Cablegate: Legislative Environment Worsening

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





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) The legislative environment in Zimbabwe continues to
decline as Parliament,s role in the law-making process is
increasingly marginalized. To compound Parliament,s
ineffectiveness, it is likely to reduce its sittings during
the next session as MPs hit the campaign trails, allowing
continuation of the current trend of the Executive Office
creating law via statutory instruments and without
Parliamentary input. End Summary.

Lackluster Parliamentary Agenda

2. (U) Parliament,s next sitting is scheduled to resume May
11, during which time it is expected to pass the Electoral
Amendment Bill (Reftel). If Parliament does not pass the
bill during the next sitting then, it likely will prior to
the close of the session sometime in June. Other legislation
that will be on the agenda includes:

--the Privileges Amendment Bill that, among other things,
would fine MPs who miss, interrupt, or walk out on
presidential addresses to Parliament, and protect judges and
magistrates from being arrested or searched within the
premises of any court of which they are judges, magistrates,
or presidents;
--the Stock Theft Amendment Bill that would reintroduce a
minimum sentence for theft of horses and cattle;
--the Administrative Justice Bill that claims to encourage
efficient administration and good governance;
--the Securities Bill, which is the first bill written by a
group outside the Ministries;
--the Balance of Payments Reporting bill that establishes
another way to get foreign exchange from financial
institutions and large scale exporters;
--and the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill establishing an
Anti-Corruption Commission that would report to the Minister
of Special Affairs for Anti-corruption and Anti-monopolies
Didymus Mutasa.

The Privileges Amendment, Stock Theft Amendment, and
Administrative Justice Bills received adverse reports from
the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC), the committee
responsible for ensuring the constitutionality of

Legislative Environment Deteriorating

3. (SBU) The broad consensus among major donors, outside
experts who work with Parliament, and Post is that the
legislative environment has deteriorated over the last few
years despite the growing role of portfolio committees.
There is no set legislative calendar, and Parliament,s
sitting schedule seems to be dictated by when Executive
Orders are set to expire. Furthermore, many bills languish
in Parliament unpassed, resurfacing session after session.
The statutory instrument (S.I.) has become a popular means of
law-making, mainly because they are not subject to the same
procedural requirements as bills and are more effectively
controlled by the executive. (Note: Statutory instruments
originate in the Executive Office and do not need to go
through the same parliamentary bill-making procedure,
although they are subject to PLC review. They are effective
immediately upon publication in the Government Gazette.
S.I.,s generated under the Presidential Powers (Temporary
Measures) Act expire after six months but other S.I.,s have
an indefinite lifespan. End Note.) Prominent S.I.'s over the
last five months include S.I. 273A of 2003 that authorizes
agents of the Ministry of Lands to seize farm equipment and
material from former commercial farmers; S.I. 37 and S.I. 41A
of 2004 that take away the court's discretion on bail and
authorize the police to detain suspects for longer periods;
and S.I. 18 of 2004 that grants the government-owned Tel*One
telephone company a monopoly on international
telecommunications services. All of these statutory
instruments received adverse reports from the PLC.

ZANU-PF Disdain for Parliament

4. (U) Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa most likely
summed up the party's attitude towards Parliament and a more
inclusive parliamentary process with comments reported in the
April 25 issue of The Voice, the ZANU-PF newspaper, in which
he stated &our greatest challenge remains how to transform
our party principles onto the parliamentary landscape so that
the party and parliamentary democracy are
indistinguishable.8 In the same article, Mnangagwa declared
the Parliament undemocratic and in need of a &homegrown8
overhaul that would &espouse certain core values of the


5. (SBU) ZANU-PF apparently is not satisfied with a
substantial parliamentary majority that already assures it
full control of the government's legislative agenda. The
legislature's shrinking calendar and growing GOZ preference
for statutory instruments instead of formal legislation may
be driven in part by budgetary constraints and time
sensitivities. Perhaps more significantly, however, it
reflects executive mistrust of an institution that has
constitutional authority to exert an independent, albeit
limited, check on executive power. Certainly, increasing
reliance on S.I.'s is a measure of the Parliament's
increasing marginalization and irrelevance.

6. (SBU) The beleaguered Speaker's reported comments are
notable in at least two respects. First, the overt
partisanship is uncharacteristic in its extremism; since
assuming the speakership, Mnangagwa had generally been
supportive of the institution as a forum for debate and a
place for the opposition, even as he assured the ruling
party's dominant position and control of the agenda at all
times. Mnangagwa had earlier also used the speakership
postion to seek to burnish his personal credentials
nationally and internationally. His latest comments may
reflect the precariousness of his position and his desire to
project a holier-than-thou posture within the party as
corruption investigations against him proceed. In any event,
his comments are consistent with the ruling party's
increasingly evident priority on making Zimbabwe effectively
a one-party state. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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