BILL WATCH 54/2013
[29th October 2013]
Parliament is Not Sitting This Week
The Next Sitting of the National Assembly is on 5th November
The Next Sitting of the Senate is on 19th November
The 2014 Budget – Pre-Budget Seminar at Victoria Falls
From Thursday 31st October to Sunday 3rd November MPs will be attending the customary annual Pre-Budget Seminar. It will take place at the Elephant Hills complex at Victoria Falls.
No Bills On Parliamentary Agenda
The situation at Parliament remains unchanged – no Bills are on the agenda for the next sittings of the Houses. No Bills have been sent to the Government Printer to be printed for presentation in Parliament.
Bills being prepared Ministries are, however, preparing Bills. Examples are:
Micro Insurance Bill This proposed Bill and related amendments to the Insurance Act are being worked on by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning with a view to accommodating previously marginalised insurers could be accommodated in the sector. Players in the insurance industry are being consulted.
Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill The Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has assured Senators that the Ministry is giving high priority to the finalisation of a Bill to amend the law of criminal procedure to bring it into line with the new Constitution’s new provisions on the rights of arrested and accused persons and persons undergoing trial. The urgent need to pass such a Bill has been covered in Veritas bulletins, for example, Constitution Watch 35/2013 of 23rd September. It should have been passed as an Act coming into operation together with the new Declaration of Rights on 22nd May; without it, there is a risk that many criminal trials since 22nd May will have been marred by unconstitutional procedures. Just as important is the failure to have a new law for the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] in place by 22nd August, when the new Constitution transferred responsibility for prosecutions from the Attorney-General’s Office to the NPA and the Prosecutor-General; the Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has assured the public that the Ministry is prioritising this Bill.
Other Bills to align existing laws with the new Constitution A report back on this subject is expected from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs when the Senate resumes consideration of Senator Marava’s motion calling for the expeditions harmonisation of existing laws with the Constitution and the implementation of the Constitution, particularly those provisions seeking to uplift the status of women. Since Senator Marava introduced his motion, a Inter-Ministerial Committee has been appointed to oversee the preparation by Ministries of Bills to bring all existing laws into line with the new Constitution. Professor Jonathan Moyo, Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services has already said he will have the law of criminal defamation repealed [The criminalisation of defamation is a long-standing curb on freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court has recently heard argument in a case in which the editor of The Standard newspaper asked for the criminal defamation section of the Criminal Law Code to be nullified for inconsistency with the old Constitution. The court’s decision is awaited.]
In Parliament Last Week
The National Assembly did not sit last week. Its last sitting was on Thursday 17th October. It will next sit on Tuesday 5th November, with its members fresh from the four-day Pre-Budget Seminar at the Victoria Falls that ends on Sunday.
Tuesday 15th October – 18 minutes; Wednesday 16th October – 63 minutes; Thursday 17th October – 98 minutes
Tuesday’s 18-minute sitting attracted adverse public comment. Senators did better on Wednesday, better still on Thursday with a lively Question Time.
On 22nd October Senator Mathuthu briefly wound up debate on her motion presenting the report by the Zimbabwe delegates to the 62nd Session of the Executive Commission of the African Parliamentary Union [APU] held in Cote d’Ivoire at the end of September.
On 23rd October there were three contributions to the ongoing debate on the President’s speech opening Parliament. Senator Chizema’s remarks blaming sanctions on MDC-T attracted spirited heckling, prompting a rebuke from the President of the Senate: “Order, order, this is a House of Hon. Senators, you are allowed to interject but if you shout like the senator at the back there – like you are in a beer hall, I will not stand it, I will have to send you out, so be warned.”
On 24th October notice was given of two new motions to be moved by MDC-T Senators when the Senate resumes on 19th November:
• Major roads – the motion by Hon Siphiwe Ncube refers to the damage to the country’s road network done by heavy duty goods trucks and to the prevalence of fatal road accidents, and calls on government to take steps to prohibit the presence of heavy trucks on highways at certain times of day, and to resuscitate the railway system as a way of addressing the carnage problem.
• Cancer policy – the motion refers to October being breast cancer month, and recommends that the government comes up with a clear policy document in respect of “awareness, counselling, screening for cancer, the treatment of cancer and charges to be levied on cancer patients”.
