BILL WATCH 27/2017
[9th August 2017]
Parliament is now in recess until Tuesday 12th September
New Dates for Opening of the Next Session and MPs’ Return to Parliament
Last week’s Parliamentary sittings, on 1st, 2nd and 3rd August, were a departure from the Parliamentary Sitting Calendar, which scheduled August as a free month, apart from 22nd August, for which the Official Opening of the Fifth Session was pencilled in. The extra sittings have caused the following changes to the calendar—
· Parliament will not be meeting during the first week in September
· the date of the official opening of the next session has been pushed back to Tuesday 12th September.
Barring a special recall to deal with urgent business, therefore, MPs now have the next five weeks in which to recharge their batteries in preparation for a potentially very busy 3½ months until the Christmas break. Apart from the inevitably arduous preparations for the 2018 Annual Budget, the Government has some large and complex Bills lined up and likely to require time-consuming attention:-
Bills for next Session
· Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill [link] [under consideration by PLC since 1st Reading on 11th May]
· Insolvency Bill [link] [under consideration by PLC since 1st Reading on 20th July]
· Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill [link] [gazetted , awaiting introduction and 1st Reading]
· Civil Aviation Amendment Bill [not yet gazetted and therefore not available, but officially listed by Parliament’ as awaiting gazetting]
Vacancies in Parliament
There is one vacancy brought about by the death of MDC-T Matabeleland North Senator Alphina Juba on 9th July. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] has not yet gazetted the name of a person nominated by the party to fill the vacancy.
ZEC has gazetted its declaration of Revayi Muguti as a party-list proportional representation MP for Harare Metropolitan Province with effect from 28th July, following her nomination by the MDC-T party to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Ronia Bunjira [GN 440/2017].
Question Marks Hanging over Constitution Amendment Bill
Serious questions have been raised about the validity of the two thirds majorities recorded for this Bill in both the National Assembly on 25th July and the Senate on 1st August [see Bill Watch 26/2017 of 3rd August entitled Was the Constitution Amendment Bill Passed? [link].
Parliament is nevertheless going ahead with preparing the Bill for submission to the President for his assent and signature, and later gazetting as law.
In the National Assembly – 25th July to 3rd August
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill See the item Question Marks Hanging over Constitution Amendment Bill immediately above this one.
National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill The National Assembly finally completed the Committee Stage on Thursday 3rd August after considering extensive amendments proposed by MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese and MDC-T MP Jessie Majome [mostly negatived, but some approved] and by the Minister of State in Vice-President Mphoko’s office [all approved]. The Bill was then referred back to the PLC for its report on the constitutionality of the amendments. A separate Bill Watch will offer an annotated version of the Bill and outline the amendments.
Agenda items that remained on the back-burner during the period included the following Bills:-
ZEP-RE (Membership of Zimbabwe and Branch Office Agreement) Bill This recommitted Bill was originally passed in March and later sent to the President for assent. The President returned it to the National Assembly for further attention, drawing attention to an omission from the preamble to the Bill. On 18th July the House approved the substitution of an entirely new preamble to meet the President’s reservations. The PLC’s very recent report on the amendment still has to be considered.
Estate Administrators Amendment Bill [link] This is still awaiting its Committee Stage, as it has been since early June.
Land Commission Bill [link]. This came back to the National Assembly on 19th July, for consideration of the Senate’s amendments but was not dealt with [see Bill Watch 25/2017 [link] of 26th July for the Senate’s rejection of the PLC’s adverse report on those amendments].
Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill [link] The Minister of Mines and Mining Development did not press on with his postponed motion to restore this lapsed Bill to the Order Paper at the point reached at the end of the previous session of Parliament [last year].
2016 Budget Review and 2017 Economic Outlook
There was no further debate on of this document [link], which was presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development on 20th July. As the Minister explained to the House at the start of his presentation, this Review was in place of the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review,: “As I indicated to Parliament in December 2016, the issuance of the Annual Budget Review, therefore, makes the issuance of the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review no longer necessary, save for exceptional circumstances requiring Supplementary Budget proposals.”
Proposed appointment of Auditor-General
On 27th July the Minister of Finance and Economic Development presented a motion seeking the National Assembly’s approval, as required by section 310 of the Constitution, of the President’s proposed appointment of Mr Michael Ndudzo as Auditor-General in succession to Mrs Mildred Chiri. The Minister assured the House that, contrary to incorrect press reports, (1) Mr Ndudzo had not been appointed already and (2) Mrs Chiri, whose career he described as illustrious, had not been dismissed but had come to the end of her term of office and had even turned down Government’s offer of another 6-year term. Mrs Chiri had, however, agreed to head a new Ministry of Finance Audit Department whose mission would be to ensure implementation by Ministries of recommendations in Auditor-General’s reports. After MPs protested that there should have been prior consultation with the Public Accounts Committee before the Minister brought the matter to the House, the Minister asked that the debate be adjourned until he had undertaken further consultations.
Report of Privileges Committee on Cell Phone Death Threats to MDC-T MPs
This report [link] was presented by the committee chairperson, Senator Charumbira on 27th July. It was also presented to the Senate [see below].
In the Senate – 25th July to 3rd August
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill
See the item Question Marks Hanging over Constitution Amendment Bill above. Bill Watch 26/2017 of 3rd August [Was the Constitution Amendment Bill Passed?] [link] outlined the Senate’s proceedings on this Bill on 26th July and 1st August. It also refers to the queries that have since arisen over whether the Bill’s final reading was passed by a legally valid two-thirds majority vote.
As the National Assembly has not yet passed any of the other Bills on Parliament’s agenda, this was the only Bill requiring attention from the Senate.
President’s State of the Nation speech – Senator Chipanga wound up the debate and the Senate approved his motion thanking the President for the State of the Nation speech delivered on 6th December 2016.
Report on Grain Marketing Board Performance last cropping season and Command Agriculture On 25th July Senator Mumvuri presented the report of the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security. Senators spent much of the rest of the week discussing the report.
Eradication of Statelessness After Senator Timveos wound up the debate, this important motion was approved. It calls on the Government to take action to deal with the problem of statelessness, including: reviewing and reforming legislation; ensuring gender equality in nationality matters; implementing Article 6(4) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on preventing childhood statelessness; having comprehensive birth registration and civil registration systems in Zimbabwe; accession to the UN Conventions on Stateless Persons, on Reduction of Statelessness and on Migrant Workers and their Families; support for the drafting, adoption and ratification of a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to deal with the Right to Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa.
Report of Privileges Committee on Cell Phone Death Threats to MDC-T MPs This report [link] was presented by the committee chairperson, Senator Charumbira on 1st August. Like their counterparts in the National Assembly, Senators were disappointed that those responsible for the threats had not been identified because neither the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority [POTRAZ] nor the service providers concerned had been able to trace the origin of the threatening messages. The report recommends (1) improvement of technology in the telecommunications sector to effectively combat cybercrime (2) expediting the passing of the Cybercrime Bill.
The next Bill Watch bulletin will provide an update on two Acts gazetted on 4th August
and the contents of the Government Gazettes published from 28th July to 4th August.