Bill Watch 49/2011 of 8th November

[Budget Seminar for MPs; Increased Political Violence; SADC Facilitation Team]

Both Houses of Parliament are adjourned until 15th November

MPs at Victoria Falls Last Week

For most of last week the majority of Parliamentarians were attending the Pre-Budget Seminar, which ran from Wednesday until Saturday at the Victoria Falls. Neither House sat. There were committee meetings on Monday and Tuesday only.

The Minister of Finance explained that the object of the seminar was to explain to Parliamentarians how the Budget would give effect to the Medium Term Plan’s proposals to stimulate growth. Parliamentarians’ response to his proposed budget allocations was critical and they brought up a number of issues they wanted the Executive to deal with.

• MPs expressed scepticism about the success of the Medium Term Plan [MTP], the country’s latest economic blueprint, if Ministers failed to recognize their accountability to Parliament.

• The Speaker voiced Parliament’s displeasure at the way the Treasury decides Parliament’s budget, saying this was inconsistent with Parliament’s role as an independent institution. [The Constitution lays down that Parliament’s Budget is allocated by the Treasury, so any change in method of allocation would have to be to the constitution.]

• The Speaker also raised the issue of sitting allowances for members of the House of Assembly and Senators [Bill Watch 48/2011 of 7th November].

• Elected Senators demanded the funding of separate constituency development funds [CDFs] of their own. The setting-up of CDFs under the supervision of members of the House of Assembly has irked Senators from their inception in 2009. [In fact people living in Senatorial constituencies already benefit from the existing CDFs, because each Senatorial constituency includes 2 or 3 House of Assembly constituencies, and under the CDF constitutions the appropriate elected Senator sits on each of the CDF committees which decide how to utilise the funds in those constituencies.]

• Some MPs took advantage of a ZESA presentation on power sector priorities to ask for MPs to be exempted from paying electricity bills.

It is a positive sign that Parliament is pressing to assert its independence and to strengthen its oversight role of the Executive, but were some Parliamentarians more concerned with issues affecting them personally, than with larger national issues related to the Budget?

Kimberley Process Decision and How it Will Affect the Budget

On 1st November the Kimberley Process [KP] meeting in Kinshasa approved the sale of diamonds by two of the three “official” producers at the Chiadzwa diamond fields, with approval of the third producer scheduled to be finalised later. Precisely how this will impact on Budget revenue and expenditure projections for 2012 is not yet clear, but the Minister of Finance said later that the Budget’s projected revenue of $3.4 billion would have to be revised. The Minister of Mines claimed the fiscus would benefit to the tune of $2 billion a year. There is need for far more transparency about all the companies mining diamonds at Chiadzwa – how much is being mined and sold, what taxes and royalties are being paid, so that the whole nation can benefit from legal sales. KP monitors arrived in Zimbabwe over the weekend to carry out their duties – this time South African Abby Chikane will not function alone, but together with Belgian diamond expert Mark van Bockstael who is Chief Officer, International Affairs, at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre.

Increase in Violence

Police Crackdown on MDC-T and MDC rallies

Over the last two weeks MDC-T and MDC have been prevented from holding meetings and political rallies. Mr Tsvangirai’s scheduled rallies in Matabeleland North [at Lupane on Saturday 29th October and Victoria Falls on 30th October], although sanctioned by court order, were prevented from going ahead by armed police. Hon Theresa Makone’s 29th October constituency rally in Harare’s Hatcliffe suburb was disrupted by ZANU-PF supporters whose actions were not stopped by police. [Hon Makone is Co-Minister of Home Affairs but could not get police assistance.] MDC leader Welshman Ncube’s rally in Chivi, intended for 5th November, was disallowed by police. Mr Tsvangirai’s Star Rally at Chitungwiza on Sunday 6th November had to be called off when riot police dismally failed to control anti-MDC-T violence at the venue; many people were injured, 7 victims had to be hospitalised, several MDC-T vehicles were damaged, the MDC-T sound system was destroyed and looted, and cash stolen. On 1st November police, over-reacting to a trivial incident outside, besieged the MDC-T headquarters at Harvest House, beat up people, entered and fired teargas into the building, threatened and teargassed bystanders going about their business and brought the entire nearby city centre to a standstill as citizens ran for cover. MDC-T have said that this targeting of their rallies and headquarters comes on top of ongoing attacks and harassment of their individual activists.

Counter accusations

There are counter accusations of MDC-T youths attacking both the police and ZANU-PF youths. Conflicting press propaganda makes the situation difficult to assess, and there is lack of access to precise information on police investigations of such incidents. If the POSA Amendment Bill had been passed it would oblige the senior police officer present when police use force to disperse or prevent disorder at a gathering, to promptly prepare a written report detailing why and how force was used, any deaths, injuries or loss of or damage to property that resulted and to deliver copies of the report to the Minister of Home Affairs and the convener of the gathering”. Parliament would have the right to ask for such a report.

