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PLC adverse report on Youth Council Regs; AG's Office Amendment Bill – Bill Watch 7/2013
Veritas
February 19, 2013

Both Houses of Parliament are sitting this Week

Zimbabwe Youth Council (General) Regulations [SI 4/2013]: Update

Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] adverse report - The Committee has agreed on an adverse report on SI 4/2013. It will be presented to the Senate this week. The adverse report does not itself invalidate the regulations, but if it is approved by the Senate, the House of Assembly then has up to twenty-one days in which to reverse the Senate’s decision – otherwise President is under a constitutional obligation to revoke the SI.

The decision of Parliament to accept or reject the adverse report depends on voting in the Houses – this decision does not have the same status as a court ruling that the SI is or is not unconstitutional or ultra vires and invalid. Only a court can deliver a legally binding decision on that question. If Parliament does not accept its own Legal Committee’s opinion, there is nothing to stop a challenge to the regulations in the High Court.

Attorney General’s Office Amendment Bill

The Attorney General’s Office Act, although passed by Parliament and gazetted in early 2011, has never been brought into operation, because concerns were raised about some of its provisions. This Bill aims to address those concerns and will, if passed into law, enable the Act to be brought into force at last.

The Bill was gazetted on 8th February [available from veritas@mango.zw]. Under Parliamentary Standing Orders it cannot be formally introduced in either House until two weeks after gazetting [the first opportunity would be 26th February]. The explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill says that its purpose is “to amend the Attorney General’s Office Act in such a manner that the Attorney-General is enabled to uphold the independence of his or her office in the discharge of his or her constitutional mandate under section 76 of the Constitution”. Section 76 of the Constitution states the Attorney General’s powers as the nation’s chief prosecutor and vests them in the Attorney-General “to the exclusion of any other person or authority”.

The Bill proposes changes in the composition of the Attorney General’s Office Board as follows:

  • The Attorney-General will be the chairperson of the Board. Under the current provision the Attorney-General is merely an ordinary member and the chairperson is a legal practitioner from outside the Office.
  • All Deputy Attorneys General will be ex officio members of the Board. Under the current provision they are not on the Board. This change would give members of the Office greater representation on the Board. There are three Deputy Attorneys General at the moment.

The only other change is the insertion of a statement that the powers of the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs to give general policy directions to the Board must be exercised “subject to the provisions of section 76 of the Constitution”. This is in fact an unnecessary change – as the Constitution is the supreme law, the Minister’s powers must be exercised subject to section 76 whether or not the Act says so in as many words.

Comment: It is strange that after such a long wait the Bill is coming up at this stage. The draft Constitution may be enacted into law before mid-year. If it is, it will necessitate not only major changes to the Attorney-General’s Office, but also setting up of separate National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] headed by an independent Prosecutor-General, to take over the Attorney-General‘s prosecuting functions. The NPA will require an Act of its own – the draft Constitution explicitly lays this down.

In Parliament Last Week

House of Assembly

Bills [all available from veritas@mango.zw]

  • Income Tax Bill - This Ministry of Finance Bill had its First Reading on 12th February and was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] for its report on the Bill’s constitutionality. The Second Reading stage cannot start until the PLC report is received.
  • Microfinance Bill - The Speaker announced that the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] had returned a non-adverse report on the Bill, which can proceed to its Second Reading.
  • Securities Amendment Bill - The House approved a motion by the Minister of Finance restoring this Bill to the Order Paper at the stage reached when it lapsed at the end of the last Session. This means the PLC can complete its consideration of the Bill.

Motions

Debate started on motions concerning:

  • Historical importance of certain prisons - Hon Kanzama introduced his motion calling for the renaming and declaration as national monuments of Hwahwa, Sikhombela and Gonakudzingwa Prisons.
  • Residential care institutions - The Portfolio Committee on Public Service Labour, and Social Welfare’s report on The Status of Residential Care Institutions in Zimbabwe was presented [report available from veritas@mango.zw]

Question Time - Questions included several for the Minister of Finance on funding for the Referendum and the UNWTO conference, and others for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance on mining policies and revenues, and the Minister of Education on examination results and education problems. Detailed responses were given.

Senate

Bills - There were no Bills on the Order Paper. So far this year no Bills have been passed in the House of Assembly and transmitted to the Senate for its consideration.

Motions

There were further contributions to the debates on the Vice-President Nkomo condolence motion and the motion to thank the President for his speech opening the Session.

Motion on the death penalty approved - Senator Marava’s motion calling for Government action to move towards abolition of the death penalty was debated on both Tuesday and Wednesday. All contributors to the debate were opposed to the death penalty and many stressed that capital punishment was introduced by the colonists and had no place in traditional culture. Senator Chief Charumbira and Senator Mohadi, while not speaking in favour of the death penalty, reminded Senators that they had only a few days before enthusiastically accepted the draft constitution, which expressly permits it. At the end of the debate the motion was passed by 16 votes to 15. [Note: The clause in the draft constitution merely permits the law to provide for the death penalty in limited circumstances; it certainly would not prohibit Parliament from passing an Act to abolish the death penalty.]

Coming Up in Parliament This Week

House of Assembly

Bills

Microfinance Bill - Item 1 on the Order Paper for 19th February is the Minister of Finance’s speech explaining this Bill at the commencement of the Second Reading stage.

The Minister’s two other Bills are under consideration by the PLC.

Motions - Debate on motions carried over from last week is due to continue. New motions near the top of the Order Paper for 19th February include presentations of portfolio committee reports on the Asiagate Scandal, Local Authorities, and the ESSAR deal.

Questions

The ten questions listed for Ministerial reply on 20th February include questions on:

  • the Chisumbanje Ethanol project
  • the War Victims Pension Fund

Senate

Bills There are still no Bills for the Senate to work on.

Motions

Motion to revive POSA Amendment Bill - First item on the Order Paper for Tuesday 19th February is Hon Gonese’s motion asking Senators to restore the POSA Amendment Bill to the Order Paper – this is a lapsed motion from the last Session and from the Session before. The Bill but has been stalled in the Senate ever since it was passed by the House of Assembly in December 2010 [see Bill Watch 4/2013 of 5th February]. Note: Another option for Mr Gonese is to ask the House of Assembly to send the Bill straight to the President for signature, in terms of Constitutional provision Schedule 4 para 3, as the Senate has taken too long to deal with it.

Debate is also due to continue on motions carried over from last week: the vote of thanks to the President, and the Vice-President Nkomo condolence motion.

Question Time on Thursday

One question is listed, for the Minister of Mines and Mining Development: it seeks information on haphazard illegal mining activities at Benson Mine in Mudzi district.

Government Gazettes of 12th and 15th February

Statutory Instruments [SIs]

Referendum date proclamation - SI 19/2013 set 16th March as the date for the Referendum on the draft constitution

Mandatory blending of unleaded petrol and ethanol - SI 17/2013 requires mandatory blending of unleaded petrol imported by pipeline or rail. [NOT available from Veritas]

Collective bargaining agreement: Tourism Industry - SI 18/2013 sets wages and allowances for this industry, effective 1st October 2012. [NOT available from Veritas]

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