Question Time [Thursday]
Questions without notice took up the whole hour allocated by Standing Orders and were addressed to the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Mr Mandiwanzira, the Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Muzenda, and the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Dokora. Mr Mandiwanzira spoke about ZBC listeners licence fees [which he defended as mere statutory fees, not payment for ZBC programmes] and the place of all indigenous languages in broadcasting; and deplored “adult” content in cell phone apps [which he said was a matter for the Minister of Information Communication Technology] and in the pages of Zimpapers H-Metro newspaper [which he said his Ministry would take up with the newspaper’s producers].
Mr Dokora dealt with queries about school fees [confirming the policy that no pupil should be turned away for non-payment of fees]; inadequate school structures in resettlement areas [raising the possibility of public/private partnerships as a means of improving the situation]; and the poor standard and quality of the language used in the Ndebele Grade 7 examination paper.
Written questions with notice
Mr Mandiwanzira agreed that outside “pirate” radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe and damaging its image are a nuisance to be got rid of; he suggested that once ZBC radio transmissions reach the whole country and the TV digitilisation programme had been completed, and once more local private broadcasting stations have been licensed, nobody will bother to tune in to the short-wave pirate broadcasts.
Mr Dokora explained that the new primary school learning period is nine years [up from the previous seven] and has two modules: “infant school” for the four to seven year olds and including Grades 1 and 2 for the six and seven year olds; and “junior school” for the eight to twelve year olds, Grades 3 to 7.
Question Mark over Electricity Amendment Act
The Electricity Amendment Act, which was rushed through Parliament in June, was gazetted by the President’s Office on 18th October as Act 5/2013 [available from Veritas]. This short Act called for the division of the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company into two separate companies. A few days later in a story headlined Plot to kill ZESA flops, the Herald:
• characterised the Act as a sinister plot by the former MDC-T Minister, to surrender the power sector to Western private enterprise, and quoted the new Minister, Mr Mavhaire, as saying the Government had no plans to dismantle ZESA [The former MDC-T Minister’s lawyers have demanded a retraction. The story certainly gives a greatly exaggerated description of the effect of the Act, obviously based on a misreading of its terms and on ignorance of the history of ZESA unbundling since it started in 2002.]
• reported that the Secretary to Parliament had demanded that the Registrar of the High Court return the enrolled copy of the Act, because the President’s assent had been given more than 21 days after it had been presented for his assent. [Both the former and the new Constitution require the President to decide whether or not to assent to a Bill within 21 days of receiving it but there has always been ambiguity about what is meant by the President “receiving” it.]
Present situation – Act still in force This is an extraordinary situation. There is nothing in the Constitution, nor is there a Zimbabwean precedent, that allows the recall by Parliament of an Act that has been signed by the President, gazetted and enrolled in the High Court. For the time being, the appropriate attitude is that the gazetting of the Act as law under GN 501/2013, remains valid. Further developments are awaited with interest.
Kereke Reinstated as MP by Constitutional Court
On 3rd October the Speaker declared Dr Kereke’s Bikita West National Assembly seat vacant in terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution, with effect from 30th September. This followed the Speaker’s receipt, from the ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration, of written notification that Dr Kereke had been expelled from the party. Dr Kereke promptly applied to the Constitutional Court for the declaration to be set aside, claiming that section 129(1)(k) was not applicable to his situation. Ahead of the urgent hearing of the case by the Constitutional Court on 23rd October, there were negotiations between the lawyers representing Dr Kereke and the party, resulting in agreement that the vacancy declaration should be set aside and Dr Kereke reinstated. On 23rd October in a brief hearing the court granted an order in the terms agreed between the parties: “The termination of the membership of Parliament for the applicant by the first respondent (Speaker of National Assembly) dated October 3, 2013 is null and void and is hereby set aside. Applicant is a member of the National Assembly.”
Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act – the revised version of this important Act is now available from the Government Printer.
Note: a revised version is one prepared by the Law Reviser in terms of the Statute Law Compilation and Revision Act to bring an Act up to date and correct textual errors. The substance of the Act as passed by Parliament remains the same. Once officially released the revised version becomes the authentic version of the law for all purposes. The originally gazetted Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act contained many textual errors that required the Law Reviser’s attention. The law revision process is expressly sanctioned by the Constitution which the attempt to recall the Electricity Amendment Act by Parliament [see above] is certainly not.
Income Tax Act Page proofs are once again being checked by Parliament and the drafter.
Statutory Instruments [SIs]
No SIs were published in the Government Gazette of 25th October.
General Notices [GNs]
GN 510/2013 notifies the inclusion in the Gazette dated 25th October of the Government’s financial statements for the month of August 2013.
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