Both Houses will Next Sit on Tuesday 19th November
Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC]
Hon Jonathan Samukange is the new chairperson of the PLC. He was elected at the first meeting of the PLC on Tuesday 5th November, and the Speaker announced the result of the election in the National Assembly that afternoon. The PLC’s next meeting will be on 18th November, when it is expected to start considering the backlog of statutory instruments that has accumulated since the end of the 7th Parliament on 28th June. There are no current Bills for its consideration.
PLC’s duties vis-à-vis statutory instruments: As was the case under the former Constitution, the PLC must, by section 152 of the Constitution:
• examine every statutory instrument [SI] published in the Government Gazette, and
• report to Parliament whenever it considers that any provision in the SI contravenes any provision of the Constitution or is ultra vires [beyond the powers conferred by] the enabling Act of Parliament.
In addition, Standing Orders oblige the PLC to ensure that no SI changes an Act of Parliament or contains matter more appropriate for Parliamentary enactment; or makes the rights and liberties of the people unduly dependent on administrative decisions that are not reviewable by a court.
Reminder: Other members of the PLC are Hon Tendai Biti [MDC-T]; Hon Dr. Christopher Kuruneri [ZANU-PF]; Hon Jessie Majome [MDC-T]; Hon Priscah Mupfumira [ZANU-PF].
Reinstatement of Hon Munyaradzi Kereke
Hon Kereke’s reinstatement as MP for Bikita West was announced by the Speaker on 5th November. The reinstatement follows the judgment in Dr Kereke’s favour handed down by the Constitutional Court on 23rd October. [For background to this case see Bill Watch 54 of 29th October.] The Speaker also announced that Dr Kereke would serve on two portfolio committees, Finance and Economic Planning, and Mines and Energy.
In Parliament Last Week
The National Assembly sat on Tuesday 5th, Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th November. At the end of Thursday’s sitting it adjourned until Tuesday 19th November. Improper language and heckling during debates on Tuesday and Wednesday resulted in the Speaker taking time at the start of business on Thursday to lecture members about the need to abide by Standing Orders, respect the Chair and not to persistently and wilfully disrupt business; he pointed out that offenders could be suspended.
Backbenchers on both sides of the House have been adding new motions to the Order Paper.
On the President’s speech On 5th November the first part of the afternoon was taken up by contributions to the debate on the motion in reply to the President’s speech opening Parliament on 17th September; the debate continued on 7th November and will go on when the House sits again.
ZESA power cuts The remaining time on 5th November was devoted to the resumed debate on Hon Maridadi’s motion calling for a portfolio committee inquiry into the power sector because of intermittent power cuts by ZESA. The ZESA debate deteriorated into what the Speaker described a circus after MDC-T members protested about the language used to describe them by ZANU-PF’s Hon Matambanadzo. The MDC-T Chief Whip Hon Gonese tried to insist that the debate be continued but a division was called on a ZANU-PF motion to adjourn the debate and won the day by 91 votes to 27. The Speaker then adjourned the Assembly, overruling Hon Gonese’s further protests that over an hour was still available to deal with other waiting business. [Later in the week the Speaker having read the Hansard record of Hon Matambanadzo’s remarks extracted a withdrawal and apology from him.]
Women’s Bank On Wednesday, after the two-hour Question Time, Hon Khupe as proposer and Hon Majome as seconder, made speeches presenting their motion for the establishment of a Women’s Bank that will not require collateral. When debate resumed on 7th November, the motion attracted enthusiastic support from all sides of the House. Debate is due to continue when the Assembly sits again.
Western sanctions Also on Wednesday after the introduction of the Women’s Bank motion, the Assembly continued the sometimes emotional debate on the ZANU-PF motion against US and EU sanctions on Zimbabwe, with MDC’s Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga pleading with members to recognise that “we will not move forward if we continuously use the excuse of sanctions” for all Zimbabwe’s problems and urging them to use their time more constructively by talking about issues Zimbabwe can do something about, rather than endless debating an issue, sanctions, about which Zimbabwe can do nothing. Hon Gorden Moyo pointed to examples of economic decline long pre-dating the imposition of restrictive measures by the US and the EU.
Note: The attribution of Zimbabwe’s problems to Western sanctions and the resulting inter-party wrangling on the correctness of that attribution, and existence, effect of and responsibility for sanctions, was a recurring feature during last week’s debates, whatever subject was being debated.
Question Time [Wednesday 6th November]
Questions without notice [Note: Oral questions with notice take up the first hour of business on Wednesdays, when private member’s business takes precedence over Government business until 6 pm. This period enables backbenchers to quiz Ministers on questions of Government policy relevant to their Ministries which the Ministers may reasonably be expected to answer off the cuff – a point that the Speaker had to stress several times on Wednesday, when disallowing questions calling for detailed factual information to be provided on the spot.]
