New Parliament Starts – Bill Watch 18 / 2018

By 4 September 2018Democracy, Legislation

Swearing-in of Members of Parliament

The Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, has given notice in the Government Gazette [General Notice [GN] 685/2018, published on 31st August in a Gazette Extraordinary] that members of Parliament will be sworn in on Wednesday 5th September:

  • Members of the National Assembly at 10 a.m.
  • Senators at 2.30 p.m.

The Clerk presides over the proceedings and it is the Clerk who administers the oath of office, which is set out in the Third Schedule to the Constitution in the following terms:

“Oath or Affirmation of Member of Parliament

I, ……………………………………………. swear [or solemnly affirm] that I will be faithful to Zimbabwe, that I will uphold the Constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe, and that I will perform my duties as a Senator/Member of the National Assembly [whichever is appropriate] faithfully and to the best of my ability.

So help me God.” [To be omitted in affirmation]

The taking of this oath of office is necessary before any member of Parliament takes his or her seat in Parliament [Constitution, section 128(1)].

First Sitting of the New Parliament

The first sitting of Parliament after an election must take place at a time and date determined by the President, which must not be later than 30 days after his assumption of office [Constitution, section 145(1)]. President Mnangagwa assumed office on 26th August, making 25th September the deadline for Parliament’s first sitting.

President Mnangagwa has kept within this time-limit. He has determined that the first sitting of Parliament will take place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday next week, 11th September [see Presidential Proclamation 4/2018, published in Statutory Instrument [SI] 159A/2018 of 29th August as corrected by SI 168/2018 of 31st August].

Election of Presiding Officers

The Senate and the National Assembly must, at their first sittings after a general election, before proceeding to any other business, elect their presiding officers – the President and Deputy President of the Senate and the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly [Constitution, sections 122 and 123, and sections 126 and 127, respectively].

These elections must be conducted by the Clerk of Parliament under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] and by secret ballot and in accordance with rules set by the Clerk in consultation with ZEC. These rule will be announced in the House before the elections take place. The results must be announced forthwith.

Qualifications for election as Speaker

To be nominated for election as Speaker of the National Assembly a person must be:

  • a member or former member of the National Assembly
  • or be qualified for election to the National Assembly, i.e., a registered voter and at least 21 years of age.

Qualifications for President of the Senate

To be nominated for election as President of the Senate a person must be

  • a Senator or former Senator
  • or be qualified for election to the Senate, i.e., be a registered voter and at least 40 years of age.

If a sitting member of the Senate is elected as Senate President, or a sitting member of the National Assembly as Speaker, that member immediately ceases to be a member of Parliament and the vacancy must be filled by a by-election or by the procedure for filling vacant proportional representation seats, as appropriate.

In the last Parliament, Mr Speaker Jacob Mudenda was not a sitting member of the National Assembly, so no by-election was necessary. Madam President of the Senate Ednah Madzongwe, however, was a sitting proportional representation Senator and her election caused a vacancy that was filled in terms of the Constitution and the Electoral Act by a nominee of the same sex put forward by the ZANU-PF.

Qualifications for election as deputy presiding officer

  • To be elected as the Deputy Speaker, a person must be a member of the National Assembly.
  • To be elected as Deputy President of the Senate, a person must be a Senator.

The persons elected do not lose their seats.

Oaths to be taken by persons elected

Before commencing their duties the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the President and Deputy President of the Senate, must take the appropriate oaths of loyalty and office before the Chief Justice or the next most senior judge available.

Elections Followed by Immediate Adjournment

On 11th September business In both Houses will be confined to these elections. Both Houses will then adjourn for a period still to be announced, but probably for at least one or two weeks. This will allow time for induction of the large number of first-time members, who constitute approximately 60% of the total membership. Induction includes explaining of Parliamentary procedures and rules.

No announcement has yet been made of the date on which the President will open Parliament and reveal the Government’s legislative agenda.

Life of the New Parliament

Section 143(1) of the Constitution provides that: “Parliament is elected for a five-year term which runs from the date on which the President-elect is sworn in and assumes office.” President Mnangagwa assumed office on 26th August.

In the ordinary course of events, therefore:

  • the new Parliament will run until midnight on the 25th August 2023; and
  • the next general election will be held during the 30-day period starting on 27th July 2023 and ending on the 25th August 2023.

Apologies and Correction of Error in Bill Watch 17

At the end of Bill Watch 17/2018 dated 3rd September it was incorrectly stated that the Office of the President and Cabinet had failed for some years to publish notices in the Gazette listing the laws for which each Minister is responsible. In fact, notices doing just that were gazetted on the 15th June this year as Statutory Instruments 94 to 118, just before elections. They are all, or soon will be, available on the Veritas website. Veritas apologises to the Office of the President and Cabinet and to readers. It is hoped that the Office of the President and Cabinet will keep up the good work and promptly gazette any changes that may be needed after the coming appointment of Ministers.

Source: Veritas