Cablegate: Parliament to Resume Session On October 7

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

300627Z Sep 03





E.O. 12958: N/A


B. HARARE 1880
C. HARARE 1135


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: After making limited progress on the
government,s ambitious legislative agenda during the last
session, Parliament is slated to resume attention on October
7 to a host of potentially important bills, including an
electoral act and an anti-money laundering law. Parliament
last adjourned September 11 but not before getting the
Privileges Amendment Bill, which would punish members of
parliament who boycott a Presidential address, through the
first reading or setting the stage for the NGO Bill, which
threatens to curtail NGOs' abilities to operate freely within
Zimbabwe. Mugabe signed into law this month amendments to
the Broadcasting Services Act, passed in June, that may
impinge on freedom of expression. On a positive note,
despite the continued threats to civil liberties,
Parliamentary procedural reforms continue. The most recent
change being the Standing Rules and Order Committee's
decision to set up a Business Management Committee that would
wrest the development of the Parliamentary agenda from the
Minister of Judicial, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick
Chinamasa to a committee that includes opposition and ruling
party members. END SUMMARY.

New Bills
2. (U) Of the seventeen bills Mugabe mentioned in his
opening of Parliament speech in July, only two -- the Stock
Theft Bill, which reintroduces a minimum mandatory sentence
for the theft of horses and cattle, and the Privileges
Amendment Bill, which punishes MPs who boycott, interrupt, or
walk out on a Presidential address to Parliament -- have
reached the first reading stage. (NOTE: Three readings are
required before a bill is conveyed to the President for
signature. END NOTE.) The NGO Bill President Mugabe mentioned
in his opening day speech (Ref A) has run into problems in
the Cabinet Committee on Legislation and is back in the
Attorney General,s office for drafting. After the brouhaha
surrounding the government's August proclamation that all
internationally donated food aid would be distributed via
government-dominated channels, some within government
reportedly are concerned that the NGO bill, as written, would
run international assistance out of the country (Ref B). In
addition, the government is expected soon to gazette a new
regulation or statutory instrument on Promotion of Banking
Transactions and Suppression of Money Laundering. (NOTE:
According to parliamentary process, bills are fist published
(gazetted) in the government gazette at least two weeks
before they are introduced in Parliament. After gazetting,
the bill proceeds to the first reading. END NOTE.) Other key
bills receiving attention are amendments to the Mines and
Minerals Act, which reportedly may receive public hearing,
and a supplementary budget authorization.

Old Business
3. (U) Two controversial bills -- the Citizenship Bill and
Electoral Bill -- were dropped in June during the last
session; however, the Electoral Bill is being redrafted and
is expected to be resubmitted. Both the Parliamentary Legal
Committee, which checks bills for constitutional
irregularities, and the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal
and Parliamentary Affairs were critical of the bill and
suggested a government redraft. As originally drafted, the
Electoral Bill would have vested observer accreditation
powers with the government, restricted provision of voter
education, limited voter eligibility, and severely restricted
posting of electioneering materials.

4. (U) There has been no movement on the suspension of MDC
MP Tafadzwa Musekiwa, who has missed more than the
constitutional limit of 21 consecutive days of Parliament.

5. (U) Just before the last Parliament closed in June,
Parliament passed the AIPPA Amendment Act and the
Broadcasting Services Amendment Act. The President signed
the Broadcasting Services Amendment Act into law in
September, after a period far exceeding the 21 days allowed
for assent into law by the Constitution. The AIPPA Amendment
Act has yet to be signed. The amended AIPPA Act is not much
different from the original one -- most of the changes
adopted by the government were cosmetic and did not address
major problems identified by the Portfolio Committee (Ref C).
The Broadcasting Services Amendment Act is intended to
expand the original Act's scope of coverage, notably
appearing to encompass internet service providers. The
original Act, passed in April 2001, enabled the Ministry of
Information to regulate or effectively ban new private radio
and TV stations and community radios by refusing to isssue

Parliamentary Reforms Continue
6. (U) On a rare positive note, during its August meeting,
the Standing Rules and Order Committee agreed to establish a
Business Management Committee (BMC). The BMC would monitor
and oversee the implementation of the House, set the annual
program--including the legislative agenda--implement the
rules regarding scheduling and functioning of committees, and
issue directives and guidelines to prioritize House benefits.
Prior to the formation of this Committee, the Leader of the
House and Minister of Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary
Affairs Patrick Chinamasa managed the house. After a bit of
cajoling earlier in the year, Chinamasa agreed to the
formation of the committee. The BMC comprises the Speaker of
the House (Emmerson Mnangagwa-ZANU-PF), the Deputy Speaker
(Edna Madzongwe-ZANU-PF), the Leader of the Opposition
(Welshman Ncube-MDC), the Chief Whip (Joram Gumbo-ZANU-PF)
and the Opposition Whip (Innocent Gonese-MDC). At the August
meeting, SROC agreed to meet again in October and to decide
which portfolio committee chairpersons to retain. The SROC
also agreed to meet three times a year versus the annual
meetings they now hold.

7. (SBU) Zimbabwe's legislative agenda continues to manifest
the government's interest in tightening controls on potential
opposition in its various guises. The Broadcasting Services
Act amendments and NGO bill would appear to give government
AIPPA-like means to harass and/or control potential critics
outside the press arena. While ostensibly of value against
organized crime and terrorist organizations, the anti-money
laundering bill likely will enhance the government's legal
means to investigate and to seize the assets of regime
critics. Civil society is tracking the bills closely, and a
September 25 Supreme Court decision upholding Capitol Radio's
constitutional challenge of certain provisions of the
Broadcast Services Act probably foreshadows more
constitutional attacks on the government's legislative

8. (SBU) The MDC continues to feel its way in Parliament but
appears still largely unprepared to exploit its considerable
presence there. Although the constitution permits any MP to
introduce a private bill, to our knowledge none of the MPs
have ever done so and the parliamentary opposition remains
essentially a reactive force. None seem interested, for
instance, in challenging the Broadcasting Services Amendment
Act's signature into law long after the period permitted by
the Constitution for signature had expired.

9. (SBU) We will reseve judgement for now on the Standing
Rules and Order Committee until we have seen how this body
functions in practice, and wheteher it will redress some of
the more egregious failings of procedure engineered by
Chinamasa in pursuit of ZANU-PF's legislative agenda. END

© Scoop Media

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