BILL WATCH 9/2016
[15th February 2016]
The National Assembly is Sitting This Week
The Senate Remains in Recess until Tuesday 22nd February
Joint Ventures Act and Gender Commission Act Gazetted
Two more 2015 Acts were gazetted on Friday 12th February [leaving only the Banking Amendment Act outstanding]—
Joint Ventures Act (Act No. 6 of 2015) This Act is not yet in force. Its date of commencement must still be fixed by the President by statutory instrument [Act, section 1(2)]. [available from Veritas – follow this link or use the addresses at the end of this bulletin]
Zimbabwe Gender Commission Act (No. 7 of 2015) This Act came into force on 12th February, the day it was gazetted. Parliament sent it to the President for his assent on 20th October 2015 [see GN 28/2016]. There has been no explanation for the ensuing abnormal delay of nearly three months in gazetting the Act as law. The members of the Commission were announced at the end of June 2015 and sworn in on 2nd September: Margaret Mukahanana-Jangarwe [chairperson], Sibongile Chambakale-Mauye, Naomi Chimbetete, Tsungirirai Hungwe-Chimbunde, Nyepudzai Nyangulu, Victor Nkiwane, Bishop Paul Kadzima, Obert Matshalaga and Chief Chikwizo [Peter Mawonera]. [also available from Veritas – follow this link or use the addresses at the end of this bulletin]
Drought State of Disaster: Follow-up Action Required
According to an official Press Statement by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, dated 4th February, President Mugabe on 2nd February responded to the magnitude of the El Nino-induced drought, and, 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 purpose of the declaration, the statement said, was to ensure that urgent priority be given to mobilization of resources to alleviate suffering from the impacts of drought.
Where, as in this case, a State of Disaster is declared otherwise than by statutory instrument, the Civil Protection Act provides that the declaration must as soon as possible be gazetted in a statutory instrument [section 27(1), proviso]. That has not happened, although nearly two weeks have passed. The Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, as Minister responsible for civil protection, must also “communicate such declaration to Parliament on the day that it next sits after the declaration is made” [section 28]. That, too, has not happened.
Effective period of State of Disaster A State of Disaster declaration lasts for three months unless earlier revoked, but can be extended by the President from time to time [Act, section 27].
Powers of civil protection officers during State of Disaster While a State of Disaster is in force, civil protection officers have extraordinary powers in terms of sections 22 to 24 of the Civil Protection Act. These include the power to take possession or control of land or property for the purposes of dealing with the situation; owners and others affected by such taking are entitled to compensation. This makes it essential for the Minister to explain to Parliament and the nation what use the Government intends to make of such powers in the many months the current situation is likely to continue.
In the National Assembly Last Week
First Readings Two Bills received their First Readings and were referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]—
Not dealt with There was no progress on the other two Bills listed on the Order Paper—
- Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill Although listed for consideration of the PLC’s strong Adverse Report on the proposed new section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, this item was not dealt with.
- Zimbabwe National Defence University Bill The Bill is under consideration by the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services. The Minister of Defence has already delivered his Second Reading speech explaining the Bill, after which debate was adjourned at the request of the Portfolio Committee, which requested time to conduct consultations.
Bills under consideration by PLC
The PLC therefore has two Bills under consideration:
- Special Economic Zones Bill [referred 9th February]
- National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [referred 11th February].
Withdrawal of PLC Adverse Report on Presidential Powers [PSMAS] Regulations
On 11th February PLC Chairperson Jonathan Samukange withdrew the adverse report on SI 77/2015, explaining that the regulations it contained had lapsed on the expiry of the statutory 180-day period since they were gazetted, and that they now had no effect whatever. [Note: The law about taking legal action against PSMAS has now reverted to what it was before SI 77/2015 – Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, section 7. See also under Motions below.]
With no Government business to deal with, apart from the brief First Readings for the Zimbabwe National Defence University Bill and the Special Economic Zones Bill [see above], MPs had time on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for debating motions and raising points of order.
PSMAS scandal Hon Cross, winding up debate on his motion calling for Government action following the PSMAS scandal, proposed an amendment calling for the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare to demand the forensic audit report into PSMAS, conduct public hearings and recommend subsequent action to the National Assembly. The amendment was accepted and the amended motion was approved. So Parliament is not finished with the PSMAS affair.
Attempted Chikurubi prison break The Portfolio Committee’s report on the attempted Chikurubi prison break was presented and the ensuing debate took up the rest of Thursday afternoon. Hon Nduna enlivened proceedings with an apparently serious suggestion that male prisoners should contribute to a national sperm bank from which sperm could be exported to reproductively challenged nations. As the weekend adjournment followed immediately after his brief speech, the implications of this suggestion have not yet been explored by his fellow MPs.
Question Time occupied the whole of Wednesday’s sitting, apart from a request for a ruling from the Deputy Speaker on the extent to which Parliament can hold the President and the Office of the President and Cabinet to account; the Deputy Speaker said the point would be considered and a ruling given in due course.
Non-attendance by Ministers – most of whom would have been at the overlapping long-running ZANU-PF Politburo meeting – inevitably prompted points of order and calls for contempt of Parliament proceedings against the defaulters. .The Deputy Speaker said some Ministers had promised to attend and allowed Deputy Ministers to handle questions. Detailed answers were given by Deputy Ministers on such issues as the Dzika virus and Government policy on STEM [Science;, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education]. The Minister of Agriculture arrived in time to tell the House that we do not accept GMO maize, but as and when we do, it will come in under escort and go direct for milling.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
So far, only two Bills feature on the Order Paper for this week.
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 here]. 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 accept the report and drop section 121(3) from the Bill – or attempt to persuade the House that the four lawyers on the PLC are wrong in law.
High on the Order Paper is the motion by Hon Shamu and Hon Zindi praising the President and the Security Forces.
Question Time [Wednesday]
18 written questions already await reply. MPs can be expected to demand action in terms of Standing Orders against any defaulting Ministers, a possibility mentioned by Mr Speaker Mudenda on 3rd February.
Government Gazette 12th February
Collective bargaining agreement – Engineering and Iron and Steel Industry SI 17/2016 lists minimum wages for skilled workers, graded workers and skilled worker trainees for the year March 2015-February 2016.
Open General Import Licence Amendments SIs 18, 19 and 20/2016 add a number of items to the Schedule to the current Open General Import Licence [SI 8/1996]. The effect is that the goods concerned may no longer be imported under the Open General Import Licence, but instead require specific import licences; they range from twenty-three listed pharmaceutical medicines [SI 18/2016], to second-hand clothing, blankets [SI 19/2016] and certain batteries, candles, floor polishes and tobacco twine [SI 20/2016].
Insurance and Pensions Commission Levy SI 21/2016 repeals and replaces the previous notice fixing the quarterly levies to be paid by insurers.
Pension Funds and Insurers registration fees SIs 22 and 23/3016 fix new registration fees for pension and provident funds [SI 22] and insurers [SI 23].
In GNs 23 to 26/2016 Parliament notified the dates on which the Joint Ventures Act and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Act were submitted to the President for his assent after being passed by Parliament. [See note at the beginning of this bulletin on the delay between the submission of the Gender Commission Act and its eventual gazetting as law only last week.]
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