BILL WATCH 51/2015
[27th October 2015]
Both Houses of Parliament Will be Sitting Again This Week
Ministers Not Allowed to Do Paid Outside Work?
The Constitution could have been invoked by participants in the media and public outcry about the Minister of Health and Child Care’s acceptance from Premier Services Medical Aid Society [PSMAS] of not only reimbursement for medical services rendered to PSMAS members at his surgery, but also a substantial advance for future services. Section 106(2) of the Constitution [headed Conduct of Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers] lays down that—
“Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers may not, during their term of office—
a) directly or indirectly, hold any other public office or undertake any other paid work;
b) act in any way that is inconsistent with their office, or expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests; or
c) use their position, or any information entrusted to them, to enrich themselves or improperly benefit any other person.”
Comment: Section 106(3) says that an Act of Parliament must prescribe a code of conduct for Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. There is no such Act. But that doesn’t mean section 106(2) can be ignored until an Act is passed.
What Happened in Parliament Last Week
African Trade Insurance Treaty Approved
Both the National Assembly and the Senate approved Zimbabwe’s accession to the African Trade Insurance Treaty. In both Houses the Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Hon Mabuwa, gave a comprehensive and informative presentation explaining the benefits that membership of the Treaty and the African Trade Insurance Agency would bring to Zimbabwe, and arrangements that had been made for funding Zimbabwe’s acquisition of shares in the Agency.
New MPs sworn in
Three new ZANU-PF constituency MPs were sworn in following the by-elections held on 19th September: Hon Douglas Karori [Mbire], Hon Lawrence Katsiru [Marondera Central] and Hon Zalera Makari [Epworth].
Two Alignment Bills amended and sent back to PLC
As the Banking Amendment Bill was not dealt with at all, the Government’s two major constitutional alignment Bills were the only Bills worked on during the week:
General Laws Amendment Bill On Tuesday 20th October Vice-President Mnangagwa took the Bill through its Committee Stage. His proposed amendments were approved, as were Hon Majome’s amendments to University Acts. The Bill was then referred back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for consideration of the amendments vis-à-vis the Constitution. A separate bulletin will soon give more detail on the Committee Stage amendments.
Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill This Bill was restored to the Order Paper on Tuesday 20th October [following its removal the previous week for lack of a quorum]. On 22nd October the Committee Stage was duly resumed and completed. Amendments to the Bill were approved and the Bill was referred back to the PLC for consideration of the amendments vis-à-vis the Constitution.
Two noteworthy amendments are—
- a comeback for section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. A prosecutor will now be able to delay an accused person’s release on bail by 48 hours [previously 7 days], and any State appeal against the granting of bail must be lodged within the same period. As the original section 121(3) was declared null and void by unanimous decision of the Constitutional Court on 23rd September, the PLC will have to decide whether the new provision is sufficiently different to make it consistent with the Constitution.
- a remedy for wrongful convictions The Prosecutor-General is to be given the right to initiate court action to reverse a wrongful conviction when new evidence becomes available after a trial [amendment to clause 3 of the Bill]
A separate bulletin, out soon, will give more detail on all the Committee Stage amendments, including the new section 121(3).
Hon Dr Labode presented the report of the Parliamentary delegation to the 9th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa Conference held in Nairobi in July. Hon Nduna presented his motion for the promotion of artisanal mining and the repeal of section 3 of the Gold Trade Act criminalising possession of gold. There were also two contributions to the continuing debate on the President’s speech opening the present Parliamentary session.
Adverse PLC Report on SI [State Liabilities Act applied to PSMAS]
For the second week running, this item was not dealt with. It remains on the Order Paper for completion at a later date.
Question Time [Wednesday 21st October]
Failure to erstablish National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Hon Mnangagwa assured MPs that the Government was fully committed to implementing the Constitution, and, although constrained by lack of resources, had so far, he said, managed to establish five constitutional commissions. Lack of resources also applied to provincial councils.
Drivers licence before “O” levels? The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education said there was no truth in the rumour that Government had decided only holders of drivers licences would be allowed write “O” level examinations.
Constituency Development Funds Vice-President Mnangagwa said a Bill on the subject had been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. All that remained was for the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to make arrangements for its presentation in Parliament. In its present form, he said, the Bill would benefit only constituency MPs, not proportional representation/party list MPs.
Handing over of Government property by First Lady at ZANU-PF rally Vice-President Mnangagwa denied any impropriety in Mrs Mugabe’s “handing over” at a ZANU-PF rally of tractors and other agricultural equipment, received by the Government from the Government of Brazil. Opposition MPs were not impressed by his explanation that after dealing with party business, the First Lady had then turned to “government business” when distributing the items.
