BILL WATCH 9/2014 of 21st February

BILL WATCH 9/2014

[21st February 2013]

Both Houses of Parliament Will Sit Next Week on Tuesday 25th February

Update on Bills

This Year’s Bills Still Awaiting Gazetting as Acts

Since the beginning of January this year two Bills have been introduced into and passed by Parliament.  They will become law when assented to by the President and gazetted as Acts of Parliament.

  • ·      Finance Bill  This was passed without amendment by the National Assembly on 28th January, and by the Senate on 5th February.  The Bill provides for the taxation measures proposed in the Budget Statement.
  • ·      Appropriation (2014) Bill This Bill was passed without amendment by the National Assembly on 4th February, and by the Senate on 11th February]  The Bill provides for funds for the functioning of Government for 2014, as detailed in the Estimates of Expenditure [the “Blue Book”]

Bill Returned by President to National Assembly

  • ·       Income Tax Bill  This Bill dating from the previous Parliament was passed by both Houses in June 2013, but was returned by the President on December 4th for reconsideration in the light of his reservations on eight points.  I has been put down on the Order Paper for the House of Assembly for discussion in a resumed Committee Stage, i.e. with members sitting in committee of the whole House.  [See Bill Watch 62/2013 of 20th December 2013 for the list of the Presidents reservations]. 

Bills with Parliamentary Legal Committee

Two new Bills have been introduced into Parliament and referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee, which still has them under consideration.  Neither Bill can proceed to its next stage [Second Reading stage] until theParliamentary Legal Committee has reported on its consistency or otherwise with the Constitution.

  • ·      Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill [gazetted 10th January, First Reading in National Assembly, 30th January 2014] [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
  • ·      Electoral Amendment Bill [gazetted 3rd January, First Reading in Senate, 6th February 2014] [Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs]  The Bill aims at bringing the Electoral Act into line with the new Constitution, replacing the temporary alignment measures, now expired, enacted by SI 85/2013.

Bills Gazetted and Awaiting Introduction in Parliament

  • ·      Appropriation (2013) (Supplementary) Bill [gazetted 3rd January] [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
  • ·      Financial Adjustments Bill [gazetted 31st January] [Minister of Finance and Economic Development]
  • ·      Biological and Toxin Weapons Control Bill [gazetted 10th January] [Minister of Defence]
  • ·      National Prosecuting Authority Bill [gazetted 7th February] [Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs]

A Standing Order in both Houses lays down the general rule that a Bill cannot be introduced into either House until at least 14 days after its gazetting.  By 25th February, when Parliament resumes sitting, therefore, all these Bills will have qualified to be introduced and read for the first time.  The first two, being Money Bills, will have to be introduced in the National Assembly; the Biological and Toxin Weapons Crimes Bill and the National Prosecuting Authority Bill could be introduced in either House.

Bill Being Printed for Gazetting

  • ·      Trafficking in Persons Bill [Minister of Home Affairs].  The content of this Bill is not yet publicly available.  See Bill Watches 7/2014 and 8/2014 for background and for an overview and critique of the current temporary regulations on this subject, which expire on 2nd July.

Progress on Fulfilling the Government’s Legislative Agenda

When opening the Eighth Parliament on 17th September the President named 27 Bills the Government intended to bring to Parliament during the first session.  3 of those Bills are among the Bills listed above: The Trafficking in Persons Bill; the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill and the National Prosecuting Authority Bill.  [Note:  The Electoral Amendment Bill and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Crimes Bill were not specifically mentioned by the President as items on the legislative agenda.]

Parliamentary Sittings From 4th to 13th February

Both Houses sat on all six available sitting days during these two weeks – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 4th, 5th, 6th and 11th, 12th and 13th February.  Most of the sittings were of respectable length.  MPs then took a week’s break, to accommodate an important planning Retreat in Mutare for Presiding Officers and the Liaison and Coordinating Committee [see Bill Watch 6/2014 of 18th February].  They will sit again on Tuesday 25th February.

Budget business

Both Houses have now completed work on the two Bills giving effect to the 2014 Budget proposals and Estimates of Expenditure: the Finance Bill [in January]  and this month the Appropriation (2014) Bill.  Still to be dealt with by the National Assembly are the less urgent Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for last year and the related Appropriation (2013) Supplementary Bill and Financial Adjustments Bill.

In the National Assembly

Bills  The Appropriation (2014) Bill was passed without amendment on 4th February, and transmitted to the Senate.

