Bill Watch 59/2013 of 11th December [Budget Presentation on 19th December]

BILL WATCH 59/2013

[11th December 2013]

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning will Present the 2014 Budget

in the National Assembly on Thursday 19th December

19th December Budget Presentation

Monday’s announcement by the Ministry of Finance that the 2014 National Budget would be presented on Thursday 19th December was a surprise, coming only a few days after both Houses of Parliament had adjourned for a seven-week break ending on 28th January next year.

Special recall of National Assembly necessary  Getting members of the National Assembly together on 19th December will require a special recall of MPs by the Speaker in terms of Standing Order 194 which provides that when the National Assembly stands adjourned [as it does at present], the President may represent to the Speaker that “the public interest requires” that it should meet during the adjournment.  If the Speaker is satisfied that the President is right, then the Speaker may give notice accordingly, and the National Assembly must meet on the day specified by the Speaker.

Parliament is still processing the formalities for the recall.

Business to be conducted  The main business on the 19th December will be the Budget presentation, although it is open to the Government to have other business included on the agenda.  The Budget presentation will entail the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning:

  • ·      delivering the Budget Statement
  • ·      tabling two important documents:

o   the Estimates of Expenditure for 2014

o   a draft Finance Bill to give effect to proposed taxation changes.

The National Assembly will then adjourn to allow MPs, Parliamentary portfolio committees and the public to study the Budget package.  MPs will also be able consult their constituencies in preparation for the ensuing debate.

Post-presentation proceedings  The timetable for post-Budget portfolio committee meetings is still being planned, but there has been no suggestion that MPs will be expected to meet during the two weeks of the coming festive season holiday period.  An intensive series of portfolio committee meetings in early to mid-January therefore seems likely.  Portfolio committee chairpersons will present their committees’ reports on the Budget package during the resumed debate in the National Assembly.  

[Note: Committee work on the 2013 Budget took a week, starting with a Post-Budget Seminar and followed by committee meetings: two meetings for each committee, the first open to the public and the second a closed meeting for deliberations and preparation of the committee’s report.]

Reserve Bank Governor’s Post Vacant

Dr Gideon Gono’s second and final five-year term of office as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe came to an end on 30th November.  As section 15 of the Reserve Bank Act [RBZ Act] rules out any extension or re-appointment beyond the ten years he has now served, a new Governor will have to be appointed.  In terms of section 14 of the RBZ Act the new Governor is appointed by the President after consultation with the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and must be a person who has “competence and experience relating to banking, finance and economics”.  The decision is the President’s; he must consult the Minister and consider what the Minister says, but he is not obliged to follow the Minister’s recommendation.  Moreover, the Constitution states in making appointments under Acts the President may act without advice from the Cabinet.

[Note:  Section 110(2)(d) and (6) of the Constitution allow the President to make this appointment, and other statutory appointments generally, without advice from the Cabinet.  While section 317 of the Constitution provides for the existence of the Reserve Bank and states its main objectives, it leaves the method of appointing the Governor to be covered by the RBZ Act.]

Dr Gono to Fill Vacant Manicaland Senate Seat

ZANU-PF party structures in Manicaland have already approved Dr Gono as their candidate to fill the Senate seat for Manicaland that fell vacant with the death of ZANU-PF Senator Kumbirai Kangai in August.  As this is a proportional representation party-list seat, section 157(1)(c) of the Constitution requires it to be filled by a qualified person belonging to the same political party and of the same gender as the late Senator Kangai.  The procedure for filling the vacancy is laid down by section 39 of the Electoral Act and does not involve a by-election with competing candidates [see Bill Watch 44/2013 of 6th September for details].  In essence, ZANU-PF must submit to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] a nomination paper naming Dr Gono and signed by him and two national office-bearers of the party.  ZEC, if satisfied the nomination paper is in order, must give public notice of the nomination and allow a stated period for registered voters to object to the nomination, giving their reasons.  If no valid objection is lodged, Dr Gono will be declared duly elected.  If a valid objection is lodged, ZEC must call for a fresh nomination and repeat the public notice procedure until a qualified person is identified.

[Note: A party-list vacancy does not have to be filled from the party list submitted to ZEC for the harmonised elections.  There is no such provision in either the Constitution or the Electoral Act.  So ZANU-PF is entitled to nominate Dr Gono.]

Update on Acts

Income Tax Act  President Mugabe had until Friday 29th November to decide whether to sign the Bill for this Act into law and gazette it as an Act, or send it back to Parliament [Constitution, section 131].  The Act has not been gazetted, and the President’s decision has not been made public.  It is to be hoped that the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning will be able to clarify the position in his Budget presentation, if not earlier.

Electricity Amendment Act  The Act was gazetted on 18th October [by GN 501/2013]. There has been no official confirmation of press reports of an irregularity in the President’s signing and gazetting of the Act.

Update on Bills

Printing of the two Bills listed below is nearly complete, so they may be gazetted before the end of the month, before being presented to Parliament next year. [Summaries and copies cannot be provided until the Bills are gazetted.]

  • ·      Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill  This was one of the Bills mentioned by the President in his speech opening Parliament in September.
  • ·      Biological and Toxin Weapons Crimes Bill  This Bill was not mentioned in the President’s speech.

Government Gazettes of 29th November and 6th December

Statutory Instruments [SIs]

Only two SIs were gazetted, both on 29th November:

Prisons and Correctional Service  SI 160/2013 states the new rank structure of the Prisons and Correctional Service, which is the name of the former Prison Service under the new Constitution [sections 227 to 231].  The ranks range from Commissioner-General for the head of the Service down to Prison Officer Grade 2.  Under the former Constitution, the head of the Prison Service was known as the Commissioner.

Collective bargaining agreement  SI 161/2013 specifies motor industry wages for the period 1st July 2013 to 30th June 2014.

General Notices [GNs]

Land acquisition: Caledonia Farm  GN 532/2013, gazetted in a Gazette Extraordinary on 29th November, is a preliminary notice, in terms of section 5 of the Land Acquisition Act, that the State intends to compulsorily acquire the 297-hectare piece of land known as Lot 1 of Caledonia, adjacent to Tafara Township outside Harare.  As this is to be an acquisition “for urban development” under the Land Acquisition Act, as opposed to a summary acquisition for agricultural settlement or similar purposes under section 72 of the Constitution, objections may be lodged and must be heard and determined by the Administrative Court, and if the acquisition goes ahead,“fair and adequate compensation”, as assessed by the Administrative Court, must be paid within a reasonable time [Constitution, section 71, and Land Acquisition Act].  Objections to the proposed acquisition must be lodged with the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement on or before 30th December 2013.

 

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