NGOs Not Banned: Ministerial Statement
On 14th March Labour and Social Welfare Minister Hon Mpariwa made a Ministerial Statement in the House of Assembly on 14th March in her capacity as Minister responsible for Minister responsible for registering, de-registering and setting the conditions of operations of NGOs [full text available from [email protected]]. Without referring directly to the recent action by the Masvingo Provincial Governor [see Bill Watch 5/2012 of 18th February] she confirmed that:
• all registered NGOs are entitled to carry on their operations in any part of Zimbabwe where their humanitarian and developmental services are needed. Only de-registered organisations are prohibited from carrying on any work.
• no NGOs have been de-registered since the formation of the Inclusive Government and as such no NGOs have been lawfully banned from carrying on their operations in Zimbabwe.
• NGOs are to be thanked for their work complementing Government’s efforts to meet citizens’ needs, and it is not Government policy to ban those who help us.
Minister Mpariwa is the Minister responsible for the Private Voluntary Organisations Act [PVO Act]. This is the Act under which NGOs are registered.
ZANU-PF Claims GPA Prohibits Private Members’ Bills
After a ZANU-PF parliamentary caucus meeting last week their Chief Whip, Hon Joram Gumbo, announced the caucus had agreed that it is not lawful for any MP to introduce a Private Member’s Bill. They believe that Article 20 of the GPA, as enshrined in Schedule 8 to the Constitution by Constitution Amendment No. 19, takes away the right of private members to introduce Bills. The matter would be raised with the Speaker.
The steps in the party’s argument are as follows:
• during the life of the GPA, Schedule 8 to the Constitution prevails “notwithstanding anything to the contrary” elsewhere in the Constitution [Comment: This is correct.]
• GPA Article 20.1.2(c), in Schedule 8 to the Constitution, says that “the Cabinet shall have the responsibility to prepare and present to Parliament, all such legislation and the instruments as maybe necessary to implement the policies, and programmes of the National Executive”. [Comment: This, too, is correct.]
• Paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 4 to the Constitution, which entitles individual MPs to introduce Private Members’ Bills, is overridden by Article 20.1.2(c) and cannot be invoked as long as the GPA lasts. [Comment: This proposition is questionable. Article 20.1.2(c) merely re-states the conventional, traditional position that Government Bills require Cabinet approval – presumably to make it quite plain that individual Ministers in the inclusive government cannot take Bills to Parliament without Cabinet approval. Provisions for Government Bills and Private Members’ Bills have always existed side by side. So it is difficult to see how Article 20.1.2(c), by mere implication, rules out Private Members’ Bills completely.]
Bills that could be affected by this new stance MDC-T MPs have put up three Private Members’ Bills so far:
• POSA Amendment Bill This has already been passed by the House of Assembly but is presently stalled in the Senate.
• Urban Councils Amendment Bill This was introduced with the permission of the House. The report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee is awaited. The Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development has written to the Speaker informing him that his Ministry is working on its own reforms of local government laws and objecting to the Bill as contrary to the GPA.
• Bill to repeal section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Hon Gonese has put down a motion, not yet presented, seeking the leave of the House to introduce this Bill.
New Deputy Minister Sworn In
On 16th March the President swore in ZANU-PF Senator for Chimanimani, Hon Monica Mutsvangwa, as Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare. She fills the vacancy left by Hon Tracy Mutinhiri, who left office in December 2011 after expulsion from ZANU-PF and the consequential loss of her Parliamentary seat.
In the Senate Last Week
Senators chided On Tuesday no-one was ready to speak and the House sat for only 13 minutes, prompting the Senate President to remind Senators that they should not merely wait for Ministers to bring work to them, but could create their own work by introducing motions for debate.
Motion on the media During Wednesday’s slightly longer sitting [37 minutes] several contributions were made to the debate on Senator Komichi’s motion on the partisan nature of the media.
Question Time On Thursday the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs became the first Minister to attend the Senate for Ministers’ Question Time. Most of the sitting of 1 hour 13 minutes was taken up with an informative question and answer session about Constituency Development Fund problems.
In the House of Assembly Last Week
Prime Minister’s First Monthly Statement to the House Honouring a pledge to keep the House regularly informed about what is happening in Government, the Prime Minister on Tuesday made a detailed statement explaining the recently-adopted Government Work Plan for 2012 [copy of statement available from [email protected]]. This was followed by a question and answer session. The Prime Minister said that in his next statement he would name Ministers who were underperforming or failing to implement agreed Government policies and programmes.
Bills All agenda items concerning Bills were carried forward untouched, including motions to restore Bills to the Order Paper.
• On the President’s Speech opening the Session Debate was resumed on Tuesday and several contributions made.
• Public Service audit Hon Mudiwa wound up the debate on his motion calling for the audit report to be presented to the House. the motion was then passed.
Three take-note motions on Portfolio Committee reports came up for debate:
• Willowvale Flats housing project mismanagement The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, presented this report, containing revelations of improprieties in the allocation of flats to beneficiaries. Several MPs contributed to the debate. It will continue next week.
• Ministry of Local Government budget performance Debate continued, with the presiding officer having to remind members that general complaints about the Minister’s exercise of statutory powers were not covered by the motion.
• National Railways The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development presented the committee’s report on the sorry state of the NRZ. The report’s 14 recommendations for Government action include the appointment of a board of directors for the company – it has had no board since June 2009. Debate started but was interrupted when the House adjourned for lack of a quorum.
Questions for Ministers
Mining companies Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara waxed eloquent on the need for Government vigilance in negotiating mining rights, to ensure mining companies give the country real value for the hugely valuable assets they are allowed to exploit.
Spot fines by police at roadblocks Co-Minister of Home Affairs Hon Mohadi, grilled about spot fines, told the House that Cabinet had condemned spot fines. So a policy to replace them was being formulated, the aim being that erring motorists be given tickets and pay admission of guilt fines at police stations or courts.
Police breaking commuter bus windscreens Co-Minister of Home Affairs Hon Makoni explained this practice is resorted to if necessary to immobilise an offending driver disobeying lawful police instructions to stop.
Housing co-operatives problems The Minister of National Housing said he had just presented to Cabinet his proposals for a Land Developers Bill to control this sector.
New mining fees The Deputy Minister of Mines denied that the new fees were designed to deter indigenous miners; the idea was to stop the holding of mining claims for speculative purposes.
Harbouring Ruanda genocide suspect The Minister of Foreign Affairs assured the House Zimbabwe would arrest and extradite the individual named if he was found. It was bound to do so by international law.
Maternal mortality and protection of women from HIV/AIDS Deputy Prime Minister Khupe gave detailed answers on these topics.
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