BILL WATCH 4/2015
[11th February 2015]
Both Houses of Parliament Are Sitting This Week
What Happened in Parliament 3rd to 5th February and 10th February
Gender Commission of Zimbabwe Bill On 4th February the Acting Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development , Hon Mushohwe, began the Second Reading stage by delivering a speech explaining the need for the Bill and its objectives. The debate then had to be adjourned because the Portfolio Committee’s report on the Bill was not ready for presentation. Later the Speaker explained that consultations were still under way between the committee and Ministry. [Comment: It is hoped that these consultations, and the consultations said to have taken place between Ministry and Parliamentary Legal Committee, result in amendments to the Bill being brought up at the Committee Stage.]
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe [RBZ] (Debt Assumption) Bill The Second Reading debate resumed on 5th February, with the presentation by Hon Chapfika of the report on the Bill by the Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance. The report referred to public fears, expressed at the committee’s public hearings on the Bill, that the Government’s assumption of the RBZ debts would mean an extra burden for taxpayers; and the committee’s acceptance as satisfactory the explanation from the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and the RBZ Governor that funds to retire the debt would be raised by issuing Treasury bills. The committee did feel, however, that the debts listed in the schedule to the Bill had to be thoroughly validated, and had been assured by both Minister and Governor that this would happen. MPs then contributed to the debate, which continued at length on 10th February. Some MDC-T MPs argued that those who had benefited from farm implements supplied to them by RBZ as part of its quasi-fiscal activities should be made to pay back their value – a suggestion hotly contested by Government supporters who defended the necessity for those activities, saying they had saved Zimbabwe.
[Note: The Bill provides only for the Government to shoulder certain debts owed by RBZ to its creditors. It says nothing about the fate of debts that may be owed to RBZ as a result of its quasi-fiscal activities under the former Governor, Dr Gono. It remains to be seen whether MDC-T MPs will put forward Committee Stage amendments to cater for their concerns about recovering amounts owed to RBZ by beneficiaries of the farm implements hand-outs.]
Inheritance laws and the plight of widows On 4th February, after Question Time, Hon Misihairabwi-Muchonga introduced a new motion calling for harmonisation of inheritance laws in Zimbabwe, enhancement and decentralisation of the operations of the Legal Aid Directorate to make its services more accessible to widows experiencing financial difficulties, and the creation of a Widow’s Fund to assist widows during times of distress and dispossession of property and assets.
Scourge of child marriage Debate on this motion continued on 3rd February.
Climate change On 10th February Hon Anastancia Ndhlovu, seconded by Hon S. Mpofu, moved a motion urging the Government to form a Zimbabwe Chapter of GLOBE International with a view to Zimbabwe benefiting from GLOBE’s capacity-building programmes, with particular reference to enabling Zimbabwe to produce essential national legislation for Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
Question Time [4th February] Ministers present fielded a variety of questions, ranging from the GMB’s failure to pay farmers for their maize deliveries; the fact that ZIMRA had been without a board for nine months; alleged partisan distribution of agricultural input under the President’s agricultural inputs scheme; why the new “bond coins” had not been minted at the Bulawayo mint; ZIMSEC examination paper leakages; and the proliferation of unregistered learning institutions.
Again, the Senate had no Government business to deal with. Sittings on 3rd, and 4th February therefore ended early, with debate limited to contributions to the debate on the President’s speech of 17th September 2014 opening the present Parliamentary session. The President of the Senate again urged Senators to bring up motions for discussion. And on 10th February the Deputy President exhorted Senators to put down more written questions for Ministers.
Gender-based Violence in Churches On 10th February Senator W. Sibanda presented the Report of the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development on this subject.
Question Time [5th January] Ministers had the excuse of an unusual Thursday Cabinet meeting for failing to turn up for questions. In desperation the President of the Senate stood down question time in the hope some Ministers or Deputy Ministers would appear later. Senators Mahofa and Goto then made brief contributions to the debate on the President’s speech. The Deputy Minister of Energy and Power Development turned up but was not required to answer any questions. After several Senators had complained about the dereliction of Question Time duty by Ministers and Deputy Ministers, the Senate adjourned after sitting for only 35 minutes.
