BILL WATCH 24-2017

BILL WATCH 24/2017

[18th July 2017]

The Senate sat last week, from 11th to 13th July

Both Houses of Parliament will be sitting this week

The National Assembly resumes work today after a two-week break.  Heading its agenda are the Constitution Amendment Bill [now awaiting its 3rd Reading, for which a two-thirds majority vote is needed] and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [for what looks likely to be a lengthy Committee Stage, with many pages of MDC-T amendments to be considered – see further below]. 

The Senate will be continuing from where it left off last week [see below]

According to Parliament’s sitting calendar—

- this month’s sittings will be the last sittings of the present session, ending with the delivery of the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review on Thursday 27th July

- the official opening of the Fifth (and final) Session of this Parliament will be on August on Tuesday 22nd August and this will be the only sitting for both Houses in August.

- regular sittings of the Fifth Session will start on the first Tuesday of September.

Note:  As the sitting calendar is not written in stone, this programme may well be changed depending on such variables as the rate at which pending Bills are dealt with, whether the Minister of Finance and Economic Development is ready to deliver the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review on the appointed date, the President’s commitments and the resources available to Parliament.

Vacancies in Parliament

New vacancy in the Senate

On 11th July the President of the Senate informed the Senate of the death on Sunday 9th July of Senator Alphina Juba, an MDC-T Senator for Matabeleland North Province.  The vacant seat must be filled by another woman, to be nominated by the MDC-T party and appointed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in terms of the procedure laid down by section 39 of the Electoral Act for filling vacancies in proportional representation/party-list seats. 

National Assembly By-election – Chiwundura By-election  

Polling day was last Saturday, 15th July.  The seat was retained by ZANU-PF, with its candidate Brown NDLOVU gaining a comfortable victory. 

In the Senate Last Week – 11th  to 13th July

Bill   As expected, the Land Commission Bill was not dealt with.

International agreement approved  The Senate passed a motion presented by Hon Made, Minister of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, to approve a $20 million loan agreement with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development for the Zhove Irrigation Project in Beitbridge District, Matabeleland South.   The motion still has to go to the National Assembly.

Motions                

Vote of thanks to the President   On 11th July the Senate approved Senator Nyambuya’s motion expressing Senators’ loyalty to Zimbabwe and thanks to the President for his speech in October last year opening the present Parliamentary session. 

Question Time on 13th July was largely taken up by questions addressed to Hon Made, Minister of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development.  Hon Made also presented answers to written questions on behalf of the absent Minister of Finance and Economic Development – most of them about aspects of the current cash shortage.  

Senator B. Sibanda expressed dissatisfaction that his question asking for details of national indebtedness both foreign and domestic had still not been answered by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, despite having been on the Order Paper since October 2016.

Update on Constitution Amendment Bill

20th June – start of Committee Stage  The Bill’s Committee Stage started in the National Assembly on Tuesday 20th June, taking up most of the afternoon.  The Opposition put up such spirited resistance that only clauses 1 to 5 of the 8-clause Bill had been approved by the time the House adjourned.  There was no further movement that week because Vice-President Mnangagwa, in his Ministry of Justice role, was not present on Wednesday  21st and Thursday 22nd June.  Although the House was due to adjourn for a scheduled two-week break at the end Thursday’s sitting, the House nevertheless adjourned to Tuesday 27th June to in deference to Government’s priorities – the completion of the Bill’s Committee Stage and the passing of the final vote on the Bill.

For that final vote Vice-President Mnangagwa needed a two-thirds majority [“the affirmative votes of two-thirds of the membership” of the National Assembly – Constitution, section 328(5)] - i.e., the affirmative votes of at least 174 members of the 270-member National Assembly.

27th June - completion of Committee Stage   On Tuesday 27th June Vice-President Mnangagwa had no difficulty getting the Bill’s remaining clauses 6, 7 and 8 approved, including amendments he proposed to clauses 6 and 8 [see analysis in separate Constitution Watch bulletin being issued soon].

27th June – postponement of final vote for lack of two-thirds majority   Normally the Third Reading of a Bill is taken straight after the Committee Stage.     But only 148 ZANU-PF MPs were recorded as present that afternoon – 26 votes short of the 174 votes Vice-President Mnangagwa needed to have the Bill finally approved and sent to the Senate.  The Third Reading was therefore postponed and set down for 29th June – but by then the House had already adjourned until 18th July. 

And that is why the Bill is still waiting in the National Assembly, where it is item 1 on the Order Paper for today, Tuesday 18th July.

