BILL WATCH 4-2017

BILL WATCH 4/2017

[8th February 2017]

Both Houses of Parliament Are Sitting This Week

Last Week in the National Assembly – and Yesterday

Budget business

Budget debate – debate was concluded on Tuesday, with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development being given leave to introduce the Finance Bill, which the Minister then did.  The House rose at 8.19 pm.

Finance Bill – immediately after the Bill was introduced and given its First Reading on Tuesday, it was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC].  The PLC’s non-adverse report was returned on Wednesday.  After Wednesday Question Time the Minister gave his Second Reading speech and there were several contributions from MPs before proceedings were interrupted at 6.20 pm by a adjournment because there was no longer a quorum.  Once the Bill had been restored to the Order Paper on Thursday, the Minister replied to points raised by MPs and the House approved the Second Reading.  The remaining stages of the Bill were taken immediately and the Bill was passed without amendments and transmitted to the Senate.

Estimates of Expenditure and Appropriation Bill  The House then considered and approved the Estimates of Expenditure, subject to modifications moved by the Minister in the light of debate over the previous few days: notably, an increase from $30 million to $39 million for Parliament; an increase of $65 million for the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development [the Minister having admitted that a mistake had been made]; a small increase for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development. 

Appropriation (2017) Bill   Following the approval of the Estimates with modifications, the Bill had its First Reading and was referred to the PLC late on Thursday 2nd February.  Yesterday, 7th February, a non-adverse PLC report was received and the Bill was approved with several amendments needed to give effect to the approved modifications to the Estimates.  After a further non-adverse PLC report the Bill was passed and transmitted to the Senate.    

Other Bills

Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Bill  Yesterday, 7th February, the Second Reading stage was completed, clearing the way for clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill in the Committee Stage.  At this point there are no proposed amendments for consideration.

Ministerial Statements on (1) Food Deficit Mitigation Programme and (2) VAT on basic goods

Last week, the Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare presented a Ministerial Statement giving full details of the programme and stressing that partisan distribution of food aid was not allowed and would not be condoned if reported and proved.

Yesterday, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development gave a Ministerial Statement – link – on the application of VAT to basic goods by SI 20/2017.  He said implementation of SI 20 – link – would be suspended to allow for stakeholder consultations.

Question Time

There was a lively Question Time on Wednesday last week.

Last Week in the Senate – and Yesterday

Bills

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill  This Bill was passed without amendment link.  As the Bill has already been passed by the National Assembly, it can now go to the President for his signature and eventual gazetting as an Act. 

Land Commission Bill  Duly received from the National Assembly, with amendments made by that House, the Bill was explained by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement last Thursday afternoon before the Senate rose.  Contributions from Senators took up the whole of yesterday afternoon, Tuesday 7th February; several Senators complained that the Bill gives insufficient recognition to the role of the chiefs in relation to land.  The debate was not concluded. 

Motions

National School Pledge  On Wednesday, Senator Chimbudzi, seconded by Senator Mawire, moved a motion applauding the Government for its “noble initiatives to inculcate a culture of patriotism, unity of purpose and common desire for equality and justice as mandated by the Constitution” and calling for “unequivocal support for the National School Pledge by all members of Parliament”.  It is interesting to note that the Constitutional Court had that same morning heard argument in a case in which a private citizen complains that the compulsory recitation of the Pledge in schools is inconsistent with the Constitution [judgment awaited].  The Senate debate continued on Thursday and has not been completed.

Violence  On Tuesday Senator B. Sibanda, seconded by Senator S. Ncube moved a motion denouncing all forms of violence, calling on political parties to desist from the use of violence, on the police to enforce law and order without fear or favour and on the Executive to respect human rights.

Question Time (Thursday)

TV coverage of proceedings  There was a complaint that Senate Question Time was not being broadcast live on TV, unlike the National Assembly’s Question Time.  The Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services undertook to take the matter up. 

Allegations of partisan food distribution  Senator B. Sibanda asked whether the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare had ever conducted an independent inquiry into complaints of partisan food distribution under the Drought Relief Programme.  The Deputy Minister replied that the verification had indeed been done and later repeated the Ministerial Statement given the previous day in the National Assembly.  Senator Timveos insisted, giving examples, that partisan food distribution was still taking place. Senator Chief Charumbira complained that contrary to the Ministerial statement, traditional leaders were not being involved in the procedures on the ground. 

Coming up in the National Assembly for the Rest of This Week

Budget business

None.  All Budget business was completed last week [see above] and the two Budget Bills are now with the Senate.

