President has Not Repealed Unconstitutional SIs [including SI on New Mining Fees]
No notices have been gazetted by the President to repeal SI 11/2012 [the controversial new mining fees], SI 153/2011 [amending VAT regulations on fiscalised cash registers] and four other statutory instruments [local authority by-laws] found to be inconsistent with the Constitution by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]. Bill Watch 24/2012 of 5th June explained in detail why the Senate’s adoption of the PLC’s adverse reports on these SIs obliges the President to “forthwith” repeal the SIs, or the provisions in them specified in the adverse reports; “forthwith” requires prompt action by the President.
In the House of Assembly Last Week
Older Persons Bill – the Speaker announced the receipt of a non-adverse report from the PLC. This clears the way for the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare to make her speech commencing the Second Reading stage.
Other Bills No other Bills on the Order Paper were dealt with at all, even though two of them are urgent – the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill. No explanation was given to the House for standing Bills down in favour of other agenda items. Hon Madzimure, MDC-T, commented during debate on the President’s speech that this Parliament had failed to deliver on its legislative responsibility, “not because we are not prepared to debate the Bills which should be laid for the good governance of our people, it is because the Executive is letting us down”.
Prime Minister’s Question Time rescheduled for 20th June
The House adopted a motion by the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs have PM’s Question Time on Wednesday 20th June, when the House will be sitting, instead of 27th June, when it is not due to sit.
Motion on President’s opening speech Debate resumed on the motion of thanks to the President for his speech opening this present session. [During this debate MPs have the opportunity to talk about the situation in their constituencies. Standing Orders allow backbenchers a total of 35 hours for this purpose. So far, as the end of the session approaches, only 8½ hrs have been utilised.] The debate was noteworthy on two counts:
• Speeches by MPs who had not yet spoken since the opening of this Parliament in 2008. [There has recently been adverse press publicity about the poor attendance record of many MPs and the failure by some to make contributions to proceedings.]
• Two MPs accused of involvement in political violence death The debate was dominated by MPs from all parties condemning inter-party violence. Many focused on the incident in Mudzi district that had resulted in the death of MDC-T ward chairperson for Mudzi North, Cephas Magura, on 26th May. He died after allegedly being assaulted by ZANU-PF supporters who disrupted a MDC-T rally at Chimukoko business centre in Mudzi North. MDC-T contributors to the debate deplored the alleged involvement of two ZANU-PF MPs in the incident, naming them as Aqualinah Katsande, MP for Mudzi West and Newten Kachepa, MP for Mudzi North, and queried their fitness to be MPs. One outraged MP said that he wished he could move a motion “that these two people be suspended from attending Parliament until it is found out that they were not directly involved in the violence”.
[Note: Neither the Constitution nor Parliamentary Standing Orders permit the House to suspend an MP pending investigation of his or her alleged involvement in a crime, serious or otherwise. The possibility of suspension arises only if an MP is convicted of a crime by a court – and is automatic only if a gaol sentence of 6 months or more is imposed. A political party can also bring about an MP’s automatic expulsion from the House of Assembly by expelling him or her from the party and notifying the Speaker accordingly. According to the ZANU-PF website, ZANU-PF members have the duty not to bring the Party into disrepute or ridicule.]
Portfolio Committee Report on the Public Media
Hon Chikwinya, MDC-T chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology, introduced the committee’s report on the State of Public Media in Zimbabwe. He was seconded by committee member Hon Matonga of ZANU-PF. Debate was adjourned to allow MPs an opportunity to consider the report [available from [email protected]].
Question Time – Wednesday 6th June
• Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy PM Mutambara dealt with the Roadmap to Elections and the SADC Summit in Luanda. The Prime Minister said there would be no unilateral calling of elections: “No one can wake up one morning and say I have dissolved the GPA, I have dissolved the GNU and therefore we are going to elections. There is nothing like that, unless you want to reduce this country to another situation where we were at each other’s throats. It is not necessary and as the President said in Luanda, he has never called and he has no intention of calling for an election unilaterally.” The DPM said Parliament’s 5-year life-span would expire in June 2013, correcting his earlier insistence on March 2013, which was criticised in Bill Watch 23/2012 of 31st May.
• The Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs described the current state of the constitution-making process, declined to suggest a date for the Referendum, and defended COPAC against accusations that it harboured “mafia” elements. He also said no money was in sight from the Ministry of Finance for Constituency Development Funds.
• The Minister of Finance said that as the Reserve Bank’s former quasi-fiscal activities were now illegal the Bank was in the process of disposing of all its quasi-fiscal interests.
