BILL WATCH 21-2016

BILL WATCH 21/2016

[8th May 2016]

Both Houses of Parliament Will Continue Sitting from Tuesday 10th May

Local Government Amendment Bill being Printed

Parliament has received the Local Government Amendment Bill from the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.  On 27th April the Bill was sent to the Government Printer for printing and gazetting.

The Bill is long overdue.  Important provisions of the current Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act are inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore no longer valid law, although still appearing on the printed pages of the Acts.  This situation has led, for example, to the present crisis over elected mayors and councillors in Gweru and Harare – with the Minister insisting that he has legally exercised powers of suspension and removal from office, notwithstanding High Court orders telling him those powers no longer exist. 

The text of the Bill has not yet been made public, so it is impossible now to say whether or not it will bring the Acts into line with the Constitution.  It is hoped that, when gazetted, the Bill will turn out to be more satisfactory than the departmental draft produced by the Ministry in 2014, which fell so far short of achieving alignment that it could be said the Ministry had not understood the full impact of the new constitutional provisions [see Constitution Watch 9/2014 of 10th September 2014]. 

Bond Notes & Other Measures Announced by Reserve Bank

On 4th May the Governor of the Reserve Bank issued a press statement entitled Measures to Deal with Cash Shortages whilst Simultaneously Stabilising and Stimulating the Economy – such as the forthcoming “bond notes” [not yet printed], export incentives, revised priorities for allocation of foreign exchange, lower limits for amount of cash taken out of the country, cash withdrawal limits at banks and ATMs, measures to reduce the economy’s excessive reliance on the US dollar.  The press statement was followed by Exchange Control Guidelines to Authorised Dealers issued by the Reserve Bank on 5th May and Exchange Control Directive RR: 87/2016 on 6th May.  [All three documents are available from Veritas – simply follow the above links or email a request to the address at the end of this bulletin.]    

The Governor said regulations will be amended, where necessary – for instance, regarding the limits on cash taken out of the country by individuals. 

Parliamentary Membership

New Senator sworn in

Only one of the three new members of Parliament was sworn in last week – Senator Victor Mapungwana, filling an MDC-T vacancy in Bulawayo province. 

The other two new members still need to be sworn in before taking up their duties.  They are—

National AssemblyPatrick Dutiro, ZANU-PF, winner of the Guruve South by-election, an MP with effect from 24th April.   

Senate – Tabeth Murwira, ZANU-PF, appointed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, in terms of section 39 of the Electoral Act, to fill the Mashonaland East vacancy created by the expulsion of Olivia Muchena from the party.

Still one National Assembly vacancy

The only vacancy in Parliament is in the National Assembly’s Mazoe North constituency.  The seat has been vacant since the death on 17th March of Edgar Chidavaenzi of ZANU-PF.  The statutory instrument calling the by-election has not yet been gazetted, making it difficult for polling to be within 90 days of the vacancy occurring, as required by the Constitution. 

Status of Bills as at 1st May 2016: At a Glance

Passed by Parliament, awaiting Presidential assent and/or gazetting

Banking Amendment Bill [to be Act 12/2015] [sent to President’s Office 17th March]

Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill [passed 9th March]

Zimbabwe National Defence University Bill [passed 8th March]

General Laws Amendment Bill [passed 14th April]

Awaiting Second Reading Stage in Senate 

Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences Bill [passed by National Assembly 12th April]

Gwanda State University Bill [passed by National Assembly 14th April]

Going through Second Reading stage in National Assembly

Special Economic Zones Bill a[Minister’s Second Reading speech 7th April, Portfolio Committee report and some contributions from MPs 3rd May]

Awaiting Second Reading stage in National Assembly

Non-adverse PLC reports on the following Bills were announced on 4th May, clearing the way for commencement of the Second Reading stages by the responsible Ministers—

- Public Finance Management Bill

- Pan-African Minerals University of Science and Technology Bill

- Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill

Awaiting National Assembly Consideration of PLC Adverse Report

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill                      

[All the above Bills are available from Veritas.]

Being prepared for gazetting

The texts of these Bills will only be available when officially gazetted—

- Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [proofs returned to the drafters for checking in early January]

- Local Government Amendment Bill [sent to Government Printer 27th April]

In Parliament Last Week

Parliament sat on only two days, Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th May.  The usual Thursday sittings were cancelled to allow MPs to travel to Bulawayo for a Seminar on the Ease of Doing Business in Zimbabwe scheduled for 5th to 8th May.  Those expected to attend the Seminar were members of: the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committees on Finance and Economic Development; Industry and Commerce; Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment; Foreign Affairs [selected members]; and members of the Senate’s Thematic Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment.

In the National Assembly

Special Economic Zones Bill

Most of Tuesday afternoon [3rd May] was devoted to the still-to-be-completed Second Reading stage of this Bill, starting with the report of the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development and continuing with contributions from MPs.   

