Last month both Houses passed resolutions that the First Session of Parliament would end on 25th September and that the President would be invited to open the Second Session [see Bill Watch 37/2014 of 24th September]. On 25th September the National Assembly and the Senate adjourned to 28th October, fixing 2.15 pm and 2.30 pm, respectively, as the starting times for their next sittings.
Note: The Constitution now leaves it to Parliament to decide when its sittings will begin and end, and limits the President’s power to decide when Parliament will meet to two instances: when Parliament will meet for the first time after a general election and when he wishes to summon Parliament to conduct “special business”. [Constitution, section 146].
Opening of Second Session of Eighth Parliament
Presidential Proclamation 2 of 2014 [Statutory Instrument 152A/2014, gazetted on 22nd October] summons Parliament to meet at 12 noon on 28th October, citing the President’s power to summon Parliament to “conduct special business” [proclamation available from the addresses given at the end of this bulletin]. The President’s proclamation serves the purpose of getting Parliament to meet two hours before it would have reassembled in terms of the resolutions passed by both Houses on 25th September.
Opening ceremony The lead-up to the President’s opening speech will follow the traditional pomp and ceremony, including a procession of MPs and judges, a mounted escort for the Presidential limousine, an inspection of a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute and flypast before the President enters Parliament.
Special sitting of Parliament fixed for 12 noon President Mugabe will enter the National Assembly in time to begin his speech at 12 noon.
President’s speech and legislative agenda The President’s speech is expected to follow the traditional format, outlining achievements of the past year, plans and policies for the coming year and the legislative agenda for the coming session – i.e., the Bills his Government plans to bring to Parliament during the session.
Comment: Although the term “session” has disappeared from the Constitution, Parliament has chosen, as a matter of tradition and convenience, to perpetuate the use of the term as denoting a Parliamentary year [embracing a group of sittings over a period of approximately 12 months]. We are following this terminology and note that the media and other followers of Parliamentary proceedings are also doing so.
Legislative Business Completed in the First Session
17th September 2013 to 24th September 2014
The five-year life of the present Parliament began on 22nd August 2013, when the new Constitution came fully into operation with the swearing-in of the President after the holding of the harmonised elections on 31st July. Members were sworn in, and presiding officers elected, on 3rd September, but the opening and start of business proper was on 17th September. The Senate sat on 88 days during the session, the National Assembly on 90.
Bills Passed During First Session
No Bills were passed between the opening of Parliament and the end of the year.
9 Bills were passed from January to the end of the Session:
Finance Bill [passed on 5th February]
Appropriation Bill [passed on 11th February]
Financial Adjustments Bill [passed on 13th May]
Trafficking in Persons Bill [passed on 22nd May]
National Prosecuting Authority Bill [passed on 28th May]
Electoral Amendment Bill [passed on 28th May]
Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill [passed 23rd September] [not yet gazetted as Act]
Finance (No. 2) Bill [[passed on 24th September]
Appropriation (Supplementary) Bill [passed 25th September]
Bills Presented but Not Dealt With
The following three Bills were presented late in the Session, and were still under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee when the Session ended:
Gender Commission of Zimbabwe Bill
Public Accountants and Auditors Amendment Bill
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill.
Also still on the National Assembly Order Paper at the end of the Session was the Income Tax Bill, which was passed by the Seventh Parliament in June 2013 and returned to Parliament for reconsideration in December. There has been no movement on this item since it was first listed on 20th December 2013.
From the previous [Seventh] Parliament
Securities Amendment Act [gazetted as Act 2/2013 on 30th August 2013]
Microfinance Act [gazetted as Act 3/2013 on 30th August 2013]
Electricity Amendment Act [gazetted as Act 4/2013 on 18th October 2013]
From this Parliament
Finance Act [gazetted as Act 1/2014 on 4th April]
Appropriation Act [gazetted as Act 2/2014 on 4th April].
Financial Adjustments Bill [gazetted as Act 3/2014 on 13th June]
Trafficking in Persons Act [gazetted as Act 4/2014 on 13th June]
National Prosecuting Authority Act [gazetted as Act 5/2014 on 11th July] [not yet in force]
Electoral Amendment Act [gazetted as Act 6/2014 on 20th August]
Finance (No. 2) Act [gazetted as Act 8/2014 on 17th October]
Appropriation (2014) Act [gazetted as Act 9/2014 on 17th October].
Did This Fulfil the President’s Legislative Agenda for the First Session?
