BILL WATCH 53-2016

BILL WATCH 53/2016

[27th November 2016]

Both Houses of Parliament Will Sit Next Week
The President’s State of the Nation Address will be on Thursday 1st December
The 2017 National Budget will be presented on Thursday 8th December

Bond Notes Bill Slowed Down: Fast-Tracking Dropped

In the National Assembly last Thursday the Speaker announced that there will be public hearings on the Bond Notes Bill [aka the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill] running from Tuesday 29th November to Saturday 3rd December, covering all provinces in the country.   The hearings will also cater for hearing the views of the public on the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Bill.  [The programme for the public hearings is set out in Bill Watch Committee Series 39/2016 of 25th November.]

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon Chinamasa, then asked the House to approve a severely truncated version of his motion to fast-track the Bond Notes Bill.   In effect he was now asking the House for only one indulgence – to be allowed to introduce the Bond Notes Bill a few days earlier than permitted by Standing Order 134 – and abandoning the proposed suspension of other Standing Orders [135, 136 and 139] that might have held up progress on the Bill after its introduction.  The truncated motion was passed without opposition.  

First Reading for Tuesday 29th November  The Minister then gave notice that he will introduce the Bill on Tuesday 29th November, which is two days earlier than the earliest date envisaged by Standing Order 134. 

Later stages  Immediately after its introduction the Bill will be referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.  The dropping of the fast-tracking resolution means that PLC has the usual 26 business days in which to finalise its report, but it sometimes produces a report much sooner.   Assuming that a non-adverse PLC report is received on Tuesday 6th December, and also assuming that the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development is ready with its report on the Bill and the public hearings, the Bill could be taken through all stages in both Houses before Parliament goes into recess for the ZANU-PF conference.   To achieve that would probably require sittings for both Houses on Friday 9th December; Friday sittings are unusual, but not unprecedented.  [The period Tuesday 13th – Sunday 18th December is earmarked for the conference.]  

Note:  The Minister explained his change of mind by referring to an earlier discussion between himself and the Speaker and to the Speaker’s announcement of public hearings on the Bill.  Hon Chamisa reminded the House that Parliament cannot suspend its obligation under section 141 of the Constitution to consult the public about Bills, and congratulated the Minister on his “pro-people” gesture.  Hon Nduna encouraged fellow MPs to ensure their constituents were able to attend the public hearings with an understanding of the Bill, and expressed the hope that those attending the hearings would conduct themselves in a non-partisan manner. 

Comment:  This development can be seen as demonstrating that the Legislature can successfully insist on observance of the constitutional proprieties – and of its growing resistance to being used as a rubber-stamp by the Executive. 

Meanwhile, in the High Court in Harare …

On Tuesday 22nd November in an unusual evening sitting in the High Court, Judge-President Chiweshe heard argument from both sides in a case in which Harare businessman Mr Frederick Mutanda is challenging the validity of the Presidential Powers (Amendment of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act and Issue of Bond Notes) (Temporary Measures) Regulations – the regulations regulations made by President Mugabe to legalise bond notes and coins.   At the end of the hearing the Judge-President reserved judgment.  These regulations concerned are the very regulations the Bond Notes Bill is designed to confirm and replace, as explained in Bill Watch 50/2016 dated 21st November.  

If the Judge-President were to dismiss this case in the course of the next two weeks, the Minister might see that as reducing the pressure for early enactment of the Bond Notes Bill. 

Other Parliamentary Business 22nd to 24th November

Tuesday 22nd November 

The whole of Tuesday afternoon’s sitting was taken up by debate on Hon Chinamasa’s motion seeking approval of a loan agreement of 17th August 2016 between the Government and the OPEC Fund for International Development, which provides for a US $7.6 million line of credit to support the Poverty Alleviation Project in Masvingo, Manicaland and Matabeleland North provinces.  The project is to be implemented by the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development.   The House approved the agreement and adjourned at 4.24 pm.

Wednesday 23rd November

The House adjourned at 4.36 pm, immediately after a full-length Question Time.  No other business was dealt with.

Thursday

Land Commission Bill  After one further contribution to the Second Reading debate from an MP, the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement responded at length to points raised during the debate, and the Bill received its Second Reading, i.e., was approved in principle. 

Next will come the Committee Stage. 

Motion for Action on Violence Against Women    Hon Khupe, seconded by Hon Mpariwa, moved a motion calling for action on violence against women and girls to highlight this year’s 16 Days of Activism [25th November to 10th December].  She reminded MPs of the following dates: the 25th November which is the International Day against Violence against Women; 29th November which is International Women’s Human Rights Defenders Day; 1st December which is World Aids Day; and 10th December which is International Human Rights Day.  This year’s theme is “from peace in the home to peace in the world – make education accessible and affordable for girls and end violence against women and girls”.  The resolution calls on the Ministry responsible for Women’s Affairs and all women’s organisations to campaign throughout the coming year against violence against women and girls; and on the Government to ensure that Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is funded to fulfil these goals.  

Reminder:  The United Nations Agenda 2030 – full title “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” – is a set of seventeen aspirational "Global Goals" with 169 targets between them, and was approved by the UN General Assembly in September 2015.  These sustainable development goals [SDGs] constitute the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.  They follow in the footsteps of the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] that covered the period until the end of 2015.

Coming Up in Parliament Tuesday 29th November to Thursday 1st December

Both Houses will be sitting. 

Special Joint Sitting on Thursday  

There will be a joint sitting of both Houses on Thursday 1st December, starting at 3 pm, for President Mugabe’s State of the Nation Address.

National Assembly

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill  The Bill will be presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development following the adoption of Thursday’s resolution permitting him to do so [see item at the beginning of this bulletin].  This will be a very brief formality marking the beginning of the Bill’s passage through Parliament.  There will be no debate.  The Bill will immediately be referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for a report on whether or not the PLC considers it to be consistent with the Constitution.  Debate will occur when the Bill comes back from the PLC. 

Land Commission Bill  The Committee Stage of this Bill is next on the Order Paper.   During this stage the Bill will be considered clause by clause, and amendments may be moved by the Minister and by backbenchers.  No Notice of Amendments appears on the Order Paper for Tuesday 29th December.  

Debate on Parliamentary Legal Committee’s adverse report on by-laws  This item has been on the Order Paper for some time without progress.  It concerns the PLC’s condemnation of the he Plumtree Town Council’s Clamping and Tow-away By-laws, SI 86/2016, for inconsistency with the Constitution. 

Portfolio Committee reports  The many other items on the Order Paper include two “take-note” motions referring to new Portfolio Committee reports [one on Village Health Workers, the other on Service Delivery by the Registrar-General’s Department] and several seeking the restoration to the Order Paper of Portfolio Committee reports presented last session, for completion of debates and responses by the responsible Ministers].

Senate

OPEC loan agreement   The Senate’s approval is also required, following the National Assembly’s approval agreement last Tuesday. 

Land Commission Bill   This Bill, if passed by the National Assembly early enough, may reach the Senate during the course of the week.

 

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