BILL WATCH 2/2015
[25th January 2015]
Both Houses of Parliament Will Resume on Tuesday 27th January
The National Assembly and the Senate will return from their Christmas and New Year recess on Tuesday 27th January. The National Assembly sat last on 18th December, the Senate on 19th December, when they approved the 2015 Budget and passed the Finance (No. 3) Bill and Appropriation (2015) Bill.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
The Order Paper for 27th January is headed by the three Bills listed below, all of which were introduced during the First Session and, as announced by the Speaker on 25th November 2014, have received non-adverse reports from the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]. The National Assembly has also passed resolutions to restore all three Bills to the Order Paper for the current session.
The next step for each Bill is for the responsible Minister to begin the Second Reading stage by explaining its principles and content to the House. The merits of the Bill will then be debated by MPs, and this will include a contribution presenting a report on the Bill by the appropriate portfolio committee. Matters of detail and wording can be raised during the next stage, the Committee Stage, during which the Bill will be considered clause by clause, and amendments can be proposed by the responsible Minister and by backbenchers.
- Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill [H.B. 7, 2014] [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
This Bill was restored to the Order Paper on 18th December
- Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill [H.B. 6, 2014] [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
This Bill was restored to the Order Paper on 18th December
- Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill [H.B. 8, 2014] [Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development]
This Bill was restored to the Order Paper on 27th November. As the PLC report was conditional on certain changes being made to the Bill, the Minister is expected to confirm that she will be moving appropriate amendments during the Committee Stage. [The Bill was critically discussed in Constitution Watch 8/2014 of 26th August 2014.]
[The Bills are all available from the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.]
Private Members’ Motions
The Order Paper lists three motions:
Special economic zones Hon Nduna, seconded by Hon Cross, will move a comprehensive motion urging the Executive as a matter of urgency to develop special economic zones and introduce a Bill to enable the implementation of ZIMASSET through the establishment of such zones.
Climate change Hon Anastancia Ndhlovu, seconded by Hon S. Mpofu, will propose that Parliament form a Zimbabwe chapter of GLOBE International and also urge the Executive to urgently formulate and implement a National Climate Change Policy and a comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Strategy.
Child marriages in Zimbabwe Hon Maondera, seconded by Hon Majome, will bring up a motion urging Government to urgently review existing legislation to see if it adequately deals with the scourge of child marriage, introduce necessary new legislation, roll out programmes to assist victims, come up with programmes to educate all communities on the ills of child marriages and commission research to determine the magnitude of this scourge in Zimbabwe. [Note: The constitutionality of child marriage and existing legislation was raised in the Constitutional Court in a case argued on 14th January; see Constitution Watch 1/2015 of 8th January for details of the case.]
Question Time [Wednesday 28th January]
The first hour of the afternoon sitting is for Questions without Notice, the next for written Questions with Notice. There are fifteen such Questions with Notice on the Order Paper, including one on steps taken to reduce fuel prices in line with the decline in global crude oil prices.
Coming up in the Senate
There are no Bills listed for consideration by the Senate.
The latest Order Paper available lists no Private Members’ Motions apart from the customary motion on the President’s speech opening the current session of Parliament on 28th October 2014.
Question Time [Thursday 29th January]
Six Questions with Notice are listed. Topics raised include mainstreaming disability into all new legislation about the operations of local authorities; ZIMSEC examination paper leakages; and taxation of churches or religious institutions operating business ventures.
Alleged Disregard of Constitution by Executive
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon Jessie Majome, has announced to the press that her committee intends to take the Executive to task for disregarding the Constitution. The instances she cited are:
- the President’s failure to inform Parliament about the deployment of troops in Equatorial Guinea to provide security at the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament;
- the President’s failure to give a State of the Nation address to Parliament;
- the government’s failure to bring existing laws into line with the Constitution.
Deployment of troops
Section 214 of the Constitution states that when troops are deployed outside Zimbabwe, the President must cause Parliament to be informed “promptly and in appropriate detail” where they are deployed and the reason for their deployment. The obligation to inform Parliament only arises after they have been deployed, however, and Parliament has not been sitting since their deployment. The President’s first opportunity to tell Parliament will be when Parliament resumes on 27th January. Until then, the President cannot be said to have breached section 214 of the Constitution.
When the deployment is reported to Parliament, however, members may well query its legality. Section 213 of the Constitution permits troops to be deployed outside Zimbabwe for the following reasons:
- on peace-keeping operations under the auspices of the UN or an international organisation of which Zimbabwe is a member;
- to defend the territorial integrity of a foreign country;
- in fulfilment of an international commitment; or
- in defence of Zimbabwe’s security or national interests.
It may be doubted if providing security at a football tournament falls within any of these reasons.
State of the Nation address
Section 140(4) of the Constitution states that the President “must” address a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament “at least once a year” on the state of the nation. The President has not done so since his re-election in 2013, and clearly he must rectify the omission as soon as possible.
Failure to align laws with Constitution
In this regard the government’s failure is lamentable. Nearly two years after the Constitution came into effect, very little has been done to make it operational. Pretty well all the government has done so far is to secure the amendment of the Electoral Act [and even then it did not bring the Act entirely into line with the Constitution] and to enact the National Prosecuting Authority Act. All the other statutes which are inconsistent with the Constitution — covering such important matters as citizenship, the conduct of criminal proceedings, good governance, the rights of women and children, and provincial and local government — remain unaltered.
