BILL WATCH 9/2017
[20th March 2017]
Both Houses of Parliament are Sitting Again This Week
Reminder - Three Bills Sent to President for Assent
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Jacob Mudenda, has, as required by section 131(5)(b) of the Constitution, given notice in the Government Gazette announcing that the following Bills have been transmitted to the President for his assent and signature [date transmitted to President listed in brackets below] —
Finance Bill [2nd March]
Appropriation (2017) Bill [2nd March]
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill [7th March] [this is the “Bond Notes Bill”].
Biometric Registration for MPs and Parliamentary Staff
In both Houses the presiding officers last week requested all members to register on the new Parliamentary Biometric Registration System, which is due to go live on 3rd April. Initially, the system will enhance ease of access into the building for both MPs and staff of Parliament as they will be able to enter the building even without IDs once registered on the system; fingerprint scanners have been installed at entrances to Parliament. Additionally, the system will generate an electronic attendance register of both sittings of the Houses and committee meetings, thus reducing the prevalence of human error in recording the attendance of MPs. [Comment: It is hoped that this will prevent token attendance MPs for only a few minutes.]
In the National Assembly Last Week [14th to 16th March]
New National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill was presented by Vice-President Mphoko on 15th March, given its First Reading and immediately referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the Bill’s consistency with the Constitution. No other Bills were dealt with.
Bills with Parliamentary Legal Committee
At week’s end the PLC had three Bills under consideration – the Movable Property Security Interests Bill [referred 24th January]; the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill [referred 2nd March after amendments made during Committee Stage; and now the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [referred 15th March].
Ministerial Statement on Zimbabwe’s Champions and Heroes of Economic Empowerment [ZimCHEER Herald]
On 15th March the Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment delivered a statement on the “ZimCHEER Herald” – a Ministry publication that will celebrate Zimbabwe’s youth as “champions and heroes of the economic empowerment revolution” by outlining the Ministry‘s initiatives to identify, acknowledge and celebrate Zimbabwe young entrepreneurs.
Debates on several motions from the last Parliamentary session were finally wound up after belated Ministry responses – motions presenting Portfolio Committee reports on the Basic Education Assistance Module [BEAM] link, on an exchange visit to the Palestine Legislative Council link, on visits to the Embassies of Zimbabwe in Ethiopia and Botswana, and on the Economic Contribution of SMEs and the Informal Sector. Also wrapped up was debate on the report on the Bilateral Visit to the Parliament of Kuwait by a delegation led by the Speaker, which resulted in the repatriation of Zimbabwean women victims of trafficking to that country.
In the Senate Last Week [14th to 16th March]
New Senator sworn in
Senator Caroline Tsitsi Mugabe was sworn in [she was nominated by her party to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Virginia Muchenje in October last year] and assumed her seat as a ZANU-PF Senator for Mashonaland West on Tuesday 14th March. She will serve on two Thematic Committees – (1) Sustainable Development Goals, and (2) Gender and Development.
Land Commission Bill Once again, the Bill was not considered at all, so it was carried forward at the end of the week. It was the only Bill on the Senate Order Paper.
Debate continued on several motions moved previously, including the motion on domesticating the SADC Model Law on Child Marriage and the motion on the need for large families to ensure economic progress.
This took up most of Thursday afternoon’s sitting. The Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment gave statistics for Vocational Training Centres , National Youth Service Centres  and National Youth Service graduates [1 260 anticipated this year]. The Minister of Local Government said he regarded toll roads in urban areas as a necessary evil, that the policy had been decided and that his Ministry and the Ministry of Transport were working out how to implement it. The Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare provided figures for refugees/asylum seekers being hosted in Zimbabwe [10 428, of which 92 percent are from the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa while the other 8 percent are the newly arrived Mozambican asylum seekers].
Parliamentary Workshop on Code of Conduct and Ethics for MPs
Code of Conduct and Ethics for MPs The workshop due to be held last week was rescheduled to Wednesday this week, 22nd March. MPs are expected to consider the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament and the Declaration of Assets form. As the preamble to the Code explains, this Code has been in the pipeline since 1999.