Mr Tsvangirai’s official functions as the Prime Minister also impeded

During a government work programme visit to Matabeleland North, police blocked Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s visit to the Lupane Clinic on 29th November, chasing away staff and locking the gate, leaving patients unattended.

Violence Against Parliamentarians

Last week’s there were threats against Hon Eddie Cross MP following a speech he made in the House of Assembly [Bill Watch 48 of 7th November 2011]. This came after MPs and Parliamentary officials were threatened during last month’s public hearings on the new Electoral Amendment Bill by the Portfolio Committee on Justice. In July there were violent disruptions of several public hearings held by the Portfolio Committee around the country on the Human Rights Commission Bill, culminating in an invasion of Parliament where MPs were manhandled, chased, threatened or actually assaulted and the Portfolio Committee’s proceedings brought to a standstill.

Interference with Parliamentary activities, both in Parliament itself and at official Parliamentary Committee meetings elsewhere, constitutes serious criminal contempt of Parliament, punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, if perpetrators are found guilty by a Privileges Committee of Parliament or by the ordinary courts of the land. So far there is little indication that the culprits have arrested.

Prime Minister's Statement on Violence: 3rd November

At his second monthly Prime Minister’s Press day on Wednesday 2nd November the Prime Minister issued a statement in which, as well as mentioning progress made by the inclusive government, he said that he had “witnessed the participation of the police in gross human rights violations. The violence we are witnessing is State-sponsored and State-driven. It is being championed by a few fascist leaders who want to reverse the little progress we have made. They have become a threat to peace, stability and social order in the country. I want to promise these misguided elements that their days are numbered because I and the President agreed yesterday that we must put a stop to this violence in Harare and elsewhere.” [Electronic version of complete statement available from [email protected]] After the Chitungwiza violence on Sunday 6th November the GPA principals decided at their regular Monday meeting that there would be a meeting between the MDC-T and MDC National Councils and the ZANU-PF Central Committee on Friday, to discuss the issue of political violence.

Visit by South African Facilitation Team

Two members of the South African facilitation team. Lindiwe Zulu and Charles Nqakula, arrived in Harare on Tuesday 1st November to follow up on progress on the implementation of the roadmap to elections and resolution of contentious inter-party issues. Their visit had been planned before the worst outbreaks of violence against the MDC, but the MDC and JOMIC said they would be raising the issue of escalating violence with them. The facilitators met GPA party negotiators, COPAC, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and civil society organisations, and returned to South Africa on 3rd November. ZANU-PF ‘s lead negotiator, Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, was accompanied by Professor Jonathan Moyo when he met the facilitators. Professor Moyo, who was recently made one of ZANU-PF’s representatives on JOMIC, was said to be standing in for absent ZANU-PF negotiators Nicholas Goche and Emerson Mnangagwa.

The stalemate on the contentious “grey areas” in the only partly-agreed roadmap to elections – political violence, security sector reforms and changes in the staff of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission – remains unresolved by the principals, notwithstanding the expectations of the facilitation team that by now the principals would have discussed them and possibly reached agreement. [Note: The first “agreed” version of the roadmap – minus timelines – was signed by the negotiators on April 2011; the “roadmap with timelines” was signed on 6th July. One of the obstacles to tangible progress by the principals and the party negotiators was that there has never been definite time frames for settlement of disputes, the agreed “implementation matrix” and now the election roadmap. Instead there have been flexible terms such as “immediately” and “as soon as possible” which have left the whole process open to manipulations and delaying tactics]

On 31st March the SADC Livingstone Summit resolved that the Organ Troika must appoint “a team of officials to join the Facilitation Team and work with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) to ensure monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the GPA”. At their Sandton Extraordinary Summit the SADC leaders “urged” the Organ Troika to appoint their representatives “as soon as possible to participate in the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC)”. The Troika members are South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania, and each country is to provide one member of the team. The Troika officials have still not joined the facilitation team.

Visit from President Zuma/ Meeting of SADC Organ Troika/SADC Summit?

The facilitation team’s spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu said the stalemate between the parties meant that the only option was for President Zuma to engage the principals directly. The team is expected back in Harare on 21st November. Ms Zulu said there would “soon” be a visit to Zimbabwe by President Zuma, ahead of a meeting of the SADC Organ Troika. She also said that the Organ Troika Meeting would be followed by an extraordinary SADC Summit with Zimbabwe on the agenda.

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