Parliament is in Recess

BILL WATCH 27/2014

[17th June 2014]

Parliament is in Recess until Tuesday 1st July

Two Acts Gazetted on 13th June

The two Acts listed below were gazetted on Friday 13th June by General Notice [GN] 250/2014, which notified that the President had assented to the relevant Bills. [Please note that soft copies are not yet available.]

Trafficking in Persons Act [No. 4/2014] This Act is Zimbabwe’s first permanent legislation on the subject of trafficking in persons. It takes the place of the temporary law enacted by the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Trafficking in Persons Act) Regulations [SI 4/2014, gazetted on 3rd January and therefore valid only until 2nd July].

The Act’s main purpose is to give effect to Zimbabwe’s international obligations as a signatory of the Palermo Protocol, a protocol to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The text of the Palermo Protocol, the full title of which is the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, is set out in full in the First Schedule to the Act. A new crime of trafficking in persons is constituted and heavy punishments and compensation of victims provided for. Zimbabwe’s courts are given jurisdiction to try instances of the crime committed both within and outside Zimbabwe; and victims of trafficking will be treated as vulnerable witnesses in court proceedings. In sections 8 and 9 there is provision for Government to establish centres for victims and to set up a special Anti-trafficking Ministerial Committee to ensure compliance with the country’s obligations under the Protocol; these two sections will come into operation on a later date still to be fixed.

In addition, sections 11 and 12 of the Act amend the Criminal Law Code [to include a new Part dealing with Piracy or Interference with Safe Operation of Vessels] and the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act [mainly to make substantial increases to monetary penalties imposable for contraventions of the Act]. These two sections take the place of corresponding temporary amendments gazetted on 3rd January under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act [SIs 2/2014 and 3/2014 of 3rd January, also valid only until 2nd July]. The connection to the main topic of trafficking in persons is that these sections, too, implement Zimbabwe’s international obligations in the worldwide fight against all forms of transnational organised crime and terrorism.

Apart from sections 8 and 9, the Act came into effect on 13th June, the date on which it was gazetted. Zimbabwe has, therefore, beaten by two weeks the 2nd July deadline referred to by the Minister of Home Affairs when he insisted on the Bill going through Parliament urgently and unchanged [see Bills Passed, below].

Financial Adjustments Act [No. 3/2014] This Act condones excess expenditure incurred during 2013. It came into effect on 13th June, the date of its gazetting.

Note on Presidential assent: GN 250 gazetting these Acts was published in a Government Gazette Extraordinary coming after the regular Friday Government Gazette. In the regular Gazette the President of the Senate had published GNs 247 and 248/2014 announcing that the Bills had been submitted to the President for his assent and signature on 9th June. These preliminary GNs were in compliance with a new procedure introduced by section 131(5)(b) of the Constitution. This is intended to make public how long the President takes to decide whether or not to assent to a Bill, thereby avoiding the speculation and uncertainty that previously arose when there were long delays between Parliament’s passing of a Bill and its gazetting as an Act. In this case the President acted well within the 21-day period he is allowed by section 136(6) of the Constitution).

Reminder: 2014 Acts previously gazetted

The first two Acts of 2014 were gazetted on 4th April—

Finance Act [No. 1/2014]

Appropriation Act [No. 2/2014].

2014 Acts Still to be Gazetted

Two more Acts await gazetting, once the Bills concerned [see further below] have received the Presidential assent

National Prosecuting Authority Act

Electoral Amendment Act.

Bills Passed by Parliament in May

Before disbanding on 29th May to go into recess until 1st July, Parliament gave final readings to four Bills. Two have already been gazetted as Acts [see above]. The others are expected to be gazetted soon. The Bills were the following—

• Financial Adjustments Bill [final reading 13th May, Senate]

• Trafficking in Persons Bill [final reading 22nd May, Senate]

• Electoral Amendment Bill [final reading 28th May, National Assembly]

• National Prosecuting Authority Bill [final reading 28th May, Senate]

Financial Adjustments Bill There was no opposition to this Bill. All sides in Parliament accepted that the excess 2013 Government expenditure condoned by the Bill had been necessarily incurred on purposes such as the harmonised elections.

