BILL WATCH 10/2019
[17th February 2019]
Both Houses of Parliament are in Recess until Tuesday 5th March
Monetary Statement Late
The Reserve Bank’s latest monetary policy statement, expected from the bank’s Governor Dr Mangudya in early February, is still to be issued. The delay has reportedly been caused by differences between the Governor and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act states that the Bank’s responsibility for monetary policy is to be exercised “in consultation with” the Minister, which may or may not require agreement between the two; the Act also requires six-monthly statements of monetary policy to be delivered in June and December of each year, so the statutory timetable is not being observed anyway [sections 45 and 46]. The Constitution does not specifically say that the Reserve Bank is independent, and the Act’s statement in section 6 that Bank shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority, is qualified by the words “except as otherwise provided in this Act”.
Parliament in Recess
After last Thursday afternoon’s sittings both the Senate and the National Assembly adjourned until Tuesday 5th March. They had been in session since 29th January, at the rate of three sittings for each week of the three-week period.
Routine committee business is suspended until Monday 4th March. National Assembly portfolio committees, however, will be conducting public hearings on three important and urgent Bills – see Bill Watch Committee Series 3/2018 [link]. Other portfolio committees will be undergoing four-day induction or sensitisation workshops at conference venues.
In the National Assembly Last Week
Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill The receipt of a non-adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] was announced on 12th February. No further progress was made, so the next step – perhaps when the House resumes on 5th March – will be delivery of the Second Reading speech by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. The relevant portfolio committee will be holding public hearings on the Bill during the last week of February and will present its report on those hearings to the House in due course.
Companies and Other Business Entities Bill There was no progress on this Bill. The Minister has delivered his Second Reading speech. To enable the Second Reading stage to continue, the portfolio committee [Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs] has to present its report on its public consultations on the Bill. These consultations which will also be conducted in the last week of February.
No other Bills featured on the Order Paper for the week.
Adverse PLC Reports on statutory instruments On Tuesday and Wednesday it was announced that the PLC had submitted adverse reports on six statutory instruments, including the Command Agriculture regulations [SI 247/2018], local authority Environmental By-laws [SI 148/2018] and Traffic By-laws [SI 149/2019] and three sets of Civil Aviation regulations [SIs 253, 255 and 271/2018]. The adverse reports will be posted on our website as soon as possible.
Note: An adverse report from the PLC does not itself nullify or invalidate the SI concerned, but may result in its amendment or repeal if the Senate so resolves.
Matters of privilege Two matters of privilege were raised. (1) On Wednesday [the afternoon the National Assembly’s proceedings are broadcast live on national TV] Hon Mliswa raised the alleged verbal threats he had received from Hon Nduna during a heated exchange between them at a meeting of the Mines and Energy portfolio committee. The Deputy Speaker said she would study the matter and make a ruling and, when Hon Mliswa continued to harangue her, eventually ordered him out of the Chamber. (2) On Thursday Hon Phuthi raised the failure of Parliament to provide adequate simultaneous translation services for all constitutionally recognised languages, which had led to his contribution in Kalanga not being recorded in Hansard. The Speaker promised he would give a comprehensive response on 5th March.
Motions Tuesday afternoon saw resumption of the debate on the motion of thanks to the President for his September 2018 address at the opening of the current Parliament. On Thursday Hon Ndebele asked the House to take note of the Report of Parliament’s delegation to the 44th Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum in Maputo [26th November to 8th December 2018]. The report makes many recommendations, principally one urging Parliament to lobby Government to support the transformation of the Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament, and including others on the need for ratification of the Continental Free Trade Area and promoting the proposed SADC Model Law on Elections, the proposed SADC University of Transformation and the proposed Parliamentary Studies Institute.
In the Senate Last Week
Motion on Devolution approved With no Bills for consideration, Senators continued their contributions to debates on motions already introduced. Senator Mwonzora wound up debate on his motion on devolution and it was approved. The operative paragraphs of the motion are that the Senate calls upon the Government to:
a) Urgently bring a Bill to provide for the Devolution, inter alia to provide for the key administrative and other processes in the Provincial Councils including the election for the heads of those Councils within two months.
b) Abolish the post of Minister of State for Provincial Affairs as they compromise the full implementation of devolution of power;
c) Swear into office all the members of the Provincial Councils immediately and define their conditions of service and other mechanisms to make them more functionally efficient;
d) Provide budgetary support to the Provincial Councils.
It will be interesting to see to what extent the Government’s promised Bill or Bills on devolution meet the Senate’s requirements.
Also wound up and approved was Senator Shoko’s motion calling on the Government to urgently find ways of improving the cash situation in the country.
Question Time [Thursday] In response to a question from Senator Chief Ngezi, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said it is not Government policy that public prosecutors should remain in one area until retirement. “It is not right, considering the work that they do. That is not Government policy for them to age within one area.”
Education Amendment Bill Gazetted
The Education Amendment Bill was gazetted on 15th February. The explanatory memorandum published with the Bill states that its purpose is to amend various provisions of the Education Act so that it complies with rights stated in sections 19, 51, 53, 56, 63. 75, 81 and 83 of the Constitution. The memorandum warns readers of the Bill that some of these constitutional rights are “subject to the availability to the State of resources necessary to enable to enjoy the implementation of the rights” and that it is “essential to take account of section 86 of the Constitution”, which allows legislation to limit some rights”.
Government Gazette 15th February 2019
Civil Aviation regulations
SI 16/2019 is a bulky 112-page booklet containing the Civil Aviation (Aeronautical Information Services and Charts) Regulations. It is part of the continuing exercise, begun last year, to update the body of regulations governing civil aviation. As noted above, three earlier sets of Civil Aviation regulations have been found unconstitutional by the PLC.
Defence Forces –Air Force and Army Reserves
SIs 17/2019 [Air Force] and 18/2019 [Army] amend the regulations under the Defence Act governing the respective reserves. The effect is to allow the Minister, on the recommendation of the Commander, to permit a reserve member who reaches retirement age [65 years] to continue serving until 70 if the Minister considers it desirable in the public in the public interest for him or her to do so.
Labour – collective bargaining agreement for Agricultural Industry
SI 21/2019 gives effect to a 15% wage increase with effect from 1st November 2018. The lowest monthly wage is now US$ 121.00, the highest US$ 239.00.
Local authority by-laws – Zaka RDC
SI 20/2019 is the Zaka Rural District Council (Land Use and Conservation) By-laws. The by-laws follow an established pattern for by-laws on this subject.
VAT – deletion from list of zero-rated goods
SI 19/2019 repeals an item in Part II of the Second Schedule to the VAT (General) Regulations with effect from 15th February. The effect is to remove day-old chicks from the list of zero-rated goods.