Both Houses of Parliament Are Sitting This Week

BILL WATCH 33/2014

[2nd September 2014]

Both Houses of Parliament Are Sitting This Week

Government’s Foreign Financial Deals: Not Binding until Parliament Approves

President Mugabe and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Chinamasa have reportedly signed a number of agreements with Chinese entities for the financing of infrastructural development in Zimbabwe.

Section 327(3) of the Constitution, repeating part of section 111B of the previous Constitution, provides as follows:

“(3) An agreement which is not an international treaty but which—

(a) has been concluded or executed by the President or under the President’s authority with one or more foreign organisations or entities; and

(b) imposes fiscal obligations on Zimbabwe;

does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament.”

Any agreement providing for payments to be made out of the Zimbabwean fiscus [Treasury] is one that imposes fiscal obligations. Examples of fiscal obligations, therefore, are—

• an obligation undertaken by the Government to pay interest on or repay a loan, and

• an obligation to honour a Government guarantee of financial obligations incurred by an organisation or individual.

It follows that if, as seems likely, these latest agreements impose such obligations on Zimbabwe, the agreements will have to be approved by Parliament [i.e., both Houses of Parliament] before they become binding.

It is to be hoped that, if any of the agreements do require Parliament’s approval, the Government will behave with due respect for Parliament’s oversight role. It is necessary to say this because on two previous occasions financial deals between the Government and Chinese entities have been bulldozed through Parliament in hastily arranged special sittings and in circumstances leaving Parliamentarians complaining about late or inadequate information, not being given enough time to study the texts of the agreements and simply being expected to rubber-stamp them. These were the deals for the financing of—

• the National Defence College [See Bill Watch 22/2011 of 6th June 2011]

• the upgrading of the Victoria Falls Airport ahead of the UNWTO Congress and other projects [see Bill Watch 39/2012 of 20th August 2012].

Coming Up in Parliament Wednesday and Thursday

Senate

Bills There are no Bills that can come up for discussion until the National Assembly completes work on pending Bills and transmits them to the Senate.

Motions As the President of the Senate has urged Senators to wind up debate on unfinished motions, Senators will probably be called on to complete debate, and vote, on at least some of the nine partly-debated motions on the Order Paper.

Question Time Thursday There are as yet no written questions on the Order Paper.

National Assembly

Bills

Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill This Bill has been waiting for its Committee Stage since its Second Reading was approved in March. The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development warned on 2nd September that Government will now be asking for further amendments to the Bill in addition to those that were tabled in March [the March amendments were explained in detail in Bill Watch 16/2014 of 21st March].

Other current Bills [see Status of Bill below] are under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] and not expected back in the National Assembly this week.

Note: The Income Tax Bill – passed by the last Parliament but returned unsigned by the President in December 2013 – is still on the Order Paper for reconsideration, but is clearly not a Government priority and therefore unlikely to come up any time soon.

Motions In all, there are 40 motions listed, some still awaiting presentation by the proposers, but most awaiting continuation of partly-completed debates and/or responses from Ministers and winding-up by the movers.

Question Time Wednesday There are 45 questions with notice on the Order Paper. These also need Ministerial responses.

In Parliament Last Week and Tuesday

Both Houses sat on all three of last week’s sitting days, 26th, 27th and 28th August, and yesterday, 2nd September.

Senate

Sittings Senators were not overworked. Starting at 2.30 pm, three sittings lasted an average of 1½ hours and the last one 40 minutes.

Bills No Bills were brought up for consideration. The Senate is waiting for Bills to be dealt with in the National Assembly [see under National Assembly below].

Motions The Senate approved Senator Mohadi’s motion calling for improvement of health, electricity, educational and other services to resettlement areas in Beitbridge district. Debate continued on other motions, including those on incentives for blood donors; the banning of infant male circumcision; payments of farmers by the Grain Marketing Board.

Question Time Thursday 28th August The President of the Senate acknowledged with pleasure the presence of three Ministers, two Ministers of State and three Deputy Ministers, all of whom fielded questions without notice. No written questions had been put on the Order Paper by Senators.

National Assembly

Sittings The National Assembly achieved longer sittings than the Senate. Starting at 2.15 pm, its four sittings averaged 2¾ hours.

Matter of Parliamentary privilege On 2nd September Hon Wadyajena in his capacity as chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, presented a report asking the Speaker to make a ruling on the Committee’s concerns as a result of allegations, attributed in press reports to Hon Mliswa, that members of the Committee had accepted bribes to heckle witnesses giving evidence against a prominent businessman before the Committee. Hon Mliswa had not disowned the reports. The committee therefore requested a ruling whether Hon Mliswa should be required to substantiate his allegations by evidence, because they raised the possibility of offences having been committed under the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act – either by the allegedly bribed MPs or, if there had not been bribery, by Hon Mliswa for making defamatory allegations against them.

Bills Three Bills were presented and read for the first time, and immediately referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee. The PLC has three weeks within which to submit its report on a Bill’s constitutionality.

• Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill [referred on 27th August] [See Constitution Watch 8/2014 of 26th August for a critique of the Bill, including its unconstitutional aspects.]

• Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill [referred on 2nd September]

• Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill [referred on 2nd September]

Motions The Minister of Environment, Water and Climate responded to the motion on the proliferation of an alien weed species, Upuntia fulgida, in Matabeleland South; the proposer Hon Anastancia Ndlovu wound up the debate and the motion was adopted. Hon Mpariwa, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, moved that the House take note of the committee’s report on the accounts of the Ministry of Justice for 2011. Hon Anastancia Ndlovu, chair of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry moved that the House take note of its report on the waste management by funeral parlours. Hon Dehwa presented the report of the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services the media laws and digitalisation programme. Hon Chikwinya introduced his motion calling for an education summit to discuss the deteriorating public education system, raising issues such as Form 1 entrance examinations, holiday lessons and incentives for teachers. Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga introduced a motion calling for alignment of the National Heroes Act with section 23 of the Constitution and fair treatment in provision of benefits for dependants of veterans of the liberation struggle.

Question Time [Wednesday 27th August] There were enough Ministers present for questions, both with and without notice, to take up the full two hours allotted by Standing Orders.

Status of Bills

Bills awaiting Presidential assent and gazetting None

Bill awaiting Committee Stage

• Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, H.B. 6, 2013. This Bill received its Second Reading in March.

• Income Tax Bill [awaiting reconsideration in light of President’s reservations]

Bills awaiting Second Reading stage None

Bills under consideration by Parliamentary Legal Committee

• Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill, H.B. 8, 2014

• Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill, H.B. 6, 2014

• Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill H.B. 7,2014

Bills being printed None.

Government Gazette of 29th August 2014

[not available from Veritas unless otherwise stated]

Acts None

Bills None

Statutory Instruments

Collective bargaining agreement SI 128 specifies minimum wages for 2014 for the cement and lime and allied industry.

Medicines and Allied Substances Control – retention fees Two SIs set new annual fees for retention of the right to sell types or brands of gloves [SI 130] and condoms [SI 131]. SI 129 reduces the fee payable for the retention of the right to sell unregistered “orphan medicines”; this is done by inserting “orphan medicine” in paragraph 9(b) of the First Schedule to the Medicines and Allied Substances Control (General) Regulations [SI 150/1991]. [Note: SI 150/1991 defines “orphan medicine” as a medicine which is used in low volumes and is intended for the treatment of conditions of low morbidity.]

Road toll – Beitbridge Bridge SI 132 sets new toll fees for use of the bridge with immediate effect: motor cycles – $5; light motor vehicles – $9; heavy vehicles – $23.

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

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