Other Bills

The Order Paper for the rest of this week lists Second Reading debates on Bills in the following order [all available on the Veritas website using the links provided in each of the items on the list]—

- National Competitiveness Commission Bill [Minister of Industry and Commerce] link

- Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Bill [for Committee Stage] link

- ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill [Minister of Finance and Economic Development] link

- Deeds Registries Amendment Bill [Vice-President Mnangagwa, as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs]

- Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill [Vice-President Mnangagwa, as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs] link

Bills under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee

Movable Property Security Interests Bill link.

Motions

Several Portfolio Committee reports are listed for presentation.  Further down the Order Paper are Private Members’ motions headed by a motion referring to political violence by political party youths, to be presented by ZANU-PF’s Hon Mandipaka; another, to be presented by MDC’s Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga, calling on Government to ensure the promotion of fair regional representation in the awarding of tenders and the reservation of 30% of tenders for women; and a motion by MDC-T’s Hon Chamisa on the disappearance of Itai Dzamara.

Question Time

27 written questions with notice are listed for the second half of Wednesday’s Question Time.  Government business – for instance, the various Bills – will have to wait until afterwards.

Coming up in the Senate for the Rest of This Week

Bills

Land Commission Bill [for continuation of Second Reading debate] link

Finance Bill [link] [transmitted from National Assembly late last Thursday] link

Appropriation (2017) Bill [transmitted from National Assembly late last Thursday]  link

Motions

In addition to continuing debates on existing motions, two new motions are listed—

Electoral reform – Senator Timveos, seconded by Senator Mlotshwa, is due to move a motion calling for alignment of Electoral Act with the Constitution and the implementation of the biometric voters roll.

Population growth and large families needed – Senator Musaka, seconded by Senator Murwira, citing difficulties in attracting investors due to Zimbabwe’s low population, will move a motion calling on the Government to give incentives to families to have a minimum of eight children and to request NGOs currently promoting birth control to promote family growth instead.

Question Time

9 written questions with notice are already listed for Thursday’s question time.

Mwenezi East By-Election Proclaimed

There is a by-election scheduled for early April to fill the National Assembly constituency seat for Mwenezi East which fell vacant due to the death of the incumbent Hon Joshua Moyo on 22nd December, as announced by the Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly on 23rd December.

Presidential Proclamation 1/2017, signed by the President on 2nd February and gazetted in SI 25A/2017 on Friday 3rd February – linkfixed the following dates:

Friday 17th February Nomination day –commencing at 10 am, the nomination court will sit at the Magistrates Court, Masvingo.

Saturday 8th April Polling day – Note there will only be voting if two or more candidates are successfully nominated.  If only one candidate is nominated he or she will be declared elected with effect from 17th February, nomination day.

Reminder – key requirements for a candidate are that he or she is registered as a voter and at least 21 years of age, and not otherwise disqualified [Constitution, section 124].  Disqualifications for election include: being a Member of Parliament already; having lost a Parliamentary seat in the previous five years following conviction of an offence; and having become disqualified for registration as a voter because detained as a mentally disordered, declared incapable of managing one’s own affairs or disqualified by the High Court following conviction of an Electoral Act offence.   If representing a political party, a candidate’s nomination paper must be countersigned by two designated party officials.     

Comment:  Inconsistency with Constitution  As now appears to be standard practice, the polling day for this by-election falls outside the time-limit set by section 158(2) of the Constitution and repeated in section 39 of the Electoral Act.  These provisions state that polling in a by-election must take place with ninety days after the vacancy occurs.  Which means that In the present case polling day should have been on or before Tuesday 21st March.  8th April is more than two weeks out of bounds. There was no need for such a long delay in getting the proclamation signed.  In President Mugabe’s absence from the country on his annual leave, followed by attendance at the AU Summit, either of the two Acting Presidents could have signed the proclamation [Constitution, section 100]. 

Government Gazette 3rd February 2017

Statutory Instruments [23-25A]

By-election ordered  SI 25A/2017 is covered in the note on the Mwenezi East by-election at the beginning of this bulletin. 

Collective bargaining agreements  Three SIs contain agreements amending principal agreements for: the Construction Industry (skilled workers, approved classes of workers and graded workers) – SI 23 and SI 24 (wages effective from 1st October 2014); and the Tobacco Industry (miscellaneous sector) – SI 25 (re casual work, seasonal work, employees on fixed-term contract).

General Notice

Government financial statement  GN 114/2017 notifies the inclusion in the Gazette of the Consolidated Monthly Financial Statement for October 2016, as a supplement to the Gazette.  In a prefatory note the Accountant-General explains that the publication is required by section 38 of the Public Finance Management Act, and is meant to provide a summary of national government's financial resources and their application for the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe.  To comply fully with the Act the Financial Statement should have been published by the end of November 2016.  It is available on the Veritas website – link.

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