Trafficking in Persons Bill This Bill was not an ideal piece of legislation on trafficking in persons. It largely repeated, and was therefore marred by the same defects as, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Trafficking in Persons Act) [see critical discussion in Bill Watches 7 and 8/2014 of 20th February]. Despite Hon Matibenga’s contribution to the National Assembly debate pointing this out, the Minister insisted there was no time for changes. He pointed out that under international and regional anti-terrorism and anti-money-laundering arrangements to which Zimbabwe is a party, failure to have the Bill in place as a law by the 2nd July would render Zimbabwe liable to sanctions that would cripple trade and money transfers into and out of the country. The Bill was duly passed by both Houses without amendments.

Electoral Amendment Bill After this Bill’s introduction in and swift passage through the Senate, with the Deputy Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs riding roughshod over MDC-T protests, it was hoped that it would receive more constructive consideration in the National Assembly, because many civil society organisations had raised carefully considered objections to the Bill showing its failure to cover aspects of the Electoral Act needing alignment with the Constitution [see, for instance, Bill Watches 11 and 12/2014 of 4th March]. Encouragingly, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs agreed to delay proceedings on the Bill long enough for a hastily-arranged series of public hearings round the country by the relevant Portfolio Committee and presentation of its report, but stressed that Government still wanted the Bill passed as a matter of urgency.

In the end, however, the Minister had his way, notwithstanding the Portfolio Committee’s report recommending some amendments, and contributions from MDC-T MPs pointing out the Bill’s deficiencies. His only concession was to acknowledge that the Bill did not entirely align the Electoral Act with the Constitution and to say that he would therefore have a supplementary Bill prepared, with consultations on this Bill to be concluded by the end of the year. MDC-T MPs, while striving to explain what was lacking in the Bill during the Second Reading debate, did not persevere to the extent of tabling prepared amendments for discussion and vote during the Committee Stage. Perhaps they felt this would be a waste of time and effort, given the Minister’s insistence on swift action, ZANU-PF’s majority and the Minister’s undertaking to produce a second Bill. In the rush to get the Bill through the National Assembly before the July recess, the Minister did not even fulfil his undertaking to present amendments to the Bill make it clearer that ZEC, not the Registrar-General, is responsible for voter registration and the voters roll.

Comment: The result is an unsatisfactory Bill that will leave the Electoral Act in a state of only partial compatibility with the Constitution. Once gazetted, it will enable ZANU-PF at long last to fill the two party-list vacancies in the Senate that arose last year: the Mashonaland West seat vacated by Mrs Madzongwe when she was elected President of the Senate on ; and the Manicaland seat that fell vacant when Senator Kumbirai Kangai died on 24th August.

National Prosecuting Authority Bill This is a Bill to implement new constitutional provisions in Chapter 13, Part 2, of the Constitution. These provisions established, with effect from 22nd August 2013, a new National Prosecuting Authority and an independent Prosecutor-General replacing the Attorney-General as the official ultimately responsible for prosecuting crimes on behalf of the State. The enabling Act for which this Bill belatedly provides should have been in place on 22nd August; its absence has created uncertainty about the legal basis of all prosecutions since that date [see Constitution Watch 4/2014 of 9th June, on this point and for a summary of the Bill].

Bill Still Being Dealt with by National Assembly

Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill This Bill received its Second Reading in the National Assembly in March and still awaits the Committee Stage, when the Minister of Finance and Economic Development will propose amendments reducing the size of the Fund’s governing board. [For details see Bill Watch 16/2014 of 31st March where the amendments are set out in full and their impact explained.] Once passed by the National Assembly the Bill will have to go to the Senate.

Bills Gazetted and Awaiting Introduction in Parliament

Two gazetted Bills await their introduction in Parliament and the referral to the Parliamentary Legal Committee that will automatically follow [soft copies available from the addresses listed at the end of this bulletin]:

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill, to be introduced by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development [just gazetted, on 13th June].

Biological and Toxin Weapons Control Bill, to be introduced by the Minister of Defence [gazetted on 10th January].

Income Tax Bill

This Bill was passed by the last Parliament in June 2013 and was referred back to Parliament in December for reconsideration of the “reservations” that prompted the President to refuse his assent. It has been on the Order Paper of the National Assembly ever since, but has remained unconsidered in spite of the Constitution’s injunction that the Speaker must convene a sitting for its reconsideration “without delay” [Constitution, section 131(7)].

Bills being Printed for Gazetting

Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill This is a Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Bill, not yet publicly available.

Gender Commission Bill

The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development said last week this Bill had been approved by Cabinet and would now go to Parliament. As it has not yet been received by Parliament for printing and gazetting, and as it has to be gazetted at least two weeks before it is introduced in Parliament, it is unlikely the Minister will be able to introduce it into Parliament until late in July at the earliest.

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied

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