BILL WATCH 18-2017

BILL WATCH 18/2017

[27th May 2017]

Parliament is in recess from 18th May to 6th June when Both Houses will Resume Sittings

Of Particular Interest in this Issue

Chiwundura By-election

Frosty reception and heated debate on NPRC Bill

No further movement on Constitution Amendment Bill and Land Commission Bill

Special economic zones – customs duty rebates

Chiwundura By-election Called for 15th July

SI 63/2017 [link], gazetted late on 12th May, was the President’s proclamation ordering a by-election to fill the vacant National Assembly seat for Chiwundura constituency in the Midlands province.   The nomination court sat today at the Magistrates Court, Gweru, and accepted four candidates – Brown Ndlovu [ZANU-PF], Takudzwa Guzete [NCA], Brighton Mudzviti [Free Zimbabwe Congress] and Webster Zulu [Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe].  The vacancy was caused by the death of the incumbent MP, Hon Kizito Chivamba of ZANU-PF, on 19th April.   Polling day will be Saturday 15th July – just before the Constitution’s deadline for by-election polling, which is 90 days after the occurrence of a vacancy [Constitution, section 158(3)].  This is a welcome improvement on past performance by the President and his advisers, and we note it because Veritas bulletins since 2014 have frequently drawn attention to repeated failure to comply with section 158(3).

Activity on Bills from 16th to 17th May

Both Houses sat on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th May only, before adjourning until Tuesday 6th June [the two-day week allowed MPs to attend, but at their own expense, Thursday's commissioning of the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam Project in Masvingo Province by the President].

One Bill completed and passed

Movable Property Security Interests Bill  On Tuesday 16th May the Minister of Finance and Economic Development took this Bill, as earlier amended by the National Assembly, through all its stages in the Senate.  It was approved by the Senate without further amendment.  The Bill will therefore go to the President as amended by the National Assembly [link to Bill, link to amendments].

Land Commission Bill still stuck in the Senate

Senators did not deal with this Bill, which means that after several weeks the Senate is still waiting to hear the outcome of the discussions between the PLC and Senator Chiefs on the PLC’s adverse report on the amendments to the Bill made by the Senate on 29th March on the motion of Senator Chief Mtshane [covered in Bill Watches 14 and 15].  The item was carried forward to 6th June. [A document available on the Veritas website [link] contains the PLC adverse report, PLC chairperson Hon Samukange’s explanation of the report in the Senate on 4th April, an extract from Senator Chief Charumbira’s contribution indicating why Senator Chiefs believe the PLC erred, and the text of the Senate’s amendments.  Also available is the text of the Bill [link], annotated to show the amendments made by the National Assembly before the Bill was transmitted to the Senate.] 

Two Bills at Second Reading stage in the National Assembly

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill

On Tuesday 16th May the debate on this Bill continued where it was halted on 9th May because of the absence of Vice-President Mphoko whose office generated the revised Bill.  The debate was often acrimonious and disorderly.  As Vice-President Mphoko was present, he was able to hear for himself  the criticisms that continued to be levelled at his Bill by MPs of all parties, including ZANU-PF.  Debate did not continue the next day because the Vice-President was not available; it will now continue on Tuesday 6th June, subject to his being in attendance then.  Two main arguments emerged: support for the Bill from those wanting to be sure that the Commission would deal with the Gukurahundi, Operation Murambatsvina and political violence around recent elections, in order for the truth to be told and national healing and reconciliation to take place; and, on the other, opposition from some members of ZANU-PF opposing a process they said would look backwards and re-open old wounds, when there was already a Unity Accord in place.

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill [link]

Vice-President Mnangagwa, who had previously made his speech stating the Government’s reasons for wanting the Bill passed [link], was not present in the House on either 16th or 17th May.  In his absence there was no progress; the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ report on the Bill and the public hearings conducted on it during February was not presented; and the item was carried forward to 6th June.  

Two Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Bills

Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill  The Bill [link] remained under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee following its First Reading on 11th May.  

Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill  The House did not deal with the Minister’s motion requesting the House to approve a motion restoring this lapsed Bill to the Order Paper [it lapsed at the which stage it had reached at the end of the last Parliamentary session].  The item was carried forwarded to 6th June.

