Both Houses of Parliament Resume Sitting

BILL WATCH 31/2014

[25th August 2014]

Both Houses of Parliament Resume Sitting Tomorrow 26th August

Electoral Amendment Act Now Law

The Electoral Amendment Act [No. 6 of 2014] was gazetted on 20th August in a Government Gazette Extraordinary and came into operation that day. [Act available from addresses below]

The Bill for this Act went through Parliament without amendments despite substantial criticisms of its adequacy, particularly that it did not fully align the principal Electoral Act with the Constitution. Parliament accepted Government’s pleas that it was urgent, as it needed to be in place to allow the filling of vacancies arising in the Senate since the July 2013 harmonised elections.

Parliament passed the Bill on 28th May. Since then its progress towards gazetting as an Act has been so leisurely as to cast doubt on its urgency. It was more than six weeks before Parliament, on 16th July, sent it to the President for assent [GN 274/2014]. According to Parliamentary records, the President only signed it on the 8th August, two days after the 21 days allowed by the Constitution [Constitution, section 131(6)(a)].

Debate on the Bill was also cut short by Government assurance that consultations on a second Bill would be completed by year-end. The Electoral Act has been amended so many times that it is hoped that instead of just another amending Bill the Minister will produce a Bill for a whole new Electoral Act. Zimbabwe needs a new, fully constitutionally compliant Electoral Act that takes into account changes proposed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC], various recommendations arising in particular from SADC election observer mission reports and the concerns of civil society and opposition parties. The Bill for such an Act should also eliminate the confusion caused in the present Act by numerous piece-meal amendments and be drafted in more easily-digestible language.

As the Bill was not amended during its passage through Parliament, the detailed discussion of the Bill in Bill Watches 11 and 12/2014 of 4th March is equally applicable to the Act. The Act falls regrettably short of bringing the Electoral Act wholly into alignment with the Constitution.

Senate Vacancies Can Now be Filled

One result of the coming into force of the Electoral Amendment Act is that the two ZANU-PF proportional representation/party-list vacancies in the Senate can now be filled. The previous provision for filling such vacancies was in the Presidential Powers regulations that lapsed in early December 2013, before the vacancies could be filled.

Both vacancies date back nearly a year:

• a Manicaland vacancy, since the death of the late Senator Kumbirai Kangai on 24th August 2013, and

• a Mashonaland West vacancy that has existed since Senator Edna Madzongwe was elected President of the Senate on 6th September 2013 [Constitution, section 129(1)(d)]. [Note: The list of Senators that appears on the inside back cover of every issue of the Senate Hansard includes Mrs Madzongwe as a Senator, but that is an unfortunate mistake.]

Procedure for filling these vacancies At general elections 60 Senate seats [and the 60 special women’s seats in the National Assembly] are filled by persons elected under a party-list system of proportional representation based on the votes cast for candidates representing the participating parties in the election of constituency members of the National Assembly, province by province. Each of the ten provinces into which Zimbabwe is divided has six such seats in the National Assembly and six in the Senate. The filling of vacancies arising between general elections is covered by the Constitution and the Electoral Act, as follows:

• Section 157(d) of the Constitution provides that if one of these seats falls vacant it must be filled by a person who belongs to the same political party and is of the same gender as the person who previously held the seat. So the Manicaland vacancy must be filled by a male ZANU-PF member and the Mashonaland West vacancy by a female ZANU-PF member. Both new Senators must also satisfy the basic qualifications for a party-list Senator, namely, must be registered voters and at least 40 years of age. The provision leaves the procedure for identifying the new members of Parliament to be provided for by the Electoral Act.

• Section 39 of the Electoral Act, as just amended by section 15 of the Electoral Amendment Act, states that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] must notify each vacancy in the Government Gazette, and at the same time invite ZANU-PF to submit to ZEC the name of one qualified person to fill each vacancy. If the Chief Elections Officer is satisfied that a nomination is in order, ZEC must gazette details of the nominee and name a period within which any voter may, giving reasons, lodge a written objection to the nomination. In the absence of objections, or if ZEC considers objections lodged to be invalid, ZEC must gazette notices declaring a nominee elected as a Senator with effect from the date of the notice. If an objection is considered to be valid, the process must be repeated until a qualified person is identified to fill the vacancy. Section 39 does not require the party to nominate someone who was on its party list for the 2013 harmonised elections but did not gain a seat. So, although ZANU-PF’s party lists for the two provinces were not exhausted at last year’s elections [the Manicaland list still had two persons on it, the Mashonaland West list one], the party can put forward any qualified person, whether or not he or she is on one of those lists.

