25 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Judgement Reserved On Chombo Case

THE Supreme Court has reserved judgment in a constitutional matter in which Local Government Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo is challenging presentation of a bill to amend the Urban Councils' Act by an individual legislator.

Minister Chombo argues that an amendment to the Constitution of Zimbabwe occasioned by the Global Political Agreement took away the MPs' right to present bills to Parliament and bestowed the responsibility on the Cabinet.

Through his lawyer Mr Terence Hussein of Hussein Ranchod and Company, Minister Chombo argues that only the Cabinet had the responsibility to prepare and present bills to Parliament.

He cites Article 20.1.2 of the new schedule 8 to the Constitution which reads:

"The Cabinet . . . shall have the responsibility to prepare and present to Parliament all such legislation and other instruments as may be necessary to implement the policies and programmes of the national executive..."

In the same Constitution Schedule 4 that existed before Schedule 8 reads:

"Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and Standing Orders, any member of the House of Assembly may introduce a Bill into or move any motion for debate in or present any petition to the House of Assembly . . . "

Minister Chombo argues that the new Schedule 8 takes precedence over Schedule 4 and that the decision by Parliament to act on a Bill presented by private MDC-T legislators in 2011 was not procedural.

He is seeking nullification of the Amendment Bill H.B.5.2011 on that basis.

Minister Chombo said he objected to the presentation of the Bill together with other MPs but it was ignored.

Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma filed opposing papers arguing that the new Schedule relied upon by Minister Chombo only spelt the responsibility of Cabinet but did not bar parliamentarians from presenting the bills.

"The Constitution does not say that the Cabinet is the only one that can introduce Bills to Parliament. The section referred to by the applicant defines the powers of the executive but it does not stop or oust the powers of the Members of Parliament to bring bills to Parliament," read part of the opposing affidavit.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku yesterday reserved judgment in the matter.

Although he did not give a specific date for the ruling, the Chief Justice said it would be delivered before the elections.

Harare lawyer Mr Simplicius Chihambakwe represented Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Clerk of Parliament, Speaker of Parliament and the President of Senate in the court case.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku sat together with Justices Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe, Yunus Omerjee and Lavender Makoni.

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