President Mugabe opened the first session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday 17th September. amid the pomp and ceremony traditionally associated with the event. As expected, MDC-T members of Parliament did not attend the ceremony. The two MDC Senators, however, did attend.
After the ceremony both Houses reassembled briefly before adjourning for one week. Business next Tuesday is expected to be confined to starting the traditional debates on the speech delivered by the President at the opening.
The President’s Legislative Agenda for the Session
[These Bills are not yet gazetted]
Early in his speech President Mugabe said that Parliament would have the task of passing Bills of three kinds:
· Bills amending existing legislation to align it with the new Constitution
· Bill for new legislation to give legal underpinning to the new structures and institutions provided for in the new Constitution
Comment: Only six of the twenty-seven Bills the President went on to mention have anything to do with aligning existing laws with the new Constitution, or underpinning new constitutional structures and institutions. And those barely scratch the surface of this complex subject. [See further comment at the end of this bulletin.]
· outstanding legislative business from the Seventh Parliament.
The Bills the President mentioned are listed below, starting with the six Bills named by him that will give effect to the new Constitution.
Six Bills to give Effect to the New Constitution
1. Zimbabwe Land Commission Bill This Bill will give legal underpinning to the establishment of the Zimbabwe Land Commission, and its taking over the tasks and role previously performed by the Agricultural Land Settlement Board. Sections 296 and 297 of the Constitution create the Commission and list its functions.
Comment: The President did not mention Bills for the other new Commissions: the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [Constitution, section 251 to 253] and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission [Constitution, sections 245 to 247]. Nor did he refer to the need for new Acts for provincial and metropolitan councils.
2. Health Services Act
3. Medical Services Act
4. Public Health Act
Comment: The President said that “the new Constitution imposes on the State the obligation to take concrete and reasonable measures to prevent the spread of diseases and to treat health care as an inalienable right for every Zimbabwean citizen”. Several Acts would be urgently amended to reflect this perspective, including the three listed above.
5. National Prosecuting Authority Bill The President said combating corruption would be bolstered through the establishment of the National Prosecution Authority as prescribed in the new Constitution which would take over the functions previously performed by the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office. Although he did not specifically mention a Bill, sections 259 and 261 of the Constitution make it clear that a Bill is essential.
6. Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission Amendment Bill A Bill is necessary to aligned existing provisions to tothe new Constitution. The President also said that members of the Commission will be required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and also to publicly declare their personal assets.
Comment: It is to be hoped that Parliamentarians will find the time and the will to finalise, adopt and, most importantly, ensure the implementation of their own Code of Conduct and Ethics, which has been in the Parliamentary pipeline for over a decade. Adoption of this code will allow implementation of the declaration of assets provision in Standing Order 19, which has long been a dead letter in the absence of the Code. Also, declaration of assets requirements should be enacted for Ministers, judges and other holders of important public offices.
Other Bills Listed in the President’s Speech
[Note – subheadings are by Veritas].
Bills to mobilise funding for pro-poor economic development initiatives
The President said that the Government “will, as it prioritises the implementation of sustainable pro-poor economic development initiatives hinged on the consolidation of macro-economic stability, effect the revival of key sectors of agriculture, mining, tourism and manufacturing. This will require vigorous mobilisation of the requisite funding”. He listed the following Bills as part of this thrust:
· Banking Act Amendment Bill , to strengthen regulation of new forms of banking
And three Bills designed to “collectively enhance pension and insurance sector operations”:
· Insurance Amendment Bill
· Pension and Provident Funds Amendment Bill
· Insurance and Pensions Commission Amendment Bill
Consumer rights and fair trade
· Consumer Protection Bill
· Zimbabwe Quality Standards Regulatory Authority Bill
Mobilising resources for public infrastructure, irrigation and rural development
Two Bills, said the President, will assist Government in pursuing public-private partnerships and establishing the Sovereign Wealth Fund “as vehicles for mobilising resources for the critical programmes of public infrastructure, irrigation and rural development”:
· Public-Private Partnership Bill
· Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill
· Mines and Minerals Bill
Comment: Mines and Minerals Amendment Bills have been in the pipeline for six years or more but have never been presented to Parliament for enactment. It seems that a replacement of the current Mines and Minerals Act is now contemplated.
Transportation and roads
· Border Posts Authority Bill The President said this Bill will facilitate the efficient movement of all forms of traffic at the country’s border posts.
· Road Tolls Amendment Bill This Bill will facilitate the takeover of the collection of toll fees from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority by the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration [ZINARA].
· Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill to facilitate consultation, negotiation and cooperation among Government, Business and Labour.
· Labour Law Harmonisation Bill to both harmonise existing labour law and ensure its alignment with International Labour Organisation Conventions acceded to by Zimbabwe.
· Bill to consolidate Occupational Health and Safety legislation and align it with internationally accepted standards.
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise sector
The President said the policy framework for this sector is being reviewed to enhance its employment potential and its capacity to eradicate poverty.
· Bill to regulate Common Facility Centres These are centres being established to impart entrepreneurship skills to young unemployed graduates from higher and tertiary institutions and assist them in starting up their own businesses.
· Savings and Credit Cooperatives Societies Bill
· Cooperatives Societies Amendment Bill
Two new universities
· Gwanda State University Bill
· Marondera University of Agricultural Science and Technology Bill
· Constituency Development Fund Bill This Bill will regulate the application of and accounting for money allocated to Parliamentarians for constituency development. The President promised it would contain heavy penalties for Parliamentarians found guilty of abusing allocated funds.
Trafficking in Persons
· Anti-Trafficking in Persons Bill This Bill will domesticate – incorporate into Zimbabwe law – the Palermo Protocol [the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Woman and Children].
Listed International Conventions for Approval
Like section 111B of its predecessor, section 327 of the Constitution requires most international agreements to be approved by Parliament before they become binding on Zimbabwe. President Mugabe listed the following international agreements to be brought to Parliament for its approval.
Wild life conservation
Agreements for the establishment of:
· the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Park
· the Greater Mapungubwe Conservation Park
Biodiversity, sustainable development and human well-being
Multilateral agreements aimed at “enhancing the contribution of biodiversity to sustainable development and human well-being”:
· the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilisation
· the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol onBiosafety; and
· the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.
Comment on Necessary Legislative Changes Not Mentioned by the President
It is disappointing that the President’s speech made only token references to what needs to be done to align existing legislation with the new Constitution. Acts that urgently require such alignment, but went unmentioned by the President, include [the list is far from exhaustive]:
· Citizenship Act
· Public Order and Security Act [POSA]
· Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act
· Criminal Law Code [full title: Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act]
· Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [AIPPA]
· University Acts
· Police Act, Defence Act and Prisons Act
· Electoral Act
· Provincial Councils and Administration Act [which probably needs to be completely replaced to deal adequately with the elected metropolitan and provincial councils].
Information and analysis done by Veritas Trust, Harare.