BILL WATCH 10/2014
[26th February 2014]
Parliament Resumed Sitting on Tuesday 25th February
As our planned distribution of this bulletin early on 25th February proved impossible, Veritas has updated it to cover what happened when Parliament reassembled briefly later in the day. Both Houses met, but because Parliament building was without water, they adjourned soon after 3 pm to avoid health problems. Before this enforced early closing¾
- · the presiding officers announced the appointment of Mrs Nomasonto Sunga as the second Deputy Clerk of Parliament with effect from 1st March
- · in the Senate, Senators Mathuthu and Mahofa introduced their new motion on the use of indigenous languages, particularly in schools [see also under Senate, below]
· in the National Assembly, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Oppah Muchinguri joined in the debate on Hon Majome’s motion on gender-based violence. She said that speeches made during the debate would help shape the Ministry’s policy, and stated her support for proposals for a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence for rape and stiffer sentences for other forms of gender-based violence.
Coming up in Parliament for the Rest of This Week
Remaining Budget business
As the two Bills for the 2014 Budget have been passed, what remains to be dealt with is last year’s unbudgeted spending. This involves the approval of supplementary estimates of expenditure for 2013, a Supplementary Appropriation Bill and a Financial Adjustments Bill [soft copies available from addresses at end of bulletin].
Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill The report of the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] on this Bill is due this week. It is expected to be a non-adverse report, clearing the way for the Minister of Finance’s Second Reading speech explaining and justifying the Bill [soft copy available].
The week could see the introduction of two Bills that were gazetted in January or earlier this month:
- · Biological and Toxin Weapons Crimes Bill [soft copy available]
· National Prosecuting Authority Bill [soft copy available]
If these Bills are introduced and given their First Readings, they will immediately be referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee. Further proceedings will then have to wait until the PLC has reported, which will be in March or later, depending on the Parliamentary programme.
Income Tax Bill This Bill, a carry-over from the last Parliament, was returned, unsigned, by the President for reconsideration of his reservations on eight major points. As a proper reconsideration of the Bill requires that MPs be provided with a copy of the Bill as it was sent to the President, that is, complete with the major amendments made during its passage through Parliament. This has not yet been done, so it is highly unlikely that the National Assembly will get round to this item any time soon. In recognition of this fact the Bill is, in fact, item 23 on a 24-item Order Paper. [Soft copy of final Bill not available from Veritas.]
Motions There are many motions on the Order Paper. Those near the top of the list include:
Gender-based violence [GBV] – see above for what happened in 25th February’s short sitting.
Tripartite Negotiating Forum This new motion calls for the reactivation of this forum for Government, business and labour.
Appointment of Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission This motion refers to the deteriorating state of corporate governance in Zimbabwe and calls on the Government to review laws on corruption and to appoint the Anti-Corruption Commission, where all terms of office have expired, except that of the chairperson.
Broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings This motion refers to the sporadic and inadequate coverage of Parliament by the ZBC, and calls for a dedicated TV and radio channels to broadcast Parliamentary proceedings in all languages.
Question Time [Wednesday 26th February] There are 59 questions on the Order Paper for the hour-long Questions with Notice session, most of them deferred from 5th February, but some of them much older than that. Hon Gonese’s question about the Presidential Scholarship Fund has gone unanswered by Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa since 4th December 2013. Several questions for Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Ignatious Chombo focus on the need for information about the remuneration of senior management in local authorities. In a question for Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Andrew Langa, Hon Cross raises the financial situation of Zimbabwe Cricket, the loss of large sums of money, the connections between senior Zimbabwe Cricket office-holders and its bankers, and the non-payment for several months of the national cricket team’s wages.
Electoral Amendment Bill The report of the PLC on this Bill is due this week. It is expected to be a non-adverse report, clearing the way for the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ Second Reading speech explaining and justifying the Bill.
Motions Two new motions are listed on the Order Paper for early debate:
- · Use of indigenous languages – This motion by Senators Mathuthu and Mahofa refers to the Education Act’s provision for use of only English, Shona and Ndebele in schools, and calls for the formulation of specific policy initiatives on all indigenous languages with a view to their wider use generally, and specifically in Zimbabwe’s education and training systems. [See beginning of bulletin for developments on 25th February.]
- · Agrarian reform – Senators Carter and Sibanda, referring to the inability of farmers to access credit under the current land tenure system of offer letters and non-transferable leases, call on the Government to grant security of tenure to farmers.
Debate is also scheduled to continue on motions previously introduced on environmental conservation, special needs education, carnage on the roads and alignment of laws with the Constitution.
Question Time [Thursday 26th February]
12 written questions are listed. Recent additions to the list include questions on:
Female enrolment in technical colleges – a question seeking an explanation of the policy of the Ministry of Higher & Tertiary Education, Science & Technology Development on gender imbalance in these institutions.
School curricula and child abuse/gender-based violence – a question for the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education asking whether the Ministry has plans to incorporate these topics in school curricula.
Statutory Instruments [SIs]
New registration/accreditation fees for journalists and media houses
SI 40/2014, gazetted late on 21st February in a Government Gazette Extraordinary, sets out a new schedule of fees for accreditation and registration of journalists and media houses under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [soft copies of SI and Act available]. The new fees are stated to be with effect from 1st January 2014. Most of them, notably the fees for registration and accreditation of journalists, are less than the previous fees for dating from 2011. The SI was swiftly followed up by the Zimbabwe Media Commission [ZMC] with a press statement telling journalists and companies to get registered and accredited by 21st March, and warning that a penalty fee will be levied on renewal applications received after that date. Many journalists had been waiting to apply or re-apply since the beginning of the year, but had been turned away by ZMC because the new fee structure was in the pipeline.
Note: The SI is a legal nullity for at least two reasons: first, it is stated to have been made by the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, although it should have been made by ZMC, because ZMC took over the regulation-making function from the Minister in January 2008; second, it lists “proposed fees” instead of “fees”. These mistakes, astonishingly, repeat what happened the last time round with SI 186/2010, later “corrected” by SI 10/2011. It is also unacceptable that fees that should have been in place by 1st January were only gazetted six weeks later; if this SI had provided for significant fee increases and if applicants tendering the lower fees had been turned away until the increases had been gazetted and could be imposed, the ZMC and the Minister would have had no defence to a legal complaint.
Customs duty suspension SI 41/2014 provides for suspension, for the whole of 2014, of duty on specified motor vehicles imported by tourism operators.
Customs duty tourism rebate SI 42/2014 amends a detail in the original SI on this subject, SI 173/2013.
Customs duty rebates on traveller’s effects and construction project goods SI 43/2014 corrects SI 169/2013 by making its effective date 1st January 2014.
VAT SI 44/2014 adjusts the zero rating of imported electricity.
General Notices [GNs]
Collection of listeners licence fees GN 28/2014 of 21st February notifies the appointment of the Zimbabwe National Road Authority [ZINARA] to collect and transmit listeners’ licence fees to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
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