BILL WATCH 5-2016

BILL WATCH 5/2016

[9th February 2016]

The National Assembly Will Continue Sitting This Week
The Senate has Adjourned until Tuesday 23rd February

Declaration of State of Disaster

On 5th February the press featured a Press Statement by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, dated 4th February, announcing that, given the magnitude of the El Nino-induced drought, the President had, in terms of section 27(1) of the Civil Protection Act, declared “a State of Disaster in regard to severely affected areas in communal and resettlement areas of Zimbabwe effective from 2nd February 2015”.   The declaration, the Minister said, seeks to ensure that urgent priority be given to mobilization of resources to alleviate suffering from the impacts of drought.

Note: Gazetting of this declaration is not required by the Civil Protection Act.  

Members of Parliament and Vacancies

New MPs sworn in

On Tuesday 2nd February two new ZANU-PF members of Parliament  were sworn in:

- In the National Assembly, Killian Sibanda – the new constituency MP for Bulawayo’s Nkulumane [a seat formerly held by the MDC-T’s late Tamsanqa Mahlangu]

- In the Senate, Clemence Makwarimba – the new Senator for Masvingo Province [taking the seat formerly held by section 129(1)(k) casualty Dzikamai Mavhaire].

National Assembly vacancy announced and by-election ordered

Also on 2nd February, the Speaker announced another ZANU-PF section 129(1)(k) victim with effect from 20th January – Criswell Mutematsaka, formerly MP for Guruve South constituency in Mashonaland Central.  The Presidential proclamation ordering the by-election was gazetted on 5th February [SI 16/2016] and named Friday 26th February as nomination day and Saturday 23rd April as polling day.  The nomination court will sit at Bindura Magistrates Court from 10 am. 

Hon Chamisa, claiming a matter of privilege, protested against the repeated use of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution by political parties, and said that the stability of Parliament was being affected and that by-elections cost a great deal of money. The Speaker responded that if MPs wished to do away with section 129(1)(k) it was up them to get the Constitution amended.

Current vacancies

There are three National Assembly vacancies [the Mhondoro-Mubaira and Guruve South constituency seats, and a ZANU-PF party-list seat for Mashonaland West]; and one Senate vacancy [a ZANU-PF party-list seat in Mashonaland East – wrongly referred to in Bill Watch 4/2015 as a constituency seat]. 

In Parliament Last Week

National Assembly

Parliamentary Legal Committee Reports [announced 2nd February]

Adverse report on Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill  In a longer than usual report, the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] gives its reasons for concluding that Vice-President Mnangagwa’s proposed replacement of section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act would, if enacted, be unconstitutional [full report available from Veritas – see end of bulletin]

Non-adverse reports on two other Bills  Non-adverse reports were announced on the General Laws Amendment and Zimbabwe National Defence University Bills.

Non-adverse reports on statutory instruments   Non-adverse reports were announced on all statutory instruments gazetted during December 2015 and January 2016.

Bills

Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill  The PLC’s adverse report on this Bill stalled progress.  The report is to be considered by the National Assembly this week [see below].

General Laws Amendment Bill  This Bill – with the amendments cleared by a non-adverse PLC report – went through its final stages on 4th February without further debate, and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration when it resumes on 23rd February.

Zimbabwe National Defence University Bill  The Minister of Defence delivered his Second Reading speech explaining the reasons for the Bill and why it is a Ministry of Defence Bill, rather than coming from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development. Citing examples from other countries, he said that “a distinguishing feature of all national defence universities, Mr Speaker, is that they are established as military institutions with civilian and military staff complements but wholly administered by the military”.

Petitions from organisations

The Speaker announced that he had referred to the appropriate portfolio committees petitions received from the following organisations:

Women’s Alliance of Business Associations of Zimbabwe [WABAZ] – a petition seeking an urgent review of mining legal frameworks and an assessment of the level of underrepresentation of women in mining boards

Electoral Resource Centre [ERC] – a petition asking Parliament to get the Government to realign the Electoral Act to the Constitution [on this week’s agenda for the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – see Bill Watch Committees 1/2016 of 5th February].     

Motions

Drought emergency  In a detailed speech on 4th February, during the continuing debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address, Hon Cross convincingly spelled out the dimensions of the regional problems arising from the current drought and the need for emergency measures to cope with the logistics of ensuring supplies of maize during the coming months.  On the same day the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing announced that the President had that day declared a state of disaster in the areas worst affected by the drought [see above] .

