Update on Constitution Amendment Bill & Government Gazette

Bill Watch 29/2017

Parliament is Now in Recess

Official Opening of the Next Session – Tuesday 12th September

Present Status of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill

According to General Notice 485/2017, published in today’s Government Gazette, the Bill was sent to the President for assent and signature on Tuesday 22nd August and has not been returned.

Section 131(6) of the Constitution provides that when a Bill is presented to the President for assent and signature, he must, within 21 days, either assent to it and sign it and then cause it to be published in the Gazette as an Act without delay or, if he considers the Bill  unconstitutional or has other reservations about it, refer it back to Parliament, giving detailed written reasons for those reservations and requesting that the Bill be reconsidered.

In this case there is reason to think that the Bill submitted to the President is unconstitutional because it was not properly passed by a two- thirds majority of the total membership of each House, as required by the Constitution.

Bill Watch 26/2017 of 3rd August [Was the Constitution Amendment Bill Passed?] outlined the questions that have arisen about the final votes on the Bill  in both the National Assembly and the Senate [link].

Possible court case questioning whether the Bill was passed by the requisite majorities

Shortly after the Bill was declared duly passed by the President of the Senate, it was announced that a court application would be lodged to challenge the validity of the votes in both Houses.  It may have been better to have re-committed the Bill for a recount of the votes to avoid any doubt .  The case has not yet been lodged but if the Bill is signed and published as an Act the challenge is likely to go ahead.   If the court challenge is upheld, the Bill may still go ahead, but the delay will have been considerable.

Implications if legal action goes ahead

The terms of the Bill affect the manner of appointment of the Deputy Chief Justice.  This post has now been vacant since 27th March.  If the appointment were to go ahead in a situation of doubt over the Bill, the appointment could be contested and possibly invalidated.

Older Persons Act  Now in Force

SI 100/2017 brings the Older Persons Act [link] into force with effect from 1st September 2017.  The Act was passed in 2012.  The responsible Ministry is the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Update Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill

The final legal draft of this long-awaited Bill is being prepared by the drafters in the Attorney-General’s Office.  Once agreed between the Attorney-General’s Office and the responsible Ministry, the Bill will go to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation for final approval.  We are not able to predict when the Bill will eventually reach Parliament.

SADC Summit

The 37th Ordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community [SADC] took place in Pretoria, South Africa, and culminated in the meeting of Heads of State and Government on 19th and 20th August.   President Zuma of South Africa assumed office as SADC chairperson for the next year; Namibian President Geingob will be SADC deputy chairperson.   The Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation will be chaired by the Angolan President, deputised by the Zambian President.

The Union of Comoros was admitted to membership of SADC at the Summit.  This brings the number of SADC states to sixteen.  Burundi’s application for membership remains under consideration.

The Summit, having noted “a number of challenges that have made it is unrealistic for the DRC to hold elections in December 2017 as originally planned,” approved the appointment of a Special Envoy to the DRC “in light of the political and security dynamics, particularly in preparation for the elections”.

The full text of the Summit communiqué is available on the Veritas website [link].

Older Persons Act  Now in Force

SI 100/2017 brings the Older Persons Act [link] into force with effect from 1st September 2017.   The Act was passed in 2012.  The responsible Ministry is the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Government Gazettes 18th August to 1st September

Statutory Instrument of 18th August

Exchange control: Currency allowance for outgoing travellers reduced  SI 93/2017 [link] amends the Exchange Control (General) Order by reducing to US$2 000.00 or equivalent the amount of currency that a person can take out of the country or have in his or her possession in a departure lounge at any port [the previous allowance was US$5 000.00 or equivalent].  Bond notes and coins are included in the allowance [the words used are “a total of two thousand United States dollars, or its equivalent in any currency or combination of currencies or in bond notes or coins”].

Statutory Instruments of 25th August

Karoi clamping and tow-away by-laws  SI 94/2017 [link] contains new by-laws applicable to the Karoi Town Council area. Other local authority by-laws on this subject have attracted adverse reports from the PLC for inconsistencies with the Constitution [e.g., the PLC’s adverse report [link] on the Plumtree Town Council’s by-laws] and these by-laws may do so too.  Previous adverse reports seem to have lapsed along with other unfinished business at the end of Parliamentary sessions, so the full Senate has not yet debated and voted on the merits or otherwise of these reports.

Minimum capital requirements for insurers and insurance brokers  SI 95/2017 [link] is a 13-page set of amending regulations that must have completely escaped the attention of a competent legislative proof-reader.  It is disgraceful that new rules on such an important subject have been published in so sub-standard a form.  It is to be hoped that a properly checked and punctuated version will replace the present dog’s breakfast, and that nonsensical provisions such as the new section 5A(4) on page 722 of the SI will be redrafted.

Collective bargaining agreement: Agricultural Industry (General Agriculture)  SI 96/2017 [link] specifies new wages, with effect from 1st June 2017.  There has been a 4.167% increase according to the table of wages applicable to the various grades, A1 to C2.

VAT zero-rating  SI 97/2017 grants back-dated VAT zero-rating – for a six-year period that has already expired [February 2009 to December 2015] – to the supply of food and beverages as part of packaged accommodation.

General Notice of 29th August

GN 484/2017 notifies the designation by the Judicial Service Commission of three magistrates to try cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation before, during and after the City of Harare Ward 46 by-election.

Statutory Instruments of 1st September

Medicines and allied substances control: application and renewal fees   SI 98/2017 fixes fees of $20 and $15 for licensed premises run by a local authority nurse.  The application fee for a CCP certificate for a pharmaceutical product is reduced from $150 to $80.

Medicines and allied substances control: import and export of medicines  SI 99/2017 reduces the application fee for an export permit from the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Authority from $50 to $40.

Source: Veritas

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