[Note: The week’s Cabinet meeting was delayed from the normal Tuesday to Thursday in view of President’s longer than usual stay in Addis Ababa for the AU Summit; the extra two or three days enabled him to engage in commitments related to his new role as AU Chairperson. His peers elected to him to this position on 30th January at the beginning of the two-day Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government.]
Coming up in Parliament This Week
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill Second Reading debate to be continued.
Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill The Second Reading debate is expected to continue.
Gender Commission Bill Continuation of the Second Reading stage awaits the report of the Portfolio Committee.
Motions Debates on motions presented in previous sittings are scheduled to continue. New motions high on the agenda are:
International Women’s Day as public holiday Hon Khupe’s motion urges the declaration of International Women’s Day [8th March] as a public holiday.
Vagrancy Act repeal and replacement This is a motion by Hon Muderedzwa.
Declaration of assets by MPs, public and private officials Hon Madzimure’s motion, referring to Zimbabwe’s ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2006, and section 198 of the Constitution, proposes action to compel declaration of assets by senior public and private officials and MPs, and that Government should bring up a Bill to regulate the conduct of public officials negotiating deals on behalf of the Government. [Note: Section 198 of the Constitution says there must be an Act of Parliament providing for such matters.]
Written Questions [Wednesday 11th February] There are now 50 written questions listed, at least half of them new to the Order Paper.
As in the first two weeks of the current series of Parliamentary sittings, the Senate Order Paper remains sparse. No Bills have yet been transmitted from the National Assembly for its consideration – because the National Assembly has not completed work on the three Bills on its Order Paper.
Senators have not yet responded to Hon Madzongwe’s call to bring up their own motions. The only motion listed is the continuing debate on the President’s speech opening the present session. There are only three written questions listed for Thursday afternoon.
Production of small grains Senator Goto’s new motion urging the Government to incentivise the production of small grains is listed for presentation.
Gender-based violence Debate is scheduled to continue on motion to take note of the Report on Gender Based Violence in Churches produced by the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development.
The only other agenda item under motions is for continuation of debate on the vote of thanks to the President for his speech opening the present Parliamentary session.
Question Time [Thursday 12th February]
Senator Chimbudzi has put down an impressive 11 written questions, bringing to 14 the number of questions awaiting Ministerial replies.
[not available from Veritas unless otherwise stated]
Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 4th February
State Procurement SI 19/2015 increases the thresholds for the implementation of various tender procedures set by sections 4 and 5 of the Procurement Regulations [SI 171/2002]. Thresholds of $300 000 become $500 000; the threshold of $1 million becomes $2 million.
Petroleum (Fuel Pricing) Regulations SI 20/2015, made under the Petroleum Act, amends the principal regulations gazetted in May 2014 [SI 80/2014] and repeals a previous price control order for petroleum products that was made under the Control of Goods Act. The only comprehensible part of the new SI is the provision penalising contraventions of the principal regulations and the withholding of petroleum products for speculative purposes for future resale [fine up to $600 or imprisonment for up to five years or both]. The remainder of the SI suggests an intention to adjust the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority [ZERA] pricing structure, but is obviously incomplete – terms are defined but not used, and a new Second Schedule is set out, but with no explanation for the reader of what it really means or how it is to be applied. So the Minister of Energy and Power Development and the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, as the joint authors of the SI, need to try again.
Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 5th February
Commissioners of oaths GN 20/2015 notifies the appointment by the Minister of Home Affairs of commissioners of oath for Zimbabwe. There are two Schedules, the first listing persons appointed for an indefinite period, the second listing persons appointed for the year 2015 only. The GN says they have been appointed as “ex officio Commissioners of Oaths”; but the words “ex officio” must be a careless clerical error and should be treated as surplusage. An individual is an ex officio commissioner of oaths while she or he holds some other office designated for the purpose by statutory instrument [e.g., registered legal practitioner, officer in charge of a police station, etc].
Government Gazette dated 6th February
Collective bargaining agreement – agricultural industry SI 21/2015 sets out agreed new minimum wages effective 1st August 2014.
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