Last Few Sittings of this Session
Parliament’s sitting calendar was extended to put in extra July sittings this week and next week to accommodate:
• the Mid-Term Financial Statement by Finance Minister Tendai Biti – and any Amended Estimates of Expenditure and Appropriation Amendment Bill necessitated by the Statement, and
• passing two urgent major Bills – the Electoral Amendment Bill and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill. This will mean there will be some progress to report to the SADC Facilitator on compliance with the GPA Roadmap to Elections.
The sittings of the next two weeks will be the last of the present Parliamentary session. Both Houses will then adjourn, and the President will gazette a proclamation “proroguing” Parliament [ending the present session by suspending sittings] and announcing the opening day of the next session.
President to Open New Session Later this Month
The ceremonial opening of the Fifth Session of Zimbabwe’s Seventh Parliament is planned to be on Tuesday 24th July.
Coming Up in the House of Assembly
Bills The House is expected to concentrate on the Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill. Cabinet last week resolved that the Bills should proceed when Parliament resumes, as both Bills were approved by Cabinet before they were introduced. Parliament is expected to comply. Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa is the responsible Minister for both Bills:
• Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill The Bill has been on the Order Paper for a long time. It was introduced on 2011. The Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] returned a non-adverse report conditional on certain changes being made by the Minister. On the strength of the Minister’s assurance that this would be done, the Bill had its Second Reading. The Minister’s proposed changes were tabled and have been on the Order Paper since 31st August 2011. The next step is the Committee Stage, during which amendments tabled months ago by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, to meet the PLC’s conditions, and any other amendments coming from the House will be debated and voted on. [Bill and proposed Committee Stage amendments available from [email protected]]
Comment: It is high time the Bill was passed, even if it is falls short of the ideal, if only to put an end to the present ridiculous situation, in which the Human Rights Commission, for want of an enabling Act, has not been operational in spite of the fact that its members have been in office for over two years, since being sworn in by the President in March 2010.
• Electoral Amendment Bill This had its First Reading 26th July 2011. An Adverse Report from PLC was announced on the 27th March this year, but is still to be presented and debated, so it is not yet published. Although agreed by Cabinet before being sent to the House last year, progress on the Bill had been stalled because of later objections by MDC-T to the principle of polling-station based voters rolls, prompted by fear of intimidation and reprisals. The Bill was discussed again in Cabinet last week, resulting in MDC-T saying it will now support the Bill, albeit with reservations. It should therefore go through this session. [Bill available from [email protected]]
Other Bills on the Order Paper:
• National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill
• Older Persons Bill
• Mr Gonese’s Private Member’s Bill to repeal section 121(3) of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act
• Hon Matimba’s Private Member's Urban Councils Amendment Bill, proceedings on which are suspended pending the Supreme Court’s decision on Minister Chombo’s application to stop the Bill as unconstitutional.
Minister of Finance’s Mid-Year Financial Statement and Revised Budget On Thursday afternoon, 12th July, Minister Biti will present his Mid-Year Financial Statement. As the Minister has already said downward revision of expenditure is essential, he will also have to introduce amended Estimates of Expenditure for 2012 and an Appropriation Amendment Bill.
Motions on the Order Paper include motions on:
• alleged corruption at the Reserve Bank;
• the need for Portfolio Committees to hold Ministers to their obligation to respond to committee reports;
• the viability of the Hwange Colliery Company;
• the withdrawal of the existing Indigenisation Regulations, a motion proposed long before this month’s GN 280/2012 gazetting new indigenisation rules for financial institutions and most other sectors of the economy.
Questions There are 23 written questions on the Order Paper for Wednesday.
Coming Up in the Senate
Any Bills passed by the House of Assembly will be immediately transmitted to the Senate. If the Minister brings in an Appropriation Amendment Bill in the House, that will also go to the Senate, but the Senate will have no power to amend it – its powers regarding Money Bills are limited to recommending changes for the consideration of the House of Assembly.
Public Order and Security Amendment Bill This is expected to be left unattended to, so it will lapse at the end of the Session [see more below].
PLC Adverse Reports on Statutory Instruments
Parliamentary Legal Committee chairman Shepherd Mushonga explained the PLC’s six adverse reports to the Senate before it adjourned on the 21st June, so Senators have had time to consider the reports and prepare their contributions to the further debate on the reports scheduled for the coming week. As all the reports concern local authority by-laws approved by the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and vetted by law officers in the Attorney-General’s Office before they were gazetted, there may also be contributions to the debate from the Minister and from the Attorney-General, if they disagree with the PLC’s views. [At the conclusion of the debate Senators will vote for or against resolutions to adopt the PLC reports, and if they vote to adopt the reports, the President will be obliged by the Constitution to repeal or amend the offending SIs unless the House, within 21 sitting days, decides they should remain in force.]
There will be time for the Senate to deal with motions while it waits for Bills to come across from the House, including:
Approval of Palermo Protocol to permit the Government to accede to the Protocol [see Bill Watch 27/2012 of 18th June for details of this Protocol, which has already been approved by the House of Assembly]
Approval of African Charter of Democracy, Elections and Governance [see Bill Watch 27/2012 for details].
Other motions on: Public Service ghost workers; remuneration of teachers; the International Women’s Conference on Women and Technology, held in Bangalore, India, in February 2012; the Conference of the African Parliamentary Union [APU] held in Khartoum, Sudan; a report on the indigenisation and empowerment policy by the Thematic Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment [available from [email protected]]; a report on access to clean water in Masvingo and Bulawayo by the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development [available from [email protected]].
Unfinished Business Lapses at End of Session
If Bills, Motions, Questions or any other items on the Order Paper in either Houses have not been dealt with by the end of this Parliamentary Session, they will lapse – but can be revived in the next Session.
POSA Amendment Bill Likely to Lapse Again
MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese has said that he is not in a position to press to a vote his motion to revive his Private Member’s Public Order and Security Amendment Bill in the Senate, given ZANU-PF Senators opposition and Minister Chinamasa’s attitude that amending POSA is a matter for the GPA negotiators. This means the motion is likely to lapse, unpassed, at the end of the present Session.
Note: One of the issues in the Roadmap to Elections of July 2011 was freedom of association and freedom of assembly. There was no definite agreement reached on POSA. MDC-T wanted an agreement to amend POSA so as to tighten it against police discretion and abuse and to bring it in line with commitments within the GPA and the Constitution. MDC N wanted a review of POSA in light of the current abuse by police. ZANU-PF merely said “we need to know the nature of the proposed amendments before we comment. The current POSA was amended in 2007 by all political parties through negotiation and provides a sound legal framework for regulating meetings and assemblies.”
Mr Gonese’s Bill has highlighted very real concerns about police actions under POSA. It is hoped that the Bill has already served as an incentive for the government itself to introduce an acceptable Government Bill to amend POSA, and, with the SADC facilitation team urging action on the Roadmap, that this will be expedited. [Copy of Roadmap available from [email protected]]
Government Gazette of 6th July
[NOT available from Veritas]
Changes to Harare City Council and Goromonzi Rural District Council areas
Two Presidential proclamations make related changes to the contiguous areas under the jurisdiction of the Harare City Council [SI 119/2012 – Proclamation 1/2012] and the Goromonzi Rural District Council [SI 120/2012 – Proclamation 2/2012] with effect from 6th July. The proclamations do not explain which area has lost land and which has gained.
Government Financial Statements
Published with the Gazette of 6th July is the Consolidated Statement of Financial Performance for April 2012.Post published in: Politics