Both Houses of Parliament Will Resume Sitting on Tuesday 29th January
Coming Up in the Senate
The most important business facing Senators is consideration of the two Budget Bills passed by the National Assembly on 20th December – the Appropriation (2019) Bill and the Finance (No. 3) Bill. Both Bills were amended by the National Assembly: the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill [see Bill Watch 1/2019 Update on the 2019 Budget].
As already explained in Bill Watches 1/2019 and 3/2019 the Constitution allows the Senate only a few sitting days within which to complete the task. In addition, the Senate’s powers in relation to Money Bills are limited to recommending amendments for the consideration of the National Assembly, which the National Assembly may, but is not obliged to, accept.
There is doubt whether some clauses of the Finance (No. 3) Bill belong in a Money Bill [see further detail in Bill Watch 3/2019]. A ruling will have to be given on this point if Senators want to move amendments to those clauses.
Coming Up in the National Assembly
Discussion of recent events
Since Parliament last met on 20th December, Zimbabwe has experienced a rapid deterioration in the economic, political, legal, security and constitutional situation. Recent events – the shock fuel price increase of 12th January, the protests about the general price increases that inevitably followed, the Government’s heavy-handed reaction using the police and military, the Internet and social media shutdowns, hundreds of arrests, credible reports of mass beatings and rapes by soldiers, allegations of State dictation of accused persons’ treatment by magistrates courts – all these and other matters cry out for explanations to be given to Parliament by Government Ministers, if not the President.
If they have not managed to raise these issues by other means before Wednesday, that afternoon’s Question Time will provide an opportunity for MPs to demand authoritative statements of the Government’s position.
Companies and Other Entities Bill
This Bill is item 1 on the agenda for Tuesday 29th January. The Second Reading stage is due to commence with the Second Reading speech to be presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill
This Bill had its First Reading on 19th December and was immediately sent to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for its report on the Bill’s compatibility with the Constitution. That report is still awaited; without it the Second Reading stage cannot commence.
Government Gazettes 4th to 25th January
Friday 4th January
Collective bargaining agreements
SI 1/2019 – Food and Allied Industries [Food Processing Sub-sector] – wages and allowances for 2018.
SI 2/2019 – Food and Allied Industries [Meat, Fish, Poultry, Abattoir and Meat Processing Sub-sector] – agreement on duration of fixed term contracts, and conversion of consecutive fixed term contracts to contracts without limit of time, backdated to 1st January 2016 for employees currently employed on fixed term contracts.
SI 3/2019 – Food and Allied Industries [Sugar Refining Sub-sector] – wages and allowances for 2018.
Customs and Excise
SI 4/2019 – Another three-year suspension of duty for capital development of a specified mining location.
Friday 11th January
Collective bargaining agreements
SI 6/2019 – Cement and Lime and Allied Industry – wages and salaries for 2017 and 2018.
SI 7/2019 – Cement and Lime and Allied Industry – complete new conditions of service, stated to be with effect from the date on which the parties concluded the agreement.
Customs and Excise
SI 8/2019 – Three-year suspensions of duty for capital development of three specified mining locations.
SI 5/2019 – Exemption from income tax on salaries and emoluments of expatriate staff of Shanghai Construction Group Limit. The exemption is with effect from 1st December 2017 and is applicable only to salaries and emoluments emanating from the direct engagement of the staff for the construction of the new Parliament building.
Saturday 12th January [Gazette Extraordinary]
Petroleum Fuel Price Increase: The following two statutory instruments underpinned President Mnangagwa’s shock announcement of a 150% fuel price rise on 12th January.
Customs and Excise
SI 9/2019 – This SI amended the Excise Duty tariff so as to impose a substantial increase of the excise duty on petrol, diesel and kerosene with effect from Sunday 13th January. It was made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development in terms of section 225(1) of the Customs and Excise Act.
Note: SI 9 must be confirmed by Act of Parliament in accordance with the requirements laid down by section 225(2) of the Act – the Bill for the Act must pass its Second Reading in the National Assembly on “one of the 28 days on which Parliament next sits after the SI came into operation” [day one of the 28 days will be 29th January] and the resulting Act must become law not later than 6 months after the Second Reading. If these requirements are not complied with, the SI “shall become void as from its date of commencement” [13th January] and the duty increases “shall be deemed not to have been imposed, amended or replaced, as the case may be” – which would require ZIMRA to repay duty paid at the increased rate.
New Petroleum Products Pricing Regulations
SI 10/2019 – contained new regulations made by the Minister of Energy and Power Development in terms of section 57 of the Petroleum Act, after consultation with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority [ZERA]. The regulations leave it to ZERA to prescribe the maximum wholesale and retail prices for petrol diesel and kerosene, in accordance with the “pricing model” set out in the regulations. For further comment on these badly-drafted regulations see Bill Watch 2/2019 of 20th January on Fixing of Fuel Prices.
Friday 18th January
No statutory instruments were published in this Government Gazette, but there was one noteworthy General Notice [GN]:
Credit Line Agreement between Zimbabwe and Export Import Bank of India amended
GN 19/2019 published an “amendatory agreement” extending the grace period under the 2013 Dollar Credit Line Agrement from 3 years to 5 years and reduced the Indian content requirement from 75% to 65%.
Friday 25th January
New Magistrates Court (Civil) Rules
SI 11/2019 sets out comprehensive new rules to replace the rules of 1980 and their many amendments, which are all repealed.
Commencement: The new rules will come into force on 1st February 2019 – unless the Chief Justice earlier, by notice in the Government Gazette, specifies an earlier or later date of commencement [Order 1, Rule 2]. As the 1st February is only a few days away, the Chief Justice may feel it fairer to magistrates, court staff, litigants and their legal practitioners to specify a later date of commencement.
Application of the new rules to cases that already in the system. Order 1, rule 2 provides that the new rules will have effect in relation to all civil proceedings in a magistrates court,” including so [far] as is practicable proceedings that were pending on the date of commencement” [the word “far” is missing from the published rules but is obviously intended].