Parliament is Sitting this Week

BILL WATCH 28/2014

[16th July 2014]

Parliament is Sitting this Week

Both Houses of Parliament resumed on 1st July, and have sat on three afternoons a week since then. So far there has been no movement on Bills. But progress on the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill seems imminent: its long-delayed Committee Stage is item 2 on the National Assembly Order Paper for Thursday 17th July and the Minister has given notice of amendments he wants made [see further below under Update on Other Bills].

Update on Acts

National Prosecuting Authority Act gazetted – but not in force

The National Prosecuting Authority Act [5/2014] was gazetted on Friday 11th July by the President’s Office [GN 268/2014, but is not yet in force. It will come into force on a date to be fixed by the President in terms of section 1(2) of the Act. This Act should have been in place and operational from 22nd August 2013, so it is nearly eleven months late in implementing the new system for public prosecutions established with effect from that date by the Constitution. [For the content of the Act, please refer to Constitution Watch 4/2014 of 9th June 2014, where the Bill for the Act was analysed and its urgency explained. As the Bill was passed unchanged by Parliament, this analysis holds good for the Act.]

Consequential “alignment” amendments to 51 other Acts The Fourth Schedule to the Act contains twenty pages of amendments to 51 other Acts, mainly by substituting references to “the Attorney-General” by references to “the Prosecutor-General” wherever this is necessitated by the Constitution’s transfer of responsibility for prosecutions from the Attorney-General to the Prosecutor-General. There are inevitably many amendments to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence [CPE] Act but their scope is limited to the AG/PG changeover; they do not touch on other sections of the CPE Act that conflict with the new Constitution on such important matters as the rights of arrested and detained persons and persons undergoing criminal trial, and the death penalty [see Constitution Watch 36/2013 for more detail].

Trafficking in Persons Act available in soft copy

The Act was gazetted and came into operation on 13th June [soft copies are now available from Veritas, from the addresses listed at the end of this bulletin]. [See Bill Watch 27/2014 of 17th June for summary and comments.]

Update on Electoral Amendment Bill/Act

Parliament sent the Electoral Amendment Bill to the President for his assent on 15th July [original Bill available from Veritas at the addresses listed at the end of this bulletin]. The President has until 5th August to decide whether or not to grant assent [the Constitution allows him 21 days]. Until the Bill is gazetted and becomes law as an Act, ZANU-PF cannot proceed to fill its two party-list vacancies in the Senate by nominating new Senators:

• the Manicaland seat left vacant by the death of Senator Kangai on 24th August 2014 [the party has reportedly earmarked this seat for former Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono];

• the Mashonaland West seat left vacant by the election of Mrs Madzongwe as Senate President on 6th September 2013.

Update on Other Bills

[Available from Veritas at the addresses listed at the end of this bulletin,

unless otherwise stated]

Bills already in Parliament

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

Income Tax Bill This Bill was passed by the last Parliament in June 2013. The President refused his assent, and in December referred the Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration of the “reservations” that prompted him to do so [details in Bill Watch 62/2013 of 20th December]. It has been on the National Assembly Order Paper 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)]. The lack of enthusiasm for tackling this task has not been explained. [Not available.]

Bills already gazetted but not yet introduced

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

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill This Bill was gazetted on 13th June. It will be introduced by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. The object of the Bill is provide for the assumption and settlement by the State of nearly $1.2 billion worth of debts incurred by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe [RBZ] before 31st December 2008 and listed in the Schedule to the Bill. Most of the debts to be taken over [amounting to $1,122,276,923.83] will be subject to validation and reconciliation by the Ministry’s Debt Management Office. The remaining debts [amounting to $54,191,816.48] consist of the balance still owed to RBZ creditors for debts taken over by the State in 2010 and already largely repaid. So the grand total is $1,181,468,740.31. Settlement of these debts may be achieved by the issuing of government-backed debt instruments. No legal action may be taken against the Reserve Bank for any of the debts assumed by the State.

Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill This Bill was gazetted on 11th July. To quote the explanatory memorandum that accompanies the Bill, it is intended to amend the Public Accountants and Auditors Act to “reflect contemporary global best practice in the accountancy profession and to extend the scope of the Public Accountants and Auditors Board’s protective function with regard to consumers of accounting services”. [Soft copies available from addresses at the end of this bulletin.] The Bill includes provision for the separate registration of “general accountants” and “tax accountants” and to extend registration by the Board to accountants not offering their services to the public as individuals or as partners in accountancy firms.

Bill in the Pipeline

Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill This is the enabling Bill for the new Gender Commission established by the Constitution. Page proofs of the Bill are with the drafter for checking, so it is expected to be gazetted soon. Parliament has called on the public to nominate candidates for appointment as members of the Commission [see Constitution Watch 3/2014 of 5th April]. [Bill not yet publicly available.]

Speaker’s Ruling Nullifying National Assembly’s Resolution on Investigation of Corruption

On 6th April the National Assembly adopted a resolution, proposed by MDC-T’s Hon Madzimure and strongly supported by MPs of all persuasions, calling for the establishment of a special ad hoc Parliamentary committee to thoroughly inquire into and recommend measures to restore Corporate Governance and investigate cases of corruption in private and public entities. Last week, on 8th July, the Speaker handed down a ruling declaring the resolution void. This ruling followed a request by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee [which is chaired by the Speaker] for the Speaker to give a ruling on the constitutionality of the resolution. In his lengthy reasons for the ruling the Speaker states his conclusion that to establish the ad hoc committee would violate the Constitution’s provisions for corruption to be investigated and exposed by the Anti-Corruption Commission. Parliament’s function, the Speaker says, is “to exercise oversight on the Commission through Annual Reports submitted to Parliament in terms of section 323 of the Constitution in order to ensure that (the Commission) carries out its constitutional mandate”. The ruling has attracted criticism. [Ruling available from Veritas at the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.]

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

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