BILL WATCH 16-2017

BILL WATCH 16/2017

[9th May 2017]

Both Houses will continue sitting this week

Bills in Parliament Last Week

Despite a promising line-up of Bills on their agendas when Parliamentarians assembled on 2nd May after their Easter break, there was very little legislative action in Parliament last week.  What little there was occurred late in the week, on Thursday afternoon 4th May and was confined to the National Assembly—

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill In the National Assembly Hon Kasukuwere, Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development delivered the Second Reading speech explaining the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill on behalf of Vice-President Mphoko.  The speech told MPs hardly anything that could not have found out by a cursory reading of the explanatory memorandum printed with the Bill.  Of interest, however, was the information that the Commission would be a full-time commission. 

There was no further discussion because, as Hon Gonese explained, the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had not yet sat down to deliberate and compile a report on the public hearings on the Bill that it had conducted jointly with the Senate Thematic Committee on Peace and Security.  The Second Reading stage will continue once the report is ready.

Note: The Minister is recorded in Hansard as having said the Bill would become law when assented to by the President.  That is not correct.  The Bill will only become law when it is gazetted as an Act [Constitution, section 132, as read with clause 1 of the Bill].     

Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] non-adverse reports on Bills

The Speaker announced non- adverse PLC reports on the following Bills, meaning that the House can now take them further this week [see below]

Deeds Registries Amendment Bill

Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill

Movable Property Security Interests Bill  

Estate Administrators Amendment Bill.  

Other Business in Parliament Last Week

National Assembly

Ministerial Statement on Suspension of Chitungwiza Town Councillors

On  4th May, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing made a statement [link] on his suspension of all 25 Chitungwiza Town Councillors in terms of section 114 of the Urban Councils Act.  This is a provision that was enacted into law by last year’s controversial Local Government Laws Amendment Act – the Act was the Government’s response to High Court judgments against the then Minister that exposed the inconsistency between the previous section 114 and the Constitution.   Meanwhile three commissioners appointed by the Minister will run the council.

The Minister said that his action had been “necessitated by the continued high levels of maladministration, non-compliance with laid down procedures and practices and corrupt practices by the Councillors”.   The councillors would have a preliminary opportunity to present their side, after which the Minister would sit down with his advisers to decide whether or not to set up a tribunal to consider removal from office.  The lengthy discussion that ensued took up most of the afternoon’s sitting, which ended at 4.48 pm.  MDC-T Shadow Minister Hon Cross, while agreeing that corruption in councils is a large problem, questioned the use of the Minister’s power to suspend the councillors before the individuals concerned had been prosecuted and convicted.  Both Hon Cross and other MPs pointed out that commissioners were a hugely expensive option and, in previous cases of suspended councils, had signally failed to correct problems.  All MPs contributing to the discussion deplored corruption in councils. 

Motions

As already noted in Bill Watch 15/2017, on 2nd May Hon Dr Shumba presented the Mines and Energy Portfolio Committee’s forthright and critical report on the Consolidation of Diamond Mining Companies.

Question Time

Birth certificates for orphans   The Minister of Home Affairs assured MPs that there are mechanisms in place for the issuance of birth certificates and other identify documents to persons such as Gukurahundi orphans who do not have parents or close relations to assist them with providing the information required.  He also admitted that the Government is “aware that many people who may not have the relevant persons to assist them to acquire them on time and there are many people who have not had birth certificates or other relevant national documents on time.There are sufficient measures in place to make sure that they are assisted to acquire birth certificates and other relevant documents.(In) the second half of this year we are going to do some blitz in all the provinces and see those who need national documents and these will be provided by the department and throughout the country …. the Registrar’s department will visit the rural areas to make sure that those citizens who need identity documents are given an opportunity to do so. They will also give an opportunity to citizens who want birth certificates to do so and also to attend to death certificates.We will make a public announcement to enable people … to take advantage of this and get their birth certificates, identity documents and death certificates issued.”

Senate

International Agreement approved

Bilateral Agreement with Mozambique on the Pungwe Watercourse

On 3rd May the Senate approved this agreement, which was signed on 11th July 2016. 

Coming up in the National Assembly This Week

Bills

Bills are listed in the following order on the Order Paper for 9th May, leaving the National Assembly facing a busy week—

Estate Administrators Amendment Bill  for Second Reading [Bill available here]

Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill for final stages following the PLC’s non-adverse report on amendments made in the Committee Stage [referred to PLC on 12th April] [Bill available here; amendments here]

Deeds Registries Amendment Bill or final stages following the PLC’s non-adverse report on amendments made in the Committee Stage [Bill available here, amendments here]

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill [link]  for the start of the Second Reading stage with the Vice-President Mnangagwa’s introductory speech explaining the reasons for the Bill  [A critical commentary on the Bill is available on the Veritas website [link], as is our submission that the Bill is not necessary, and certainly not urgent [link].]

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [link]  for continuation of Second Reading stage with Portfolio Committee report, if ready, and subsequent debate [see Veritas analysis here]

Movable Property Security Interests Bill  [referred to PLC on 12th April] [Bill available here, amendments here].

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Bills

Two Bills await further attention—

Land Commission Bill [stalled by PLC adverse report]   The Senate awaits the outcome of discussions between the PLC and Senator Chiefs on the PLC’s adverse report on the Senate’s amendments to the Bill [covered in Bill Watches 14 and 15]

[Available on the Veritas website – a document [link] containing the PLC adverse report, Hon Samukange’s explanation of the report in the Senate on 4th April and an extract from Senator Chief Charumbira’s contribution indicating why Senator Chiefs believe the PLC erred.  Also the text of the Bill [link], annotated to show the amendments made by the National Assembly before the Bill was transmitted to the Senate.]

National Competitiveness Commission Bill [link]  The Senate is waiting for the Second Reading speech from the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

Two Bills Passed but not yet Gazetted as Acts

ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill [link] Parliament sent the Bill to the President on 21st April [notified by the Speaker in GN 268/2017 of 28th April]. 

Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Bill [link].  This received its final reading in the Senate on 4th April.  The Bill as amended by the National Assembly will go to the President for assent.

Government Gazettes 28th April and 5th May 2017

Statutory Instruments

Customs duty suspension for Urea and Ammonium Nitrate fertilizers  Published in a late Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 28th April was SI 55/2017 providing for a suspension of duty, valid until 31st December 2017, on specified “ring-fenced gas allocations” of these fertilizers.   

The regular Friday gazette of 5th May contained two SIs—

Customs duty rebate on engine spares and components for Air Zimbabwe  SI 56/2017 provides for a rebate, effective from 1st January 2017 to 31st December 2017, on engineer spares and components for Air Zimbabwe, as long as they are itemised in a list approved by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

Collective bargaining agreement – Furniture manufacturing industry  SI 57/2017 publishes an agreement, effective from 1st January 2017, amending previous provisions for gratuities on termination of service, including provision for contract workers to be regarded as permanent employees after two years of continuous employment from initial engagement.

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