On devolution Hon Chinamasa, as Acting Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, dealt firmly with a question from MDC-T’s Hon Gorden Moyo about the Government’s policy on setting up metropolitan and provincial councils as required by the new Constitution. When putting the question, Hon Moyo said that there was no mention of “devolution” in the ZimAset policy document adopted by Cabinet recently. Hon Chinamasa said the Constitution did not provide for devolution, a concept his party had not agreed to in the constitutional negotiations, but assured MPs that the Government would comply with the letter and spirit of the Constitution’s provisions setting out provincial and metropolitan structures and their powers. He reminded MPs, however, that ZANU-PF had said before the elections that this compliance would take a long time to achieve, perhaps years.
On salaries and perks for parastatal and State enterprise senior executives Hon Chinamasa said the Government would be looking into the matter to see what intervention might be appropriate to curb excessive benefits.
Written questions with notice [The second hour on Wednesdays is for written questions with notice, which give Ministers time to investigate issues and to be briefed by their officials before responding to questions.] Topics covered included:
IMF Staff Monitored Programme Minister Chinamasa, who was shortly to meet a visiting IMF delegation, confirmed that Zimbabwe remains a member of the IMF but is unable to enjoy the benefits of membership because it is substantially in arrears with the IMF both as to repayment of capital amounts and servicing of debt. The Staff Monitored Programme ihad been agreed with the IMF and sets benchmarks and targets for the country’s macro-economic policies and is monitored annually by the IMF. The Minister said he would be trying to persuade the IMF delegation that the answer to Zimbabwe’s incapacity to service or clear its present debt is for the IMF to provide new funds to enable growth in the economy and creation of capacity to deal with the debt arrears.
National Railways The Minister gave details of the sorry state of NRZ [he railway infrastructure has almost collapsed” and the workforce is down from 25 000 to 6 000, with the NRZ board seeking to retrench another 4 000] and said US$450 million is required for the initial phase of its revival programme.
Rights of criminal defendants The Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said the Ministry is giving high priority to amending the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to bring it into line with the new right of criminal defendants under the Constitution, but he declined to say when a Bill might be ready.
Unused mining claims The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development said the Ministry is carrying out an exercise, province by province, to see how many registered mining claims are not being used and then seek explanations from the holders, before deciding on means to enforce the “use it or lose it” principle and get the claims released to allow for exploitation by others.
Small scale miners/Makorokozas The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development explained that Government policy was to decriminalise the presently illegal operations of makorokozas who exploit mining claims legally held by others. Amendments to the law are necessary, and the Ministry aims to have the necessary amendments to the mining law in place by the end of January 2014 latest.
Update on Bills
The Government Printer is preparing only one Bill for gazetting. The Bill is from the Minister of Defence:
• Biological and Toxin Weapons Crimes Bill [no summary available until the Bill is gazetted in due course, but the Bill’s title gives some indication of its probably contents]
Update on Acts
Income Tax Act Parliament has sent the Bill to the President’s Office for assent and signature by the President, and a public notice giving the date this was done is due to be published shortly. [See Bill Watch 55/2013 of 6th November for a note on this subject.]
Electricity Amendment Act There has still been no official public confirmation of any withdrawal of this Act although there was a press report that the Clerk of Parliament had said the Act was not validly assented to and signed by the President.
Government Gazette of 8th November
Statutory Instruments [SIs]
Banking – new, but dubious deposit protection regulations SI 156/2013 contains the Deposit Protection Corporation “Regulations”, said to be made under section 64 of the Deposit Protection Corporation Act [DPC Act], which came into force on 16th March 2012. There is, however, a serious legal flaw in the SI which makes the whole SI invalid – its preamble states the “regulations” have been made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, but neither section 64 of the Act nor any of its other provisions authorises the Minister to do this. Only the Deposit Protection Corporation can make binding rules under the Act. This being the case, the SI should be re-gazetted as “Rules” that have been made by the Corporation. It is too important for its validity to be suspect.
The SI purports to set out detailed rules for the operation of the new scheme for the protection of depositors in failed banks and other financial institutions. The Act covers the payment of contributions to the Deposit Protection Fund by institutions; depositors’ entitlements to compensation when an institution fails; and other regulatory aspects of the scheme. One obvious omission from the SI is the failure to provide for the repeal of the previous regulations, originally made under the Banking Act and continued in existence by the Deposit Protection Corporation Act until replaced by new rules made by the Corporation. [Act available from the address at the end of this bulletin – but SI not available until its standing has been officially clarified.]Post published in: Politics