Government Gazettes – 1st to 22nd August

[items not available from Veritas unless otherwise stated]

Bills No new Bills were gazetted.

Acts The Electoral Amendment Act (No. 6 of 2014) was gazetted by the President’s Office on 20th August [see General Notice 303/2014 dated 20th August]. [See further, above]. [Act available]

Statutory Instruments

Broadcasting [datacasting] licences: SI 123 sets out new fees for datacasting licences and contributions to the Broadcasting Fund by datacasting licensees. [See also under General Notices.]

Collective bargaining agreements: SIs 116 [agricultural industry], 118 [tourism industry], and 119 [cotton industry].

Customs duties and import control: SIs 126 [amendment to open general import licence, adding milk, cement, certain vegetables, soaps, plastic bags and rubber items to the list of goods requiring individual import licences] and 127 [suspension of duty on CO2-compliant and hydrofluorocarbon-free coolers imported by approved bottling companies].

Airport security: SI 124 amends the Civil Aviation (Security) Regulations [SI 207/2006].

Grain producer prices SI 122 provides for a minimum price to be paid to producers for grain [maize, sorghum, mhunga, rapoko and wheat]. The minimum price must be fixed by the Minister at the beginning of the marketing season, and is binding on all companies and individuals engaged in the business of buying grain. Buying at less than the minimum price, or elsewhere than at designated buying points, is made a criminal offence. The Minister does not have to use the Government Gazette to announce prices; section 3(1) allows him to do so “through the Gazette or national media, whether print, radio or television”. Allowing the by-passing of the Government Gazette in this way is undesirable and legally suspect, and may hamper prosecutions should they be necessary. Thus, if a price is not announced in the Government Gazette, it may need to be proved in court by the leading of evidence to prove what was announced in the media and when; whereas a notice in the Government Gazette can simply be produced in court by the prosecutor as proof of the price announced by it.

Commercial premises rent regulations SI 120 belatedly amends the Commercial Premises (Rent) Regulations to replace now nonsensical amounts in Zimbabwe dollars by US dollar amounts. [See also under General Notices.]

Chiredzi to be regional court venue SI 121 makes Chiredzi a place for the holding of the regional court for the Central Division, Masvingo Province.

New mining districts SI 125 abolishes the previous five mining districts and replaces them with eight new districts. The boundaries of the new districts correspond to those of the administrative provinces, with Harare province treated as part of the Mashonaland East Mining District and Bulawayo province as part of the Matabeleland North Mining District.

Local authority by-laws: SI 117 enacts new rents and water, service and supplementary charges fixed by the Ruwa Local Board.

General Notices

Broadcasting: applications invited for licences GN 300 dated 8th August invites applications for licences to provide the following classes of broadcasting services: diffusion service; open narrowcasting [e.g., electronic billboard and public viewing areas]; roadcasting service; railcasting service; datacasting service. The licensing procedure does not involve any public inquiry. The deadline for submission of applications to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe is 8th September. [Definitions: The Broadcasting Services Act defines “roadcasting” and “railcasting” as the broadcasting of pre-recorded programmes for reception by passengers of any railway service or of a public service vehicle, e.g., a bus. “Datacasting” signifies an information service that uses the broadcasting service bands to deliver information, whether in the form of data, text, speeches, images or any other form, to persons having equipment appropriate for receiving that information.]

Broadcasting: UHF National Television Broadcasting Frequency Allotment Plan GN 299 amends the frequency allotment plan published in GN 548A/2004.

Industrial and Commercial Rent Board GN 289 notifies the appointment of Mr Charles Mujajati as chairman of the board for Harare, Manicaland, Midlands and the three Mashonaland provinces.

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

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