Coming up in the National Assembly This Week [18th to 20th July]

Bills

Bills are listed in the following order on the Order Paper for Tuesday 18th July—

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill [link– for Third Reading, before being sent to the Senate for attention.  See separate note above.  Whether a vote is taken will depend on the turnout of ZANU-PF MPs – at least 174 affirmative votes will be needed.

Estate Administrators Amendment Bill [link] – awaiting the beginning of its Committee Stage.  There are no proposed amendments on the Order Paper.

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill [link] – also awaiting the beginning of its Committee Stage.  The Order Paper sets out proposed amendments to be considered – one from Vice-President Mphoko, several pages of major amendments proposed by Hon Gonese, MDC-T Chief Whip [amendments available on Veritas website, link].

ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill [link]– recommitted to Committee of the whole House to attend to the reservations about the Bill’s preamble by the President when he returned the Bill to Parliament, in terms of the Constitution, after refusing to assent to it.  The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has a proposed amendment on the Order Paper designed to attend to those reservations; his amendment [available on the Veritas website, link] would replace the whole of the preamble to the Bill including the single paragraph in the preamble to which the President objected.  [A more detailed note can be found in Bill Watch 20/2017 of 12th June.]

Also listed is a motion  by the Minister of Mines and Mining Development to restore his Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill [link] to the Order Paper at the stage it had reached when it lapsed at the end of the last Parliamentary session on 5th October 2016 – i.e. the Bill had already been the subject of public hearings and received a non-adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] and was ready for the Second Reading stage.  This motion was first listed on the Order Paper for Tuesday 16th May this year, but was stood down by the Deputy Minister pending further discussions between the Ministry and the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy after it was pointed out to him that the Portfolio Committee had advised the Ministry against amalgamating exploration and marketing functions under one statutory body and had instead recommended two separate Bills for two separate bodies. If the Minister decides to withdraw this Bill and replace it with two separate Bills the whole process will have to be repeated from the very beginning, for both Bills. 

Motions  

Police beating-up of innocent civilians   Hon Chamisa’s motion is now No 15 in the Order Paper queue, heading the list of Private Member’s motions.

Various committee/delegation reports  Coming before Hon Chamisa’s motion, are several new motions on reports – to adopt a Public Accounts Committee report on the 2015 and 2015 Accounts of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development; to take note of two Portfolio Committee reports on Turnaround Strategies for the National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Central Mechanical Equipment Department, respectively; and three take note motions for reports of Parliamentary delegations to international conferences and events. 

Fairness towards regions and women  After Hon Chamisa’s motion is Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s motion on fair representation of Zimbabwe’s regions for providers of services to Government and in awarding of government and parastatal tenders.  Her motion also demands that a 30% quota of Government tenders be reserved for women. 

Coming up in the Senate This Week

Land Commission Bill   It is high time the Senate sorted out the disagreement between the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] and Senator Chiefs over the Senate’s amendments to this Bill – by the Senate voting to either accept or reject the PLC’s adverse report – and get on with the Bill accordingly.  The PLC is not prepared to withdraw its report – which would allow the Bill to proceed with the amendments concerned – so a vote one way or the other way seems called for, which means Senators must decide between the legal arguments raised by the PLC and Senator Chiefs’ legal answers to those arguments [see Bill Watch 19/2017 for the details of the dispute].  

Other Bills may reach the Senate if the National Assembly gets round to passing any of the Bills that have built up in that House.    

Bills Passed by Parliament but not yet Gazetted as Acts

These Bills have been with the President for his assent since 5th July [see the official notifications from Parliament in General Notices 321 and 322 gazetted on 14th July]—

- Movable Property Security Interests Bill [link to Bill, link to amendments]

- Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Bill [link].   

Note:  As Veritas has previously pointed out assenting to Bills is a function that can be performed by an Acting President if the President is out of office when a decision is necessary.

Government Gazette Friday 14th July

Statutory Instrument [only one gazetted]

Code of Conduct for Air Transport Industry   SI 81/2017, gazetted by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in terms of the Labour Act, contains a comprehensive Air Transport Code of Conduct and Grievance Procedure

General Notices

Official Notification of Bills sent to President for assent  GNs 321 and 322/2017 [see previous item].

Government financial statements for February and March  GN 329/2017 notifies the publication with the Government Gazette of these two statements [available soon on the Veritas website].

Advance Notice of Zimbabwe Gender Commission’s Annual National Gender Forum   GN 324/2017 is an important announcement by the Zimbabwe Gender Commission that the first Annual National Gender Forum will be held in Harare on 19th October 2017.  It also invites suggestions from interested organisations and individuals regarding issues for discussion at the Forum and proposed participants [to be discussed in more detail in a separate Commissions Watch bulletin].

 

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