After the Budget Speech on 22nd November both Houses Adjourned: National Assembly until 4th December, Senate until 18th December.
Bill Watch 41/2018 covered only the delivery of the Budget Speech on Thursday 22nd November by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube. This purpose of this bulletin is to outline other Parliamentary events during Budget week and to bring readers up to date with the Government Gazettes published on 22nd, 23rd and 30th November.
In the Senate 20th to 22nd November
There were no Bills for consideration, none having been introduced in the Senate or passed by the National Assembly since the start of the present Parliamentary session on 18th September.
Two new motions were introduced on Tuesday, one calling on the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to improve measures against tick-borne diseases in livestock, the other a take-note motion presenting a report on the recent Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union [IPU] in Switzerland. There were further contributions to debates on motions previously introduced. Thursday’s sitting lasted only 8 minutes. Instead of Question Time Senators adjourned early to follow the Budget proceedings in the National Assembly on monitors set up in the Senate chamber.
In the National Assembly 20th to 22nd November
Companies and Other Business Entities Bill: The Bill remained with the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC], to which it was referred after its introduction on 1st November for the PLC’s mandatory report on the Bill’s consistency with the Constitution.
On 20th November, before MPs resumed debating the motion in response to the President’s address opening this Parliament, the Speaker informed the House that the following petitions had been received from individuals and referred to appropriate portfolio committees:
- Engagement of non-Public Service social workers as probation officers [to Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare]
- Need for Potable water and sewer reticulation in Ward 5, Gwanda Municipality [to Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing]
- Rampant child prostitution in Chiredzi [to portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs]
- Water and sanitation in Chiredzi [to portfolio committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing].
The Speaker also announced the rejection as inadmissible a petition from Harare West Residents about illegal structures on wetlands as a result of corrupt land deals. The petition had not complied with the rules of procedure.
Question Time went ahead as usual on Wednesday 21st November.
Ministerial Statement on Disappearance of Itai Dzamara
The Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage made a brief statement on Wednesday 21st November.
Police Intervention to Remove Opposition MPs before Budget Speech
Immediately before the Budget speech was due to start President Mnangagwa entered the House. What happened then is recorded as follows in the National Assembly’s official Votes and Proceedings:
“His Excellency the President E.D. Mnangagwa entered the House at 1445. All members of Parliament except those from the MDC-A rose from their seats as a sign of respect to the President in line with existing parliamentary practices. Having disobeyed the order by the Speaker to leave the House, members of the MDC-A were ejected from the House by the Police. The Police were acting on the instructions of the Speaker which were conveyed through the Sergeant-at-Arms.”
What is not conveyed by those words is that the ejection was carried out with force, resulting in some injuries, damage to clothing and exposure of a woman MP’s underclothes.
Was it proper for the President to be in the National Assembly on this occasion?
The presence of the President in the House for the annual Budget speech is a tradition that was started under former President Mugabe many years ago. But it is not a constitutional entitlement. There are no express words in the Constitution or in Parliament’s Standing Orders obliging MPs to support the tradition. Indeed, section 140 of the Constitution seems to limit the President’s presence in either House of Parliament to the following occasions: (1) when the President wishes to address a particular House or a joint sitting, (2) for the delivery of his obligatory annual State of the Nation Address, and (3) when he attends Parliament “to answer questions on any issue as may be provided in Standing Orders”. Apart from those occasions, section 140 restricts the President to sending messages to either House to be read out by a Vice-President, a Minister or the Speaker or other presiding officer of the House concerned.
Was the police intervention proper?
The use of police officers to eject MDC-A MPs has been condemned. No-one has suggested that the MPs had committed an offence justifying arrest, which is the only conceivable reason for police to even enter the National Assembly. If the Sergeant-at-Arms cannot effect an MP’s removal from the House if ordered to do so by the Speaker, Parliament’s own security personnel should be used, not the police. That is the course that has been followed in the South African Parliament following the SA Constitutional Court’s 2016 ruling against police being used to clear South Africa’s National Assembly of EFF MPs who had obstructed proceedings by repeated interjections.
MDC-A MPs’ freedom of speech
Criticism of what happened has stressed the general constitutional right of MDC-A MPs to freedom of expression under the Declaration of Rights, and the special privileges and immunities conferred on all MPs by section 148 of the Constitution. Section 148 grants MPs immunity from arrest and legal proceedings for anything said in the Senate or the National Assembly. It is significant that the SA Constitutional Court’s ruling just referred to was based on similar constitutional provisions of the South African Constitution. Freedom of expression, after all, includes the right to speak or behave in a manner that may be impolite, lacking in courtesy or offensive to others – such as declining to stand when the President enters a room.
