NOTE added 7th February 2018. Please see below for correction of (1) an error in the entry on the Estate Administrators Amendment Bill; and
(2) an omission to mention the Shop Licences Amendent Bill under under Coming up the National Assembly This Week - Bills
BILL WATCH 1/2018
[5th February 2018]
The National Assembly will Meet on Tuesday 6th February
The Senate will Meet on Tuesday 13th February
Progress on 2018 Budget and Bills: The National Assembly in January
The National Assembly met from Tuesday 9th to Thursday 25th January. It sat on nine days during that period. Attendance was unusually good for the continuation of the Budget debate, when the registers showed 215 MPs as having been present on Tuesday 16th and 222 on Wednesday 17th – but only 179 on Thursday 18th, ahead of the weekend.
Budget and Budget-related Bills
The second week was devoted to the 2018 Budget. Resolutions suspending normal procedures were passed to allow fast-tracking and late sittings. Wednesday’s proceedings lasted until 6.40 pm. On Thursday 18th there was a marathon sitting that ended just after 9 pm and saw the House completing its work on the Budget by approving the Estimates of Expenditure and passing the Appropriation (2018) Bill and the Finance Bill, both Bills with amendments. The Bills were transmitted to the Senate, which will need to give them priority attention when it resumes next week, on Tuesday 13th February.
Amendments to Estimates and Appropriation (2018) Bill
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development bowed to pressure from MPs when the Estimates of Expenditure were considered. He accepted increases in the amounts allocated to—
· Parliament – whose vote was increased by $22 773 000 [from $57 227 000 to $80 000 000]
· Ministry of Health and Child Care – whose vote was increased by $65 986 000 [from $454 014 000 to $520 000 000]
The changes were achieved at the expense of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development’s vote, which was reduced by a corresponding amount [from $333 680 000 to $244 921 000]. The overall amount to be appropriated, therefore, remained unchanged at $5,020,462,000.
Note: The Health Ministry’s vote now exceeds that of the Ministry of Defence, Security and War Veterans [$420 464 000] and that of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture [which includes the vote for the Police Force] [$507 287 000]. Primary and Secondary Education tops the list at $935 483 000.
Amendments to the Finance Bill
· Automated financial transactions tax and intermediated money transfer tax – insertion of new clauses limiting these taxes to individual transactions exceeding $10.
· Gratuity for former Prime Minister – the existing amendment to the Parliamentary Pensions Act is expanded to authorise the payment of a gratuity to “a person who served as Prime Minister”, i.e., Mr Tsvangirai.
· MPs’ pensions and gratuities – a new clause for the Parliamentary Pensions Act provides for a pension for an MP who has served for the “duration of two Parliaments”, with effect from the date on which he or she ceases to be an MP and for a gratuity for an MP who has served as such “for one term”.
· Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Benefits Act – the Bill’s original amendments to this Act are modified to have the remuneration of Parliamentarians from the Speaker and the President of the Senate down to the humblest MP determined – and from time to time reviewed by – Parliament’s own Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, albeit with the approval of the Minister responsible for finance.
· Removal of provision for handsome allowance for spouses of President and Vice-President – the original Bill envisaged the spouse of a President or Vice-President being entitled to an allowance calculated at 50% of the salary and allowances of the President or Vice-President. This has now been expunged from the Bill.
Note: Parliament is having reprints of both the above Bills prepared – showing the above amendments – for the use of Senators when the Bills come before them on the 13th February. These are not yet available, but we will make soft copies available as soon as possible.
Estates Administrators Amendment Bill [link]
The House dealt with the Committee Stage of this Bill on the 25th January. One amendment proposed by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was approved [link] – its effect is to add sexual harassment of any client, employee or prospective employee to the list of examples of improper or disgraceful conduct that can result in disciplinary proceedings for a registered estates administrator. The Bill was then referred back to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for its report on the constitutionality of this amendment. Only after a non-adverse report from the PLC will the House be able to give the Bill its final reading and transmit it to the Senate.
The Bill then received its final reading and was transmitted to the Senate.
Public Health Bill [link]
This massive Bill was introduced by the Minister of Health and Child Care on 11th January. It was immediately referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC], where it is still under consideration at the time of writing.
Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Debt Assumption) Bill [link]
This Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Bill was gazetted on 19th January but has not yet been introduced in Parliament/had its First Reading. The Bill provides for the State to assume the debts of the Company subject to validation and reconciliation processes. The aim is to clear the balance sheet of the company, thereby paving the way for investors to start on a clean slate. The debts concerned are those incurred before 1st January 2017 as listed in the Schedule to the Bill, which shows a grand total of $219 113 219. The process will be managed under the Public Debt Management Act by the Ministry’s Debt Management Office – like the process for the assumption by the State of certain of the Reserve Bank’s debts.
Coming up in the National Assembly This Week
Shop Licences Amendment Bill Item 2 on the Order Paper is resumed consideration of the Parliamentary Legal Committee's adverse report on this Bill, which has been holding up progress to the Second Reading stage since 26th September. The adverse report is available on the Veritas website [link], as is the Bill [link].
Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [link] The Second Reading Stage is listed as item 6 on the Order Paper, ahead of other Bills. This is a 2015 Bill, that has been years in the making. The former Minister never got around to making the Ministerial speech opening the Second Reading debate. Will the new Minister remove this long-standing logjam?
Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill [link] This is listed for the continuation of the Second Reading debate, which started with a speech explaining the Bill by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development on 19th December [link]. The Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development is due to submit its report on the Bill and the public hearings recently conducted by the committee.
Insolvency Bill [link] For continuation of the Second Reading debate. Public hearings by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs covered both this Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill. The committee’s report on this Bill is the next step in the debate.
Electoral Amendment Bill [link] The Second Reading stage has not yet started. The report on the Bill and the public hearings held on it by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is ready to be presented to the House.
Note: This short Government Bill is not a response to widespread calls for electoral law reform. The Portfolio Committee has not yet reported on the ERC Petition for Electoral Reform on which it held public hearings last year, and it has only just started consideration of a more recent United Citizens Alliance (UCA) petition on the same subject [the Speaker announced the reference of the petition to the committee in the House on 25th January].
World Trade Orgnisation Item 1 on the Order Paper for 6th February is the adjourned debate on the Government motion for Parliament’s approval of the submission to the WTO of Zimbabwe’s Instrument of Acceptance of the Protocol to amend the Marrakesh Agreement by the insertion of a new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of December 2013.
PLC Adverse Reports on Statutory Instruments
Items 3, 4 and 5 on the Order Paper for 6th February require consideration by the Committee of the Whole House of adverse reports on three statutory instruments of 2017; the most recent report being on the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Application of State Liabilities Act to Assets of Chitungwiza Municipality) Regulations, published in SI 110/2017 [link]. An adverse report is a report expressing the PLC’s opinion that an SI contravenes the Constitution and is therefore invalid. The Constitution and Standing Orders oblige the National Assembly to consider such reports promptly and resolve whether or not they are correct; a resolution endorsing an adverse report must be reported to the President [or Minister or other authority responsible for the SI concerned] who must within 21 days, either—
· repeal the SI; or
· apply to the Constitutional Court for a final decision on the validity of the SI.
Regrettably, previous adverse reports have not always been accorded appropriate priority.
Motions on Portfolio Committee Reports
There are seven motions for restoration to the Order Paper of reports that were under consideration when the last Parliamentary session ended.
There are nine new reports awaiting presentation to the House.
Private Members’ Motions
Also awaiting presentation are a number of private members’ motions, headed by one calling for a Constitutional amendment to completely abolish “dual citizenship by descent and registration”. Other motions refer to: the need for more action to protect and preserve wetlands; welcoming the transition to the new Government, thanking the Speaker for steering the transition and respecting the Constitution, and suggesting that President Mnangagwa attend Parliament to answer questions relating to the transition; the plight of Zimbabwean university students in foreign countries suffering poor living conditions because of Government’s failure to honour its payment obligations.
Question Time [Wednesday]
There are 28 questions listed, including one calling for disclosure of the findings of the Justice Smith Commission of Inquiry into Erosion of Insurance Policies and Pensions Plans due to dollarization and demonetisation of the Zimbabwean currency.