via Bill Watch 5/2015 of 16h February – The Zimbabwean 17 February 2015
Both Houses of Parliament Are Sitting This Week
What Happened in Parliament Last Week
On all three sitting days, the National Assembly sat for three hours or more, rising at 5.46 pm, 5.15 pm and 5.21 pm.
Gender Commission of Zimbabwe Bill The Bill was not discussed during the week. The report of the Portfolio Committee was not ready to be presented to the National Assembly.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe [RBZ] (Debt Assumption) Bill As already noted in Bill Watch 4/2015, the Second Reading debate continued at length on Tuesday 10th February. MPs differed on whether or not amounts owed to RBZ by beneficiaries of the RBZ farm equipment hand-outs should be recovered, and it was pointed out that MPs on both sides of the House had been beneficiaries. This prompted Hon Chamisa of MDC-T to raise a point of order referring to section 17 of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, which makes it an offence for an MP to vote on or take part in the discussion of a matter in which he or she has a direct pecuniary interest.
Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill There was some progress on 10th February, with Hon Chapfika presenting the joint report of the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development and the Public Accounts Committee, which supported the Bill but recommended a few improvements.
[All three Bills are available from the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.]
Declaration of assets by public officers On 11th February, following an extended Question Time, Hon Madzimure introduced his motion in a comprehensive speech that lasted until the National Assembly adjourned for the day.
Congratulations to President Mugabe on becoming AU chairperson On 12th February ZANU-PF Chief Whip Hon Joram Gumbo introduced this new motion, beginning a debate that took up most of the afternoon and was marked by frequent heckling from both sides and an MDC-T walkout after they accused the Temporary Speaker of unduly favouring ZANU-PF MPs when recognising contributors to the debate. ZANU-PF MPs heaped praise on the President. MDC-T MPs, choosing their words with care, suggested that Africa’s challenges required a continental leader with energy, tenacity, agility and youthfulness and a track record of sorting out his own country’s problems. The Temporary Speaker said divergent views on the motion were permissible, but only if expressed with respect.
Question Time [Wednesday 11th February] There were enough Ministers present to fill the hour allotted to questions without notice, and to justify the extension for an extra 15 minutes of the hour for questions with written notice. The Minister of Mines dealt with several questions: the effect of low international chrome prices on local chrome miners, including small-scale miners, and the importance of the cost of power to all in the mining sector; Government’s efforts to ensure that gold mined is delivered to the sole authorised buyer, Fidelity Refineries; and problems caused by miners who abandon mines. The Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, resisted suggestions that the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment legislation puts off foreign investors. The Minister of Agriculture said Government intends to revive the Cotton Marketing Board as part of moves to revive the cotton sector. The Minister of Transport assured MPs that the Highway Code is being reviewed by the Road Traffic Safety Council. Written questions with notice elicited detailed answers from the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services on the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting and the country’s capacity thereafter to meet the 75% local content requirement for broadcasters. The Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce spoke of a cocktail of measures to combat de-industrialisation; steps to improve capacity utilisation in industry; and progress on the revival of ZIMSTEEL, formerly ZISCO, and David Whitehead Industries.
Again, there was no Government business to deal with. On 10th February the Deputy President exhorted Senators to put down more written questions for Ministers. Sittings ended at 4.14 pm, 4.17 pm and 3.39 pm.
Gender-based Violence in Churches On 10th February Senator W. Sibanda presented the Report of the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development on this subject. Senators who then contributed to the debate supported the committee’s recommendation that there be consultation with churches with a view to enactment of legislation for registration churches and regulation of church operations [the report is available from the addresses given at the end of this bulletin]
Incentivisation of production of small grains On 11th February Senator Goto introduced his motion calling on Government to incentivise the production of small grains. Senators who spoke supported the motion enthusiastically.
Question Time [Thursday 12th January]
Reasonable attendance by Ministers and Deputy Ministers enabled Senators to use up almost all of the two hours allotted for questions. The Minister of Health explained Government’s measures – spraying and medication – to combat malaria in the 47 districts identified as malaria-prone; he also fielded other questions on health sector problems. The Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education told Senators that Lupane State University campus should be relocated from Bulawayo to Lupane by June. The Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services announced a massive NetOne programme to upgrade mobile reception and technology, and said TelOne had been directed to investigate reviving telephone callbox infrastructure to assist persons who cannot afford mobile phones or landlines.
Coming up in Parliament This Week
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill Second Reading stage to continue.
Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill Second Reading stage to continue.
Gender Commission Bill Continuation of the Second Reading stage depends on whether or not the report of the Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development is ready; this is to be a joint report with the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development.
Motions Debates on motions presented in previous sittings are scheduled to continue. New motions high on the agenda are:
International Women’s Day as public holiday Hon Khupe’s motion urges the declaration of International Women’s Day [8th March] as a public holiday.
Vagrancy Act repeal and replacement This is a motion by Hon Muderedzwa.
Written Questions [Wednesday 18th February] There are 42 written questions.
The Senate Order Paper is no longer as short as it has been, but there are still no Bills.
Congratulations to President Mugabe on becoming AU chairperson Senator Mathuthu will propose a motion in terms identical to that presented to the National Assembly on 12th February.
Ongoing debates will continue on the following motions:
Production of small grains Debate is listed to continue on Senator Goto’s motion urging the Government to incentivise the production of small grains.
Gender-based violence Debate is also scheduled to continue on the motion to take note of the Report on Gender Based Violence in Churches produced by the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development.
Vote of thanks to the President for his speech opening the present Parliamentary session.
Question Time [Thursday 19th February]
The number of written questions has been reduced to 5, all carried forward.
There were no statutory instruments at all in the Government Gazette dated 13th February, and no General Notices of general importance.