BILL WATCH 8/2015
[2nd March 2015]
Both Houses of Parliament Will Resume on Tuesday 3rd March
Both the Senate and the National Assembly took a break last week, after sitting from 27th January to 19th February. Committee business was also suspended for the week, resuming today 2nd March.
Parliamentary Sitting Calendar for 2015: March Sittings
Parliament has released the proposed sitting calendar for this year [soft copy available from addresses given at the end of this bulletin]. Sittings envisaged for March for both Houses will run for four weeks, from Tuesday 3rd to Thursday 26th March [three sittings per week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons]. No sittings are scheduled for April – which has four public holidays and coincides with the month-long school holidays.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
The Speaker is expected to make a pronouncement on whether, as a result of their expulsions from ZANU-PF, Mr Didymus Mutasa and Mr Temba Mliswa, have forfeited their seats in terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution; and perhaps on the position of Mr Jonathan Samukange following his readmission to ZANU-PF [see Bill Watch 7/2015 of 28th February for more on both issues].
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill This Bill was given its Second Reading on Tuesday 17th February after the Minister of Finance and Economic Development’s reply to the Second Reading debate, but the Opposition succeeded in stalling progress at the beginning of the Committee Stage on 19th February by raising points of order about the validity of the Parliamentary Legal Committee’s non-adverse report on the Bill the same morning at a meeting chaired by Hon Samukange – who status as an MP has been challenged by MDC-T in terms of section 129(1)(l) of the Constitution on the basis of his recent “readmission” to ZANU-PF [see Bill Watch 7/2015 of 28th February]. Also raised by MDC-T Chief Whip on a point of order was Standing Order 103 which states that an MP shall not in or before the House or any Committee vote upon or take part in the discussion of any matter in which he or she has a direct pecuniary interest, which he argued would exclude MPs who benefited from the Reserve Bank’s quasi-fiscal activities from debating or voting on the Bill; he accordingly that the House be provided with a list of those beneficiaries. Before any ruling was given, the Minister proposed an adjournment which was approved.
If, as the Minister apparently intends, the Committee Stage goes ahead on 3rd March – it is item 1 on the Order Paper – the Minister has given notice that he will propose two amendments to the Bill:
- to insert words in clause 4 in order to extend to “any other banking institution” the immunity the clause already proposes for the Reserve Bank itself. Clause 4, as amended, would read as follows [new words underlined]:
“(4) No action or proceeding shall be commenced or continued against the Reserve Bank or any other banking institution in respect of a prior debt assumed by the Minister on behalf of the State, or any other obligation or claim in connection therewith or arising therefrom.”
This amendment is designed to give effect to a recommendation in the joint report of the two portfolio committees that considered the Bill, namely:
“While Section 4 (4) of the Bill gives immunity to the RBZ, thus releasing it from all liability for all prior debts assumed by Government, the same status is not extended to the Commercial Banks who were acting at the time as agents of the Central Bank in the incurrence of debt liabilities. The Committee raised this matter and is pleased that the Minister agreed to extend the immunity to cover commercial banks.”
- to replace the Schedule to the Bill listing the Reserve Bank’s liabilities proposed to be taken over by the Government under the Bill [the list names the creditors, and this new version includes many pages listing all the small creditors whose names were not individually listed in the original Bill].
Both amendments are reflected verbatim on the Order Paper for 3rd March [and are available on the Veritas website www.veritaszim.net].
Note: The Public Debt Management Bill, to which reference was made during the Second Reading debate on this Bill, is already being printed for presentation in Parliament. It proposes a Public Debt Management Office, whose functions would include managing the liabilities due to be taken over by Government from the Reserve Bank.
Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill The position remains unchanged – the Second Reading debate will not progress until the relevant committees have completed their consideration of the Bill, including possible public hearings, and finalised their reports.
Take note motions Seven new portfolio committee reports are listed for presentation by committee chairpersons.
New motions New motions that may be presented this week, depending on progress on other business, include
- a motion for International Women's Day [8th March] to be declared a public holiday
- the replacement of the existing Vagrancy Act with something more suitable to current needs and social problems
- a call for various Government measures to reduce “road carnage”.
Question Time [Wednesday 4th March]
49 written questions are already listed for Ministerial attention.
Coming up in the Senate This Week
Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill This Bill was passed by the National Assembly on Thursday 19th February and transmitted to the Senate for its consideration. It is the first Bill to reach the Senate this year. The Second Reading debate is listed for 3rd March.
In addition to on-going debates [on the vote of thanks to the President; economic challenges faced by indebted individuals and companies; congratulations to President Mugabe on becoming AU chairperson; the thematic committee report on Gender-Based Violence; incentivisation of production of small grains] there are new motions to be presented:
- Thematic Committee report on the Operations of the Community Share Ownership Trusts and Employee Share Ownership Schemes
- Report of the delegation to the 65th Session of the African Parliamentary Union [APU] Executive Committee and 37th APU Conference in Morocco from 29th October to 2nd November 2014
- Action needed to combat the ever-increasing culture of lawlessness on Zimbabwe’s roads.
Question Time [Thursday 5th March]
There are seven written questions on the Order Paper, all carried forward unanswered from either 12th or 19th February; they include three questions for the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing on: the pre-July 2013 election Government-dictated write-off of debts owed to local authorities, with specific details requested for Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo and Kwekwe; the use of Chinese loan funds for purchasing vehicles for Harare City Council staff; intricacies of the road construction deals involving Harare City Council, Augur Investments and ZINARA.
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