BILL WATCH 6/2017
[27th February 2017]
Only the National Assembly is Sitting This Week
The Senate will Resume Next Week, on Tuesday 7th March
Last week the National Assembly sat on Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd February, but not on Thursday. It will continue sitting this week. There are several Bills on its agenda [see below].
The Senate sat on last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then adjourned until Tuesday 8th March, without completing work on the only Bill on its agenda, the Land Commission Bill. When it resumes on 7th March, there may well be more Bills for Senators to tackle, depending on what the National Assembly manages to get through this week.
In the National Assembly Last Week
Tuesday 21st February being President Mugabe’s birthday, ZANU-PF MPs wanted to sing Happy Birthday in honour of the occasion. The Acting Speaker ruled that, in the absence of appropriate provision in Standing Orders, there could be no singing unless MPs unanimously approved. As objections had been voiced, there was no singing, but verbal exchanges on the issue delayed the start of regular business.
National Competitiveness Commission Bill When this Bill came up on Tuesday for continuation of the Second Reading stage, MPs were expecting the Minister of Industry and Commerce to wind up debate with his reply to Opposition MPs’ trenchant criticisms of the Bill had been made during debate on 16th February and to their demands that the Bill be withdrawn. The Deputy Minister, however, immediately moved the adjournment of the debate until Thursday 2nd March.
There was no movement on other Bills listed, so all of them were carried forward [see below]
Ministerial Statement on Tripartite Negotiating Forum
The Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare presented a Ministerial statement on social dialogue discussions between and the state of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum [TNF]. Hon Mpariwa’s commented that the statement showed no progress beyond the stage she had achieved as the responsible Minister during the Inclusive Government which ended in mid-2013.
Another no-quorum adjournment
On Tuesday debate was unceremoniously interrupted at 4.56 pm because a quorum could not be raised. This is not the first time this has happened in the National Assembly this year.
Comment: Standing Order 51 envisages sittings lasting until 7 pm as normal. The vanishing quorum phenomenon suggests that the great majority of the nearly 270 members of the National Assembly do not wish to sit after 5 pm except for especially urgent business. 153 MPs were officially recorded as having been present earlier in the afternoon, 23 others were absent with leave, leaving over 90 presumably absent without leave. There were only 41 MPs in the Chamber when heads were counted immediately before the adjournment at 4.56 pm – 29 short of the quorum of 70 stipulated in Standing Orders.
Wednesday afternoon was devoted entirely to Question Time, which lasted until the House adjourned at 4.55 pm.
In the Senate Last Week
On Tuesday the President of the Senate announced the death on 17th February of Hon Victor Mapungwana, an MDC-T Senator for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province. As with all proportional representation seats, the resulting vacancy will be filled by a person nominated by the late Senator’s party in accordance with the procedure laid down in section 39 of the Electoral Act.
Land Commission Bill Tuesday afternoon was taken up by the continuing Second Reading debate on this Bill. Senators called for Chiefs to be appointed as Commissioners; Senator Chief Charumbira said chiefs would be putting forward amendments to this effect during the Committee Stage; these amendments are available here. The Minister’s lengthy reply winding up the debate stressed the limits of the Commission’s role: it would not be responsible for land redistribution, and would have an oversight and advisory role only. The Committee Stage carried forward for completion in March.
On Wednesday Senator Timveos presented her motion calling for alignment with constitutional provisions by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC]; there were also several contributions from other Senators. Debate also continued on motions on the President’s State of the Nation Address [SONA] and his speech opening the present Parliamentary session, on the domestication of the SADC Model Law on Child Marriage, on the National Pledge, and on Political Violence.
Thursday afternoon’s sitting lasted until 3.32 pm; it was devoted entirely to Question Time. The Senate then adjourned until Tuesday 7th March.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
Order Paper for Tuesday 28th February
Bills are listed in the following order but will not necessarily be dealt with in this order or at all—
Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill link [for Committee Stage] Although this is the stage at which both the Minister and MPs can put forward to provisions considered unsatisfactory or faulty, no amendments are listed for consideration. [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
ZEP-Re (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill link [for continuation of Second Reading debate and Minister’s response] [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
Deeds Registries Amendment Bill link [for Minister’s Second Reading speech] and
Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill [also for Minister’s Second Reading speech] [see note below]
Note: Both the above Bills come from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Vice-President Mnangagwa is responsible for presenting the Second Reading speeches. Public hearings on the Bills announced previously have been posted to 20th to 24th March to allow the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to consider and conduct hearings on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill. This means that the Second Reading debates cannot be completed until after those public hearings and presentation of the Portfolio Committee’s reports on them. So these Bills are unlikely to be finalised until April at the earliest.
Order Paper for Thursday 2nd March
National Competitiveness Commission Bill link [for Minister’s response to Second Reading debate] MPs’ contributions to the debate on 16th February included vehement criticism from Opposition MPs, who expressed concerns that the proposed Commission would perpetuate the pointless waste of public funds represented by the National Incomes and Pricing Commission [the new Commission was described by the Minister as a “rebranding” of that Commission] but without contributing to righting the economy’s problems. They demanded the withdrawal of the Bill. And the Portfolio Committee, in its report on the Bill, was far from enthusiastic – it suggested that the Minister should, rather than pushing this Bill for a separate Commission, be thinking instead modifying the functions of the existing Competition and Tariff Commission.
Bill under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee
Movable Property Security Interests Bill link. The Second Reading debate on this Bill, also from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, cannot start until the Parliamentary Legal Committee has submitted its report to the National Assembly.
There are seven motions seeking restoration to the Order Paper of motions from the last Parliamentary Session which lapsed at the end of that Session without having been favoured with Ministerial replies to points made in debate. Restoration to the Order Paper will enable/oblige Ministers to redeem themselves by responding to MPs concerns. All but one of the seven motions refer to Portfolio Committee reports from the last Session. The seventh calls for Mandatory Stiff Sentencing for Rape and Other Gender-Based Violence Crimes.
Also listed are motions asking the House to take note, or adopt, five more recent Portfolio Committee reports.
Government Gazette 24th February 2017
Collective bargaining agreement SI 28/2017 contains a new principal agreement for the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Industry setting out comprehensive conditions of service.
Mutare rents and service charges SI 29/2017 specifies new rents, levies, refusal removal, water and sewerage charges for properties administered by the Mutare City Council [by replacing the relevant Schedule to the council’s Incorporated Area By-laws].
Customs duty suspension for mining infrastructure SI 30/2017 is the latest of many 3-year suspensions calculated to encourage investment in development of specified individual mining locations.
Government financial statement for period ended 30th November 2016 GN 131/2017 notifies the inclusion in the Gazette of this Consolidated Monthly Financial Statement. Gazetting is required by the Public Finance Management Act. It will be available on the Veritas website.
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