Tuberculosis  Also on 4th February Hon D Tshuma presented the special Report on Putting Tuberculosis on the Political Agenda: the Role of Parliamentarians in Supporting Tuberculosis Councils in Zimbabwe, prepared by the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care.

President’s speech opening the Third Session  This continuing debate took up most of the sitting of 2nd February.

Question Time

Wednesday’s sitting was wholly taken up by Question Time until the adjournment at 4.48 pm.   At the beginning no Ministers were present, although there was full attendance by Deputy Ministers.  Hon Mutseyami pointed out the importance of attendance by Ministers.  The Speaker revealed that only three Ministers had presented apologies and, saying this was his last appeal, ruled that in future contempt of Parliament proceedings would be initiated against defaulting Ministers.

In the Senate

On Thursday, with no immediate prospect of Government business to keep it usefully occupied three afternoons a week, the Senate adjourned until Tuesday 23rd February.  It had sat for 67 minutes on Tuesday, 49 minutes on Wednesday, and 98 minutes on Thursday.

Motions  Debates were wound up, and motions adopted, on (1) Zimbabwe’s achievement of a high literacy rate and (2) the need for Government encouragement of sport throughout the country. 

Question Time  Question time on 4th February took up the whole afternoon sitting.  At the beginning no Ministers were present, there was full attendance by Deputy Ministers.  Hon Mutseyami pointed out the importance of attendance by Ministers.  The Speaker revealed that only three Ministers had presented apologies and, saying this was his last appeal, ruled that in future contempt of Parliament proceedings would be initiated against defaulting Ministers.

Coming up in the National Assembly This Week

Bills

So far, only two Bills feature on the Order Paper for this week.

Special Economic Zones Bill  This Bill is due to be presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development on Tuesday 9th February.  It will then be referred to the PLC for its report on constitutionality.  [Bill available from Veritas]

Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill  Item 2 on the Order Paper for 9th February is consideration of the PLC’s adverse report on this Bill – more precisely, on Vice-President Mnangagwa’s replacement of section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [full report available from Veritas].  The House must decide whether or not to adopt the report.  If it rejects the report, the Bill can be passed complete with the new section 121(3).  If, however, the House passes a resolution adopting the report, the offending section 121(3) will have to be dropped – unless the Vice-President can persuade the Constitutional Court to declare that the section would be in accordance with the Constitution [he has 14 days after an adoption resolution within which to apply to the court for that declaration – Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 8(6)].   It remains to be seen whether Hon Mnangagwa  will, when responding to the report, attempt to persuade the House that the four lawyers on the PLC are wrong in law.      

Debate on PLC’s Adverse Report on Presidential Powers Regulations restricting legal action against Premier Service Medical Aid Society [SI 77/2015]

This item has dropped to the end of the Order Paper, as item 26.  Contributions by PLC members and MPs were completed months ago.  What remains is a response to the report by the Minister of Health and Child Care, who has been severely criticised by some MPs – and a vote on whether or not to adopt the report.  The delay in finalising the debate is unfortunate, because the regulations expired mid-January [they were gazetted on 17th July 2015 and all regulations made in terms of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act lapse after 180 days].  

Motions

High on the Order Paper are the continuing debates on the motions in reply to the President’s Speech opening the present Session and the his State of the Nation Address.  Also listed are motions to restore to the Order Paper several motions that lapsed before completion of debate at the end of the previous Session.  Debate is also due on the motion by Hon Shamu and Hon Zindi praising the President and the Security Forces. 

Question Time [Wednesday]

The number of written questions awaiting reply has dropped to 16.  It remains to be seen whether Ministerial attendance will improve after the Speaker’s threat last week to initiate contempt of Parliament proceedings against defaulting Ministers. 

Government Gazette 5th February

Statutory Instruments

By-election ordered  SI 16/2016 [see note at the beginning of this bulletin]

Customs duty suspension for mining companies  SI 15/2016 lists another two companies to benefit from three-year suspensions in the interests of mining development.

Collective bargaining agreement – Mining Industry Pension Fund  SI 14/2016 sets out the new agreement for this Pension Fund, repealing SI 771/1982. 

General Notices

In GNs 23 to 26/2016 Parliament notified the dates on which four 2015 Acts - the Finance (No. 2) Act, Appropriation (Supplementary) Act, the Appropriation (2016) Act and the Finance Act, respectively – were sent to the President for his assent.  All four Acts were gazetted as law before the end of last year [see Bill Watch 2/2016 of 25th January for details].  Parliament’s acknowledgement of its constitutional duty [Constitution, section 131(5)] to give public notice when it sends an Act to the President comes better late than never.

 

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