Still waiting for Bills to come from the National Assembly, Senators nevertheless occupied themselves for longer than usual: 1 hour 18 minutes on Tuesday, 1 hour 45 minutes on Wednesday, and 2 hours 19 minutes on Thursday. They approved the African Trade Insurance Treaty [see above], debated Senator Chimbudzi’s motion on promoting sports development. During a lively and wide-ranging Question Time the Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said that bringing down the Government wage bill to the projected 40% or 30% of revenue will be a long-term objective. Although there are some immediate savings which can be realised in the medium to short term following the identification of ghost workers and duplications on the payroll, retrenchment of workers and laying off of Government employees is not an option.
Coming up in Parliament This Week
Speaker to make statement about wayward MPs
The Speaker is expected to make a statement about measures that will be taken against MPs who are not diligent in their Parliamentary duties, for example, those who fail to attend committee meetings or plenary sessions of the National Assembly, and those who make a token appearance to have their names ticked in the attendance register only to disappear immediately thereafter. [Note: Two weeks ago progress on the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill was interrupted when attendance in the chamber dropped well below the quorum of 70 and it proved impossible to form a quorum even after the division bells had been rung twice. Again last week, attendance dwindled below the quorum, but ringing of the division bells resulted in a quorum being mustered.]
Note: Copies of the Bills mentioned below are available from Veritas at the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.
Banking Amendment Bill [item 1 on Order Paper] The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has tabled 26 pages of amendments to the Bill for consideration during the Committee Stage. As the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development was hearing from stakeholders yesterday afternoon, it may not be for the Committee Stage
Bills being reconsidered by PLC following amendment by National Assembly
Two Bills are under consideration by the PLC after being amended during their Committee Stages [see above]: (1) General Laws Amendment Bill and (2) Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill. Further proceedings on these Bills must wait until the PLC has reported back to the National Assembly. This means that the Bills may not be finalised this week.
Banking Amendment Bill [item 1 on Order Paper] The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has tabled 26 pages of amendments to the Bill for consideration during the Committee Stage.
Adverse report from PLC on SI 77/2015 [Presidential Powers regulations applying State Liabilities Act to PSMAS] The National Assembly is due to resume the discussion of this report [see Bill Watch 48/2015 of 6th October for views expressed by MPs so far, i.e. on 1st October].
Motions There are new motions listed in addition to the motions already presented—
- Hon Muderedzwa’s motion on the need for Government action to promote the reformation and rehabilitation of social misfits such as beggars, street kids, alcohol and drug addicts and prostitutes by using the services of the “abundant pool” of qualified social workers available in Zimbabwe.
- Hon Cross’s motion urging remedial action on the state of affairs revealed by the forensic audit of Premier Service Medical Aid Society, including prosecution, recovery of funds from individuals unjustly enriched and the review of remuneration policies.
Question Time [Wednesday afternoon] The Order Paper lists 13 Questions. Hon Chibaya wants Vice-President Mnangagwa to say what action will be taken against a Minister who disobeys a court order, citing the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing’s defiance of a High Court order regarding Gweru city councillors.
The Senate Order Paper is still decidedly light. There are no Bills, and it is unlikely that any Bills will come over from the National Assembly this week.
Motion Zimbabwe’s high literacy rate Senator Goto is due to present his new motion to commend the Government and people of Zimbabwe for success achieved in making Zimbabwe one of the African countries with high literacy rates.
Question Time [Thursday] There are 25 written questions with notice already listed on the Order Paper. Issues raised by new questions include:
- Maths teachers unable to speak local language in area of deployment
- Removal of transformers from chiefs’ homes by the Rural Electrification Agency
- Resuscitation of Kamativi and Mashava mines.
Government Gazette of 23rd October
Hwedza Rural Council clamping and tow-away by-laws ]SI 113/2015]. Even though these by-laws follow a standard form used by other local authorities, the Parliamentary Legal Committee may wish to consider whether they are ultra vires [go beyond the by-law making power conferred by the Rural District Council Act] and whether the council’s power to retain a clamped vehicle pending a court decision involves an unconstitutional deprivation of property.
Toll roads – tolling points [SI 114/2015] This eighth amendment to the Toll Roads (National Road Network) Regulations [SI 114/2015] adds ten new tolling points to the existing list. It also provides for a $10 monthly toll fee for personal light motor-vehicles of residents within a 10-kilometre radius of a toll gate.
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