on 26th November, when it took up most of the afternoon’s proceedings.

Question Time [Wednesday 20th November]

  • Demolition of houses

The Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing was subjected to a lengthy grilling on this subject but defended the Government’s determination not to allow illegal settlement, for instance on wetlands. He promised that a proper report on the matter would be given to MPs.

  • Mass bilharzia drug treatment programme

The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care gave a comprehensive justification of the Ministry’s 5-year programme to give drug treatment for bilharzias to all children between 3 and 15. He said the drugs were known to be safe, and had been used for years, and that death was not a known side-effect. Referring to the deaths of three children that had occurred several days after treatment, he said that a post-mortem had been possible in only two of the cases, but they had proved that the unfortunate deaths were caused by diarrhoea following a salmonella infection, not by the bilharzia drug administered. The Ministry was sure the drugs are safe.

  • ZIMSEC exam paper leakages

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education made a Ministerial Statement on this and was then questioned. He said that some of the alleged culprits, including one with a previous conviction for the same offence, had been taken to court; and disciplinary proceedings against others were ongoing.

  • Vehicles, housing and amenities for Chiefs

The Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing gave detailed information about the provision of vehicles, housing and amenities for chiefs, including statistics for provision of electricity and boreholes [of 220 substantive chiefs, 72 have electricity, 38 boreholes].

  • Save Conservancy invasion

The Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry said Cabinet would soon consider the report of a new Ministerial taskforce recommending the way forward.

  • Tourism policy and domestic tourism

The Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry told MPs the new tourism policy would be released soon. His Ministry would be promoting domestic tourism as “the future of our product” not concentrating, as before, on the international market. This would include school tourism, religious tourism, home hospitality and attracting tourists from the Zimbabwean Diaspora.

Government Gazette of 22nd November

Statutory Instruments [SIs]

VAT SI 159/2013 corrects an error in the Value Added Tax (General) (Amendment) Regulations published in SI 87/2013. 1st February 2009 is substituted for the original effective date 1st February 2013.

General Notices [GN]

Income Tax Bill sent to President

In GN 525/2013 the Clerk of Parliament gives official public notice that on Friday 8th November the Speaker sent the Bill for the new Income Tax Act to the President’s Office for the President’s assent and signature, in accordance with the new requirement stipulated by section 131(5)(b) of the Constitution. It is to be hoped that in future such notices will be published more promptly.

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