The workshop will also deal with the Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Benefits Act [which was amended by last year’s General Laws Amendment Act but still needs further amendments to align it satisfactorily with the Constitution] and the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act – link [also amended by the GLA Act – but some ot the new provisions are inconsistent with the Constitution. See Veritas criticism of some of the amendments in Bill Watch 26/2015 link]
Coming up in the National Assembly
- National Competitiveness Commission Bill link The House still awaits the Minister of Commerce and Industry’s reply to the Second Reading debate. When the Bill was last debated on 16th February, the need for it was seriously questioned, not only by Opposition MPs but also by the Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce. Opposition MPs demanded that the Bill be withdrawn.
- Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill link The House is waiting for the Parliamentary Legal Committee to report back on the amendments made during the Committee Stage on 2nd March [see Bill Watch 7/2017 of 8th March - link.]
- ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill – link The Bill received its Second Reading on 2nd March. The Committee Stage is now due. Reminder: ZEP-RE is Preferential Trade Area [PTA] Reinsurance Company, a company established by an agreement of PTA member States in 1990. It has a branch office in Zimbabwe under a Host Agreement with the Government. This Bill provides for the recognition of the company’s corporate and quasi-diplomatic status as a creation of the PTA [now COMESA].
Two Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Bills are listed for commencement of the Second Reading stage – the Deeds Registries Amendment Bill link and the Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill link. Both Bills are the subject of public hearings being conducted this week. The Second Reading debates will not be concluded until the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has presented its report on the Bills and the outcome of the public hearings.
Report on service delivery by local authorities Hon Zindi is due to move her take note motion on the report on Service Delivery by Local Authorities prepared by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development. Also listed, for restoration to the Order Paper, is her lapsed motion on the committee’s report on Service Delivery by City of Harare.
Reports on (1) Cotton Sector Production and (2) ARDA and CSC Listed for restoration to the Order Paper are lapsed motions on reports by the Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation.
36 questions are so far listed for Wednesday’s Question Time – 11 fewer than faced Ministers last week. MPs will expect a better Ministerial turnout this time, although last week the presiding officer advised MPs protesting about poor Ministerial attendance to make do with the Deputy Ministers who had shown up.
Coming up in the Senate
Land Commission Bill Once again, this is the only Bill listed, and still awaits its Committee Stage. It was passed with several amendments by the National Assembly on 26th January and has already had its Second Reading in the Senate. A copy of the Bill annotated to show those amendments is available on the Veritas website [link]. As they said they would during the Second Reading debate, Senator Chiefs will be putting forward further amendments during the Committee Stage to give chiefs a greater part in the work of the Commission; these new amendments are also available on our website [link].
Motion on stray domestic animals Senator Mawire’s new motion did not come up last week, but Senators may reach it this week. It mentions the persistent problems posed by stray dogs and other domestic animals, refers to the risk of rabies and fatal accidents caused by strays, and calls on local authorities and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to enforce laws both to protect stray animals and to safeguard the lives of people, to provide proper facilities for safe custody of such animals and to prosecute their owners.
Adjourned debates on motions already presented are due to continue – including those on reform of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the National Schools Pledge, political violence and the call for large families.
10 Questions with Notice are so far listed for Thursday’s Question Time.
Government Gazettes 13th and 17th March 2017
Trade Marks (Madrid Protocol) Regulations These important regulations were gazetted as SI 39/2014 in a Government Gazette Extraordinary on Monday 13th March, with immediate effect. This follows the passing by resolutions both Houses of Parliament approving the draft regulations. Please see full note in Bill Watch 8/2017 – link.
VAT regulations SI 40/2017 amends section 1(2) of the VAT (General) Regulations of 2003, dealing with the date of commencement of those regulations. Unfortunately the SI does not make sense. A correction notice is needed – and an explanatory note would help.
Customs duty rebate for manufacturers of refrigerators and deep freezers SI 41/2017 replaces the previous list of component parts eligible for rebate under the main regulations of 1999.
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