BILL WATCH 50/2013 [7th October 2013] Update on Legislation

BILL WATCH 50/2013

[7th October 2013]

Update on Legislation

Acts of the Last Parliament Not Yet Gazetted 

Two Bills passed by the last Parliament have still not been gazetted as Acts:

  • ·      Electricity Amendment Bill – a short piece of legislation to provide for the unbundling of the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company [ZETDC].  It is in the final stages of Presidential signature and gazetting as law.
  • ·      Income Tax Bill – a very large piece of legislation designed to replace the present Income Tax Act, which dates from 1967, and to introduce major changes into the law of income tax in this country.  This has not gone up to the President for his assent.  As a result of the substantial number of amendments made to the Bill during its passage through Parliament, the printing of the final version incorporating those amendments has been a major printing job, a start on which was initially delayed by the Government Printer’s commitments to the printing of election-related documents.  The page-proofs of the final version are still being checked by the drafters in the Attorney-General’s Office.  This item is extremely urgent, because it is vital that the authoritative text of the new Act is gazetted well ahead of 1st January 2014, which is its stated date of commencement.  It is regrettable that at the present rate the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, and taxpaying entities and individuals and their advisers, may well find themselves with less than three months to make preparations for the changeover to the new system.

Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act: Revised Version Not Yet Available

Although the Law Reviser had previously announced that the extensively revised version of this important Act would become available from the Government Printer on 4th October, this did not happen.  Printing has not been completed.  The extent of the revision needed was set out in SI 123/2013, noted in Bill Watch 43/2012 of 2nd September.

Government Gazette

Telephone customers’ details to be registered under POTRAZ control

SI 142/2013  Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations, gazetted on 27th September and coming into force on 1st October 2013

Bill Watch 49/2013 analyses these regulations in detail, considers whether they are ultra vires [not authorised by the Act under which they purport to be made] and looks at their constitutionality.  In addition to the issues raised in Bill Watch 49 on this SI:

There was lack of public consultation  It would have been hoped that the responsible Ministry would undertake wide public consultation before gazetting far-reaching regulations which were bound to cause widespread public alarm.  Prior public consultation would also have been in accordance with the binding principles of good governance stated in section 3(2) of the Constitution, particularly paragraph (f), which enjoins the State and all agencies of government at every level to show “respect for the people of Zimbabwe, from whom the authority to govern is derived”.  Instead, the regulations were sprung on the public at very short notice – only three days before they came into effect.

There were careless mistakes in the text  The regulations are also marred by careless mistakes that would normally have to be corrected by re-enactment or by amending regulations.  For instance, the penalty provision in section 12 purports to create offences for contraventions of other sections of the regulations that do not exist; and a similar error occurs in section 4.

[Note: Hitherto POTRAZ has attempted to implement a subscriber registration scheme by incorporating appropriate conditions in the licences issued by it to service providers, so, many cell phone users will already have provided the relevant information to their service providers.  But long-standing landline customers, at least, are likely to find themselves requested to submit additional or updated personal or company details to their service provider unless the SI is challenged in Parliament or the courts.]

Vehicle registration and licensing

SI 141/2013 and the closely-related General Notice [GN] 490/2013 were both gazetted on 27th September, effective immediately.  Taken together, they seem mainly designed to make the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration [ZINARA] the principal registering and licensing organ for vehicles, with ZIMPOST as its authorised agent – so it will still be possible to get vehicle licences from certain post offices as well as ZINARA offices.  The SI also contains a new schedule of licence fees and an additional late licensing penalty of $20, only chargeable after the first 30 days, for every month or part of a month of delay in renewing a licence.  The new tariff of fees classifies vehicles into 14 categories based on net mass and in many cases vehicle owners have found themselves now liable to fees far higher than those applicable under the old, simpler classification.

Both the SI and the GN, like SI 142/2013 discussed immediately above and in more detail in Bill Watch 49/2013, purport to emanate from the non-existent Minister of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development.  In the GN, the Minister who “hereby” designates Zimbabwe National Roads Administration [ZINARA] officers as registering officers to the exclusion of all previously designated registering officers, is specifically named as N. Goche.  Yet Mr Goche, although the Minister of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development until 22nd August, has since 11th September been the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare – and he certainly had no power to perform the functions of the Minister responsible for transport matters on 27th September, the date of the GN and the regulations.  Since 11th September the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, presumably responsible for vehicle registration and licensing, is Mr Mpofu, who was sworn in as such on that date.

Agricultural marketing: grains, oilseeds and grain and oilseed products 

SI 140/2013 was gazetted in a Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 23rd September.  It contains what section 1 says are to be cited as the Agricultural Marketing Authority (Grain, Oilseed and Oilseed Products) Regulations, although a reading of the regulations makes it clear that they apply to eleven grains and products derived from processing them, and three oilseeds and products derived from processing them, all as defined in section 3.

Everyone from growers of such crops to buyers, contractors, brokers, traders and processors is obliged to register annually with the Agricultural Marketing Authority [AMA]; contractors wishing to finance growers in order to purchase from them subsequently should have done so no later than 30th September: again, like SI 142, impossibly short notice.  All activities of those in the industry are tightly regulated, particularly for contract growers and their contractors/sponsors.  There are many pages of Schedules: application and registration forms are set out in the First Schedule, registration fees in the Second Schedule, standards to be complied with for grains, oilseeds and their products in the Third Schedule, and penalties for “offences” [some of which merit close consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee] in the Fourth Schedule.

Urgent Need for Clarity on Ministerial Functions

The fact that SIs 141 and 142 and GN 490 of 2013 purport to have been issued by a Ministry that no longer exists illustrates the urgent need for the President’s Office to gazette statutory instruments clearly stating the President’s new assignments of Ministerial responsibility for administering Acts of Parliament following his recent Ministerial appointments.  [See Bill Watch 45/2013 of 16th September.]

An additional official gazetting of Ministerial responsibilities covering functions and areas of responsibility, although not previously customary, would be a great help to anyone contemplating dealing with Government and therefore a welcome advance in the interests of good administration, transparency and accountability.