Motions

Gender-based violence  On 5th February Hon Jessie Majome, former Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs and Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development in the GNU, spoke to her motion referring to the high rate of gender-based violence [GBV] in Zimbabwe, particularly rape, the low rate of apprehension and conviction, and lenient sentencing of convicted offenders.  She called for a mandatory minimum sentence for rape, including “statutory rape”, appropriate lesser minimum sentences for other forms of GBV, improved facilities for investigation of rape; and the implementation and funding by Government of an action plan for the Zimbabwe National Gender-Based Violence Strategy: 2012-2015.  MPs made their contributions to the ensuing debate on 11th and 12th February.  The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Hon Oppah Muchinguri, has not yet made her expected contribution.

President’s speech  MPs continued their contributions to this debate.

Question Times [Wednesdays]  Both scheduled Question Times went ahead.  But there are still 62 written questions on the Order Paper for the next Question Time on 26th February, slightly down from the 70 that were listed for 12th February.

Lack of gender balance on Judicial Service Commission  On 12th February Hon Majome asked, without notice, why the new membership of the Judicial Service Commission [JSC], announced two days previously, did not comply with the national objective of gender balance as set out in section 17 of the Constitution, which says the State must take “all measures” to ensure that women constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions.  A non-committal response from the Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs prompted Hon Majome to remind the House that under section 2 of the Constitution “any law, practice, custom or conduct” inconsistent with the Constitution is invalid.  [Note: There are no women among the present 5 ex officio JSC members; there are 2 women among the other 4 members.  There are 2 vacancies: 1 to be filled ex officio by whoever is appointed Attorney-General, the other by the woman or man designated by university law teachers.  See Court Watch 3/2014 of 17th February.]

Amount of “spot fines” collected by ZRP  Also on 12th February, but in response to a written question with notice, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs dodged giving a monthly breakdown of spot fines collected by the police at roadblocks from January 2012 to November 2013.  Instead of giving figures, he advised the questioner to read a portfolio committee report [not yet released] on what the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs had told committee members on the subject and gave the House a general idea of the use to which the ZRP had put funds from fines retained by it under a Cabinet-approved Retention Scheme; he said the retained money had been “filling the gap” between the sum actually needed by ZRP and the funds allocated/released by the Ministry of Finance.

Senate

Bills

Finance and Appropriation Bills  The Finance Bill was passed on the 5th February, the Appropriation (2014) Bill on the 11th, both following passage by the National Assembly.

Electoral Bill  This Bill was introduced into the Senate on 6th February by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on behalf of the Minister, given its First Reading and referred to the PLC as required by Standing Orders.  The Constitution permits any Bill other than a Money Bill to be introduced in either the National Assembly or the Senate [Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 2].

International loan agreement approved  On 11th February the Senate approved the Government’s soft loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China for funding of the Kariba South Power Station Extension project.  The National Assembly had approved it earlier.  [Section 327(3) of the Constitution provides that an agreement between a foreign organisation or entity and the Government which “imposes fiscal obligations on Zimbabwe” does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament.] 

Motions  Debate took place on several motions:

  • ·      special needs education – a motion brought up by the two Senators, the Hons Mashavakure and Shiri, who represent people living with disability.  [Note both the motion and the proposers’ speeches to introduce the motion were excellent and will be available as a Word document on Veritas website –details below – from Monday.]
    • ·      provision of social services in resettlement areas
    • ·      combating the destruction of the environment.

Ministerial Statement on Tokwe/Mukorsi Dam Disaster  At the start of proceedings on 13th February, the normal order of business was changed to allow the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to make a detailed statement on the effect of the abnormal rains and consequential flooding at the dam site, which had necessitated not only a massive search and rescue exercise, but also compressing into a much shorter period the relocation exercise for the 6393 families to be displaced by the dam.

Question Times [Thursday]  Senators have been putting down more written questions with notice than previously.  At Question Time on the 6th there was only one Minister present to answer questions with notice, and the President of the Senate asked that Ministers be reminded of their duty to attend the Senate at this time.  On 13th February, after a delay to accommodate the Ministerial statement on Tokwe/Mukorsi, Question Time proceeded, with the President of the Senate commending the Leader of Government Business and the Chief Whip for having arranged a full bench of Ministers to deal with questions.  Most questions went to the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation & Irrigation Development.  By the end of the session, the backlog of written questions on the Order Paper had been reduced from 22 to 12.

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