The Portfolio Committee’s report, including the results of the public hearings around the country, was generally positive, but with a number of strong recommendations for changes “that should be seriously considered by the Minister” to be made [full report available from Veritas].  Despite reservations expressed by stakeholders at the public hearings, however, the Committee concluded that the clause waiving the application of the Labour Act and the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act in special economic zones should stand; it pointed out that such exemption was standard SEZ practice elsewhere. 

Among the dozen issues raised for consideration by the report were—

- a separate Special Economic Zones Authority is unnecessary, as the Bill could make declaration of special economic zones a function of the existing Zimbabwe Investment Authority

- the Bill leaves a great deal to be covered by regulations – such as incentives for SEZ investors – without any real indication of the content of those regulations – this should be remedied

- the disqualifications for appointment to the Authority should, as an anti-corruption measure, be strengthened to include any previous criminal conviction rather than one within the previous 5 years only

- the Bill must compel the Minister to table reports from the Authority in Parliament, rather than leaving tabling to the Minister’s discretion

- consultation with stakeholders must precede the declaration of a special economic zone.

In the Senate

The Senate’s two-day week was characterised by short sittings – 20 minutes on 3rd, 58 minutes on 4th May.   The two University Bills received from the National Assembly were not tackled.  The cancellation of Thursday’s sitting meant that Question Time did not take place.

Senator D.T. Khumalo presented her motion on food security and nutrition challenges, highlighting malnutrition among urban and rural communities, and calling for Government to provide adequate information to community leaders including Members of Parliament on how to reduce incidents of malnutrition among children and adults in Zimbabwe.

There were also further contributions to the debate on the mandate of traditional leaders.

Coming up In Parliament This Week

MPs from both Houses will attend a Dialogue on the Sustainable Development Goals jointly organised for them by the Office of the President and Cabinet and the United Nations Development Programme [11th and 12th May].

In the National Assembly

Bills

Special Economic Zones Bill  Continuation of the Second Reading debate is item 1 on the Order Paper.  When MPs have finished their contributions, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development will respond to issues raised in the Portfolio Committee’s report [see above] and by individual MPs.  [Bill and Committee Report available from Veritas]

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill   Consideration of the Adverse Report on the Bill by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] has not started.  The position remains as stated in Bill Watch 20/2016 of 2nd May.  The Government's reaction to the Adverse Report is awaited.

Bills awaiting start of Second Reading Stage

The Second Reading stages of the following Bills can go ahead now that non-adverse reports have been received from the PLC.  They are listed as items 2, 3 and 4 on the Order Paper : Public Finance Management Bill, Pan-African Minerals University of Science and Technology Bill, Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill

Motions  Of the many motions listed on the Order Paper, the following await initial presentation—

Praise for the President and the Security Services, to be moved by Hon Shamu seconded by Hon Zindi.

Disharmony and Policy Inconsistency within the Executive, to be moved by Hon Maridadi seconded by Hon Majome.

Call for Government to subsidise the cost of blood for blood transfusions and encourage blood donations, to be moved by Hon Nduna [ZANU-PF] and Hon Labode [MDC-T].

Question Time [11th May]   92 written questions are listed for reply by Ministers or Deputy Ministers. 

In the Senate

Bills   The two University Bills already passed by the National Assembly head the agenda: Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences Bill and Gwanda State University Bill.

Motions  Several motions await initial presentation—

Devolution of power to provinces in accordance with Constitution  A motion to be moved by Senator S. Ncube, seconded by Senator A. Sibanda, expresses concern that no meaningful efforts have been embarked on to ensure meeting the constitutional requirements to devolve central power to the provinces, and calls upon the Executive to set a time-limit for urgently addressing devolution in accordance with the Constitution. 

Note:  It is unlikely that the Local Government Amendment Bill [see below] will address devolution to the provinces; the Bill is expected to deal with urban and rural councils, the lowest devolutionary tier   

Zambezi Water Project  A motion by Senator B. Sibanda, seconded by Senator Timveos, calls on Government to resuscitate the Zambezi Water Project by regular budget allocations, to seek partners both internal and external, and to explore the BOT [build, operate, transfer] option.

Question Time [12th May]  The 14 questions carried forward from April include two for the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement: (1) “whether the land reform process has been completed, so that farmers can confidently concentrate on agricultural production” and (2) about the policy regarding farmers with title deeds who are not utilising their land.  And one for the Minister of Finance and Economic Development on how his Ministry plans to pay accumulated debts for services rendered to Government by local authorities.

Government Gazette 6th May

Note:  Nothing has so far been gazetted to implement in law the Reserve Bank Governor’s announcement [see above] about Bond Notes, cash shortages, and related measures to curb foreign exchange outflows and encourage local production.  Only one SI was gazetted last week, as noted below.

ZINWA raw water tariffs – SI 48/2016 fixes new charges, effective immediately, for raw water supplied by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, from $2.00 per mega litre for communal farmers to $50.00 per mega litre for mining customers. 

 

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