Bills Passed but not yet Gazetted as Acts

Last week saw one addition [the last item below] to the list of Bills passed by Parliament awaiting Presidential assent and/or gazetting as Acts of Parliament—

- 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]   

- National Competitiveness Commission Bill  [link]   

- Deeds Registries Amendment Bill [link to Bill; link to amendments]

- Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) Bill [link to Bill, link to amendments]

- Movable Property Security Interests Bill [link to Bill, link to amendments] [final vote 16th May]

Special Economic Zones – Customs Duty Rebates

SI 59/2017 [link] is a short but important set of regulations made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development under the Customs and Excise Act, in preparation for the implementation of special economic zones under the Special Economic Zones Act.  The regulations provide in general terms for the granting of rebates of duty on raw materials, intermediate products, equipment and machinery approved by the Commissioner of Customs and Excise when imported for use solely in a special economic zone.  A loosely-worded section applies the regulations to “a special economic zone appointed [sic] in terms of section 20 of the Special Economic Zones Act [Chapter 14:07] and specified in a notice in the Gazette”.   [What section 20 of the Act actually says is that the SEZ Authority may “by notice in the Gazette declare” any area or premises to be a special economic zone the area of which shall be defined in the notice”.]

Reminder – there are as yet no special economic zones

The Special Economic Zones Act [link] has been in force since 1st November 2016 and the Special Economic Zones Authority has therefore existed in law ever since [Act, section 3].  But it has been a merely paper existence, because the Act has not been “operationalised” —

- There has been no statutory instrument identifying the Vice-President or Minister to whom the President has assigned the administration of the Act – which means that readers of the Act have no officially gazetted means of knowing which Cabinet member is or is to be the “Minister” in terms of the Act’s definition of “Minister”.  The definition is “Minister” means the Vice-President or a Minister to whom the President may, from time to time, assign the administration of this Act”.  [The Minister of Finance and Economic Development piloted the Bill for the Act through Parliament, but that does not constitute assignment of the administration of the Act for legal purposes.] 

- There has been no appointment or announcement of the members of the Board of the Special Economic Zones Authority, which means the Authority cannot function.  

- No special economic zones have been brought into existence – that is a function of the Authority, and without a Board there cannot be a decision to declare special economic zones.   

Government Gazettes 12th to 26th May 

Statutory Instruments of 12th May

Special economic zones -  customs duty rebates  SI 59/2017 [link] [see above for more detail].  

Chiwundura By-election  SI 63/2017 sets nomination court and polling dates [see note at the beginning of this bulletin].

Other customs duty rebates  Three SIs provide for rebates, for shoe manufacturers [SI 61/2017], for engine spares, equipment for the National Railways of Zimbabwe [SI 60/2017] and for electronic seals, parts and accessories imported by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority [SI 58/2017].

Collective bargaining agreement for furniture manufacturing industry  -SI 57/2017 deals with wage differentials between grades, contract workers becoming permanent employees, continuous service, and gratuities on termination of continuous service.

Securities and Exchange Commission – levies payable on transactions in debt securities  SI 62/2017 [link] contains an extremely terse set of rules made by the Securities and Exchange Commission and approved by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.  The enabling authority cited is section 118(1) of the Securities and Exchange Act.  The rules provide for the payment of the “levies” outlined in the Schedule to the rules by every investor in “debt securities” [rule 2]; they go on to refer, confusingly, to the “charges” categorised in the Schedule [section 3]; and make securities dealers collection agents responsible for prompt end-of-week payments of levies collected during a week [section 4].  It is not stated that the levies go from the collection agents to the Commission, although that must be so [because the Act states that the Commission’s funds include the proceeds of such levies].  The SI is so cryptic that it unlikely to be unintelligible to anyone not expert in the workings of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’s recently revived market for “debt securities” [such securities as bonds, commercial paper, medium-term notes and debentures]. 

Statutory Instruments of 19th May

VAT – exemption for road toll fees   SI 64/2017 adds road toll fees collected by the Zimbabwe National Road Administration to the list of items exempt from VAT.  The exemption is backdated to 1st February 2009.  

Gazette Extraordinary of 24th May

Unleaded petrol – mandatory blending level up  to 10%  GN 277A/2017 increases the mandatory blending level of anhydrous ethanol in unleaded petrol to 10%.

Statutory Instruments of 26th May

Collective bargaining agreements  Five amending agreements were gazetted – for the Printing, Packaging and Newspaper Industry [SI 65], for the Tobacco (Miscellaneous) Sector [SI 66], Agriculture Industry (General) [SI 67], Agricultural Industry (Kapenta Sector) [SI 68] and Agricultural Industry (Tea and Coffee Industry) [SI 69].   These SIs will be posted on the Veritas website www.veritaszim.net soon.

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