The output described above fell far short of the 27 Bills named by the President on 17th September 2013 as the Bills his Government intended to bring before Parliament during the First Session.
Bills on legislative agenda that were presented to Parliament
Only four of the 27 Bills mentioned at the beginning of the Session were presented to Parliament; three of them were passed:
National Prosecuting Authority Bill
Trafficking in Persons Bill
Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill
The fourth, the Gender Commission of Zimbabwe Bill, was presented late in the session, and the report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee is still awaited.
Bills on legislative agenda not presented to Parliament
The 23 Bills on the President’s list that had not been presented to Parliament by the end of the First Session are:
Land Commission Bill [the Constitution requires an Act to set up the Land Commission]
3 Bills for new health sector Acts to regulate Health Services, Medical Services and Public Health
Anti-Corruption Commission Amendment Bill
4 financial sector Bills: to amend the Banking Act, the Insurance Act, the Pension and Provident Funds Act and the Insurance and Pensions Commission Act
Consumer Protection Bill
Zimbabwe Quality Standards Regulatory Authority Bill
Public-Private Development Partnership Bill
Mines and Minerals Bill
Border Posts Authority Bill
Road Tolls Amendment Bill
2 Bills on labour matters: Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill and Labour Laws Harmonisation Bill
Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies Bill
Cooperative Societies Amendment Bill
Occupational Health and Safety Laws Consolidation Bill
Common Facility Centres Bill
Gwanda State University Bill
Marondera University of Agricultural Science and Technology Bill
Constituency Development Fund Bill.
It remains to be seen whether all these Bills will be carried over to the Legislative Agenda for the 2014-2015 session, and what other Bills will be added.
It is hoped that there will be more Bills actually presented to Parliament, especially Bills aligning laws to the Constitution.
Disappointing First Session
The meagre output of Bills by Parliament over the thirteen months of the First Session reflects the Government’s general lack of preparedness for legislation to fulfil its legislative agenda, its election manifesto, ZIMASSET, and its duty to implement the Constitution.
As a result of this dearth of legislative work from the Government, and Government Ministers so often not turning up to respond to written questions, and a conspicuous lack of Ministerial presence in both Houses when debates affecting their Ministries took place, Parliamentarians were left largely to their own devices. Although there were some extremely lively debates on controversial motions introduced by backbenchers, there seemed to be little resulting impact. In both Houses, but particularly in the Senate, the lack of government business and presence led to some very short sittings – with an appreciable number of “afternoon” sittings lasting for less than an hour.
Alignment of Laws to the Constitution
Lack of Government commitment to the Constitution was perhaps predictable as in the President’s opening of the First Session only 6 of the 27 Bills he mentioned had anything to do with aligning existing laws to the new Constitution or underpinning new constitutional structures and institutions [see Bill Watch 47/2013]. Nevertheless it was hoped that although there had been lack of planning for such Bills at the beginning of the year, that Ministries during the year would have expedited Bills to implement the Constitution.
But, only two of the Bills passed tackled this urgent need. These were the National Prosecuting Authority Bill [passed but, regrettably, still not brought into operation by the President] and the Electoral Amendment Bill [which repeated the temporary Presidential Powers Regulations, which had merely aligned the Electoral Law to permit last year’s elections to comply with new constitutional provisions, e.g. proportional representation, but fell far short of a complete alignment of the Electoral Law with the Constitution].
Statutory Instruments 22nd and 24th October
[available from the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.]
Proclamation summoning Parliament SI 152A/2014 [see above]
Electoral regulations SI 153/2014 prescribes new forms for nomination of candidates for all elections, from Presidential elections down to local authority elections. The regulations came from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with the approval of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Legal profession – contingency fees SI 154/2014 enacts the Legal Practitioners (Contingency Fee Agreements) Regulations made by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, after consultation with the Chief Justice and the Law Society of Zimbabwe. A contingency fee agreement is one between legal practitioner and client in which it is agreed that no fee will be paid for the legal practitioner’s professional services in civil proceedings before courts, tribunals, arbitrators and certain functionaries, unless the proceedings result in a decision or settlement wholly or partly in the client’s favour [the client still pays court fees]. Criminal proceedings are expressly excluded. There are strict controls to protect clients from exploitation. A higher than normal fee may be agreed on but must not exceed 200% of normal. In court proceedings a settlement will need the approval of the court. A client may refer an agreement to the Law Society for review, and, if unhappy with the Society’s decision, take it to court on review or appeal.Post published in: Parliament