• The Minister of Defence claimed that qualifications for new army recruits had been raised, not lowered, but when pressed conceded that “exceptions” for unqualified persons might be allowed in order to maintain a balance to comply with the need for the army to be composed from all regions in the country; he did not elaborate on the scale of such exceptions in practice. Asked whether there are any plans to compensate the victims of Gukurahundi, he said that there is no policy position or statute for payment of compensation – but added that ways and means of healing the wounds of the Gukurahundi period are being handled by the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration and voiced his hope that the Organ “will deal with this matter satisfactorily”.
Coming up in the House of Assembly this Week
Government Bills lead the House agenda in the order set out below, but, as last week’s sittings demonstrated, this is no guarantee that they will be dealt with. It will be interesting to see whether anything comes out of the Deputy Prime Minister’s 6th June Question Time call for the Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill to be “passed yesterday”.
• Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill – for the Committee Stage [amendments to the Bill have been tabled by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs to take account of objections raised by the PLC in its conditional non-adverse report]
• National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill – for the Second Reading speech by the Minister of Industry and Commerce
• Electoral Amendment Bill – for consideration of the PLC’s adverse report
• Older Persons Bill – for the Second Reading speech by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare
Mr Gonese’s Private Member’s Bill to repeal section 121(3) of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act is a long way down the agenda, as item 18. Debate on his motion requesting leave to introduce this Bill is still incomplete.
Proceedings on Hon Matimba’s Private Member's Urban Councils Amendment Bill are suspended pending the Supreme Court’s decision on Minister Chombo’s application, and the Bill is relegated to the very end of the Order Paper.
Alleged Reserve Bank corruption This new motion, tabled by Hon Zhanda of ZANU-PF, seconded by Hon Madzimure of MDC-T, asks the House to express concern at alleged “corruption, shady deals, acts of economic sabotage and poor corporate governance” and the Anti-Corruption Commission’s apparent involvement in the matter” and for the appointment of an ad hoc Parliamentary committee to investigate this. [Note: Hon Zhanda chairs the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance, Economic Planning and Investment Promotion which has had little success in getting the Reserve Bank Governor and Board to appear before it to give evidence.]
Portfolio Committee report on Public Media This is also high on the agenda, giving backbenchers the chance to debate the portfolio committee’s report and the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity a chance to respond to the committee’s findings and recommendations. The committee recommends changes to the existing set-up, including transforming the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation into a true public broadcaster as opposed to a State broadcaster. On AIPPA, having listed some of the concerns expressed to the committee by stakeholders, the report [available from [email protected]] recommends that “Government should review the Media legislation in line with the provisions of the GPA that infringes on the journalist profession”. This unclear wording falls short of calling for the repeal of or even major amendments to AIPPA. [Note: Parliament cannot itself “move to amend AIPPA” as suggested by a press headline, but it can, as it has here, call on the Executive to take action.]
Question Time – Wednesday
There are 42 written questions with notice on the Order Paper for Wednesday, most carried over but including new questions on:
• holding political meetings at schools – with the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture asked to explain the position and to state responsibility for repairing damage caused at a named school by political violence at a ZANU-PF meeting in May
• SA judgment on prosecution of Zimbabweans This question refers to a South African court decision ordering the South African National Prosecuting Authority and SA Police to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against 18 Zimbabwean officials, with a view to their being prosecuted in South Africa in accordance with South Africa’s obligations as a signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. Hon Cairo Mhandu of ZANU-PF asks the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs to explain the Government’s position, to name the 18 Zimbabwean officials and to say whether they were informed of the case.
Coming up in the Senate This Week
The Senate will be sitting for the first time since 17th May. Its resumption of sittings a week later than the House of Assembly was presumably intended to give the House time to finish passing pending Bills and then transmit them to the Senate. But that did not happen last week [see above]. So the Senate Order Paper is short and Senators will be limited to debating motions on Thematic Committee reports on education in resettled areas and the ARV therapy roll-out programme; Senator Mohadi’s motion for assistance to farmers in drought-stricken agricultural region 5; and Hon Gonese’s long-stalled motion for the restoration of his POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper. PLC adverse reports on SIs may also be presented [see Bill Watch 24/2012 of 6th June for a list of six March SIs expected to attract adverse reports].
Government Gazette 8th June
Statutory Instruments [for information only – NOT available from Veritas]
Collective bargaining agreements – sugar milling industry wages and allowances [SI 105/2012]; Grain Marketing Board wages and allowances for July-December 2012 [SI 101/2012, a republication with corrections of SI 89/2012] and for 2012 [SI 102/2012]
Industrial designs – new $100 fee for renewal of registration [SI 106/2012].Post published in: Politics