Government Gazettes 22nd, 23rd and 30th November 2018
Government Gazette Extraordinary 22nd November
This gave effect to proposals in the Budget speech.
Statutory instrument [SI]
Customs duty on “designated goods” payable in US dollars
SI 252A/2018 contains the Customs and Excise (Designation of Foreign Currency Dutiable Goods) Notice, 2018. It was gazetted late on 22nd November but came into effect at the beginning of 23rd November, the day after the Budget Speech. Section 2(1) of the SI “designates” a long list of goods, listed in its eight-page Schedule, for “the purposes of section 115(3) of the Act” and section 2(2) states “Every person who imports any goods designated in terms of this notice shall pay duty in foreign currency”. [Note; “115(3)” is a careless, but not legally significant, mistake; it should be “115(1)”.]
Section 115(1) of the Customs and Excise Act labels designated goods “foreign currency dutiable goods”. It requires payment of duty on such goods in “United States dollars”, i.e., not in any other foreign currency; and this is “notwithstanding section 41 of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act [Chapter 22:15] or anything provided by or under the Exchange Control Act [Chapter 22:05]”.
There is an exemption for goods purchased before the 23rd November and consigned on or before 3rd January, “provided approval for the exemption is obtained from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development within 42 days of date of importation of the goods”. ZIMRA Public Notice 47/2018 [link] explains how to apply for an exemption.
General Notice [GN]
New ZIMRA tax administration system? GN 992A/2018 is a notice from ZIMRA requesting Expressions of Interest in providing a new Tax Administration System from qualified firms. The deadline for submissions is 10 am on Thursday 13th December. [The Minister of Finance and Economic Development mentioned the need for a new tax administration system in his Budget Speech.]
Regular Government Gazette 23rd November
Statutory Instruments [SIs]
Civil Aviation SI 253/2018 is the Civil Aviation (General Procedure and Enforcement) Regulations, 2018. These important regulations replace most of Part I of the omnibus Civil Aviation (Air Navigation) Regulations [SI 151/2004]. They contain general provision for exemptions, general administrative rules re testing, licences and certificates, aeronautical information circulars [AICs], and investigative and enforcement procedures – in relation to the “Civil Aviation Regulations”, meaning all the regulations for the civil aviation industry that are in force. The regulations in force include the many separate regulations that have been gazetted during 2018 in an exercise to align Zimbabwe’s civil aviation regulations with best international practice.
Collective bargaining agreement SI 254/2018 deals with wages for the Tobacco Industry’s Grading Sector for the period 1st July 2018 to 31st October 2018, the minimum wage being pegged at US 198.00 per month. It also provides for deduction from wages of NEC levies.
Regular Government Gazette 30th November
Civil Aviation SI 255/2018 is the Civil Aviation (Instrument Flight Procedure) Regulations.
Collective bargaining agreements – Food and Allied Industries (Baking Sub-sector) SI 256/2018 deals with wages and allowances for the year 2018. SI 257/2018 regulates fixed term contracts and when continuous service converts a fixed term contract into a contract without limit of time.
Alluvial mining and the environment SI 258/2018 amends the Environmental Management (Control of Alluvial Mining) Regulations, 2014 [SI 92/2014]. The effects are (1) to remove the prohibition on the use of mechanical equipment or motor powered equipment in alluvial mining, (2) to require processing and washing plants, ore stockpiles, slimes dams and settling ponds to be at least 500 metres from the highest flood line of any watercourse [up from 250 metres], (3) to add new provisions requiring all mined-out areas to be progressively rehabilitated and to prohibit mining operations deeper than the original riverbed.
E15 Blend petrol GN 1007/2018, issued by the Minister of Energy and Power Development, approves the current ethanol/unleaded petrol blending rate of 15% and authorises licensed operators to sell unleaded petrol blended at E15.
Government Gazette Extraordinary 30th November
Statutory Instrument increasing duty on fuel and cigarettes
SI 259/2018 amends the Second Schedule to the Customs and Excise (Tariff) Notice, 2017 [SI 53/2017] with effect from 1st December 2018. The effect is to set increased rates of excise duty on (1) cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes of tobacco or of tobacco substitutes and (2) petrol, power kerosene, illuminating or heating kerosene and diesel, as proposed in the Budget speech.