BILL WATCH 42/2013

BILL WATCH 42/2013

[27th August 2013]

Swearing in of New [8th] Parliamentary Set for 3rd September

Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe Began on 22nd August

The swearing-in of the President on Thursday 22nd August marked the beginning of the new Parliament’s 5-year term.  Section 143 of the new Constitution provides that: “Parliament is elected for a five-year term which runs from the date on which the President-elect is sworn in and assumes office.”   In fact, Parliament’s term could be slightly less than the full five-years, because under the new Constitution, sections 143 and 144, polling in the next harmonised elections must take place within the last 30 days of the life of Parliament and “Parliament stands dissolved at midnight on the day before the first polling day” in the next election

Note: As the new Constitution is now fully in force, from now on all references to the Constitution are to the new Constitution unless otherwise stated.

The Constitution no longer provides for the former annual Parliamentary “sessions”, the beginning and end of which were dictated by the President by means of annual proclamations.  Apart from the first sitting after a general election, which must begin on a date fixed by the President, the two Houses of Parliament will decide for themselves when they will sit and when they will recess – as long as they do not go into recess for more than 180 days.  Under the Constitution, sections 146 and 140, the President, does, however, have the power to summon Parliament to meet at any time “to conduct special business”, and must at least once a year address a joint sitting of both Houses on “the state of the nation”

Swearing-in of Members of Parliament: 3rd September

The Clerk of Parliament has announced that by direction of the President members of Parliament will be sworn in on Tuesday 3rd September.  This was initially set for 27th August, but that date was rendered unsuitable by the scheduling of Heroes’ Acre funerals for ZANU-PF notables and the need for MPs to attend other important events.  The new date still complies with section 145(1) of the Constitution, which states that the first sitting of Parliament after a general election must “not be later than thirty days after the President-elect assumes office”.  The Clerk of Parliament will preside over the swearing-in proceedings.

MPs in both Houses of Parliament should within thirty days of their election, relinquish any public office they were holding when elected.  [Section 129(1)(h) of the Constitution stipulates that if when elected a member was a “public officer” [e.g. a serving member of the Public Service or the uniformed services or the holder of any other paid office in the service of the State] or a member or employee of a statutory body, a Government-controlled entity, a provincial council or a local authority, he or she must relinquish that office, membership or employment within 30 days of being declared elected.]  Failure to relinquish will entail automatic and immediate forfeiture of his or her Parliamentary seat.

Election of Speaker and President of Senate

Immediately after the swearing-in proceedings, members of the National Assembly must elect the Speaker and Senators must elect the President of the Senate.  These elections must be by secret ballot and must conducted by the Clerk of Parliament under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC].  The successful candidates must be sworn in by the Chief Justice, or next most senior judge available, before they commence their duties.  To qualify for election:

  • ·      as Speaker: a person need not be a member of the National Assembly, but must be qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly, i.e., be a registered voter at least 21 years old
  • ·      as President of the Senate: a person need not be a Senator, but must be qualified to be elected to the Senate, i.e. be a registered voter at least 40 years old.

Note: The old Constitution required a candidate for either office to be a member or former member of Parliament.  That requirement has been omitted from the new Constitution. 

If a sitting member of Parliament is elected Speaker or President of the Senate, the seat held by the person elected immediately falls vacant.  If, as seems likely, former Senate President Ednah Madzongwe is elected President of the Senate, her seat as a Mashonaland West party-list Senator will therefore fall vacant.

Deputy presiding officers   Also on 3rd September, both Houses must elect their deputy presiding officers.  These elections, too, must be by secret ballot and be conducted by the Clerk of Parliament under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.  Only sitting members qualify for election, and they do not lose their seats if elected [Constitution, sections 123 and 127].

Composition of Parliament

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] gazetted the complete election results [excluding results for urban and rural councils], naming all the individuals elected, in a series of General Notices in the Government Gazette of 9th August:

GN 388/2013      Presidential election result

GN 389/2013      National Assembly constituency seats results

GN 390/2013      Party-list results [proportional representation] for Senate, National Assembly and Provincial Councils

GN 391/2013      Election of Senator Chiefs

GN 392/2013      Election of Senators to represent persons with disabilities.

[Available on the Veritas website www.veritaszim.net or, for those without Internet access, from veritas@mango.zw]

National Assembly Membership

Note: “National Assembly” is the new name for the Lower House of Parliament, which was previously called the House of Assembly.

There are no ex officio or appointed seats.  There are 270 National Assembly seats in all, 210 for constituency members and 60 for women MPs elected by a party-list system of proportional representation, 6 for each of the ten provinces, based on how many votes each participating party got in the constituency elections in each province.

As at 22nd August, the breakdown by political party of the these 270 members was as follows:

               ZANU-PF      MDC-T        MDC                                                      IND

Constituency seats                        160              49              0                                                          1

Party-list seats for women               37              21              2                                                          0

Total                                             197              70              2          1

These figures are subject to change, depending on the results of election petitions lodged with the Electoral Court.  A large number of petitions have been lodged.  The Electoral Court must finalise these petitions within six months.

Two-thirds majority ZANU-PF’s 197 MPs give it more than the two-thirds majority [180 MPs] needed for the National Assembly to pass a Bill amending the Constitution.

Senate Membership

There are no appointed seats in the new Senate.  There are 60 party-list Senators, 6 for each of the ten provinces, based on how many votes each participating party got in the constituency elections in each province.  The allocation per party is identical to the allocation of the 60 special seats for women in the National Assembly.

The breakdown of the 80 Senators by category and political party is as follows:

Party-list Senators

ZANU-PF ………………………… 37

MDC-T…………………….………. 21

MDC…………………………………. 2

Chiefs ex officio…………………..….. 2

Chiefs………………………………….. 16

Disabled persons reps……………… 2

Total…………………….……………… 80

Two-thirds majority?   ZANU-PF will have a two-thirds majority [54 Senators] only if supported by at least 17 other Senators.

Comment:  As Chiefs have in the past almost always voted with the governing party, ZANU-PF can probably count on a two-thirds majority if it should ever need one.

Ex officio seats [2]  The President and Deputy President of the Council of Chiefs are ex officio Senators.  The previous incumbents of these positions, Chiefs Charumbira and Mtshane, were re-elected at a meeting of the Council of Chiefs on 19th July.

Elected Senator Chiefs [16]  All 16 elected Senator chiefs, 2 for each of the eight non-metropolitan provinces, were elected at provincial assemblies of chiefs that met on Friday 2nd August.

Senators representing disabled persons [2]  2 Senators to represent disabled persons were elected by an electoral college that met in Harare on Friday 2nd August.

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