The government’s failure, as we have said, is lamentable and Hon Majome is right to point it out. To some extent, however, the remedy lies with Parliament itself. Private members of Parliament can introduce Bills to align our laws with the Constitution. Perhaps Hon Majome and her committee should consider this option.
Bills Still in the Pipeline
Bill gazetted and ready for presentation
Biological and Toxin Weapons Control Bill [H.B. 5.2013] – gazetted in January 2014 but never introduced into Parliament. It is a Ministry of Defence Bill. Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences Bill [H.B. 4, 2014] – gazetted on 3rd September 2014 but never introduced. It is a Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology Bill.
General Laws Amendment Bill
Vice-President Mnangagwa told a Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs workshop in Gweru a few days ago that this long-promised Bill would be coming to Parliament soon. It will make amendments to some 150 Acts of Parliament to bring them into line with the Constitution. The expectation is that most of these amendments will be straightforward routine changes to update statutes which still refer to provisions of the former Constitution. It remains to be seen whether will include the further amendments to the Electoral Act that are needed to bring it fully into line with the Constitution, over and above the changes made by last year’s Electoral Amendment Act: for instance, the removal from the Act’s provisions for voter registration of all references to the Registrar-General that clash with the exclusive powers given to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission by the Constitution.
Income Tax Bill?
This long Bill is a hangover from the last Parliament. It was produced by the Ministry of Finance under Minister Tendai Biti, the MDC-T Minister of Finance in the inclusive government of 2009-2013, and was intended to make major changes to Zimbabwe’s income tax law. Parliament hastily passed the Bill in June 2013, in its dying days before the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the 31st July 2013 elections. When it eventually reached the President much later that year, he refused to assent to it and returned it to the present Parliament for reconsideration of his reservations about the Bill. That was in December 2013. Although the Constitution requires prompt attention by the National Assembly to a returned Bill, there was no action on the Bill during the rest of the First Session, and the Bill remained untouched on the Order Paper, listed for consideration in Committee, until the session ended. It has not appeared on the Order Paper in the current session, and is presumably being regarded as having lapsed at the end of the First Session, along with other unfinished business. In other words, it is probably now a dead letter.
Government Gazette: 10th to 23rd January
Bills and Acts
No Bills or Acts were gazetted during the period 10th to 23rd January. All the Acts of 2014 have now been gazetted, so there are in fact no Acts waiting publication. No Bills are currently being prepared by the Government Printer.
Statutory Instruments [SIs] [not available from Veritas unless otherwise stated]
Proclamation ordering two National Assembly by-elections – SI 3/2015 of 10th January contains a Presidential proclamation ordering by-elections to fill the vacant National Assembly seats for the Mount Darwin West and Chirumanzu-Zibagwe [see full explanation in Constitution Watch 2/2015 of 23rd January].
Customs and excise – increased duty on fuel SI 4/2015 increased the duty on fuel by 10 cents a litre [to 35 cents a litre on petrol, and 45 cents a litre on diesel]. A Government statement published in the press said this was designed to share the benefit of the reduced global price of crude oil between the Government and the public.
Collective bargaining agreement – textile industry – SI 9/2015 of 16th January deals with contract workers and employees in the textile industry.
Collective bargaining agreement – tobacco sector – SI 12/2015 of 23rd January specifies the salaries and wages agreed for the tobacco (miscellaneous) sector for the year 2014.
VAT zero rating for tourism services – SI 10/2015 amends the VAT (General) Regulations to restate zero rating for tourism services.
Food and Food Standards [FFS] Regulations Four important SIs dated 16th January enact regulations that are a must-read for all players in the food and drinking water sectors and their legal advisers:
- Food inspection and certification – SI 5/2015 [FFS (Inspection and Certification) Regulations]
- Packaged drinking water – SIs 6/2015 and 7/2015 contain similar strict and detailed codes of requirements to be observed by anyone selling, importing or processing for sale, packaged drinking water other than natural mineral water [SI 7/2015] and packaged natural mineral water [SI 7/2015]. ]
- Pre-shipment requirements for food imports and exports – SI 8/2015 [FFS (Import and Export) Regulations] requires the inspection and certification of all premises operated for the sale, manufacture, production, procession or treatment of foods.
Each set of regulations provides for the imposition of fines and imprisonment for anyone convicted of contravening the regulations.
Renaming of streets in Harare and Bulawayo SI 11/2015 dated 23rd January changes the name of Fourth Street in Harare to Simon Vengai Muzenda Street, and Main Street in Bulawayo to Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo Street.
General Notices [GNs]
Appointment of Vice-Presidents and Ministers GN 7/2015, published in a Government Gazette Extraordinary on 14th January, contains the official notification of appointments made by the President on 12th December 2014 following the outcome of the ZANU-PF Congress a few days earlier. [See Constitution Watch 2/2015 of 23rd January for a note on the appointment of the Vice-Presidents.] [GN available from the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.]
Immunities and privileges for FAO GN 10/2015 dated 23rd January is a notification that the President has conferred privileges and immunities on the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, its representatives, experts, consultants, officials and employees, other than individuals who are Zimbabwean citizens.
State of disaster – GN 12/2015 of 23rd January gives notice that Acting President Mnangagwa, in terms of the Civil Protection Act, declared a state of disaster relating to the bus accident that occurred on 18th January in the Goromonzi District.
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