The National Security Council Bill was gazetted Monday afternoon in a Government Gazette Extraordinary though it is not clear how the parties will get around Constitutional Obstacles to fast-tracking the Bill.
There is a general expectation that the Bill will be fast tracked, but according to the Constitution, all Bills (except Constitutional Bills) have to be referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for examination for consistency with the Constitution immediately after the first reading of the Bill and the Bill cannot proceed until the Legal Committee gives the go-ahead.
This committee has not yet been appointed by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, which itself has not been set up. Some members of this Standing Rules and Orders Committee have to be voted for by the House of Assembly and by the Senate, separately.
Other members are ex officio, including the Prime Minister and several Ministers, but these have also not yet been appointed.
Content of the gazetted Bill itself differs considerably from the draft Bill which the MDC-T put forward. In the MDC draft the composition included the President, the Prime Minister, the two Vice-Presidents, the two Deputy Prime Ministers, the chairperson of the Public Service Commission, the Ministers of Defence and Home Affairs, and three other Ministers nominated by the parties to the Inter-party Agreement.
In the gazetted version the President is chairperson, with mebers, the two Vice-Presidents, the Prime Minister, the two Deputy Prime Ministers, the Ministers responsible for Finance, the Defence Forces and the Police Force, one Minister nominated by each of the three political parties participating in the Interparty Political Agreement.
In addition to these Cabinet members, the Council includes the Minister of State in the Presidents’ Office responsible for National Security, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, the Chief Secretary to the Prime Minister (an appointment made by the President), the Commander of the Defence Forces, the Commanders of the Army and Air Force, the Commissioner-General of Police, the Commissioner of Prison and the Director General of the Department of State for National Security.
This is a much larger Council than MDC envisaged and instead of being fairly evenly balanced according to known party affiliation, it is heavily weighted in favour of declared ZANU-PF supporters, includingthose who said they would not salute and MDC President and whose responsible for torture and disappearence of opposition activists.
In the MDC draft the Council would be responsible for overseeing the security services and directing their operations, but in the gazetted bill, it will be responsible for reviewing national policies on defence, law and order, and recommending or directing appropriate action.
In the MDC draft the President or, in his or her absence, the Prime Minister calls the meeting and chairs the meetings and the Council would meet at least once every two weeks, with decisions made with the concurrence of at least five of its members, including the President and the Prime Minister:
Disagreements would be referred to the Cabinet.
But in the gazetted bill the President calls the meeting and chairs the meetings and in his absence it would be a Vice President as acting President, with decisions by consensus.
In the MDC Draftt he commanders of the security services shall, notwithstanding any other law report to the Council at such intervals and on such matters as the Council may direct; promptly carry out every lawful order or direction the Council may give them; and fully comply with every lawful decision of the Council that is applicable to their services.
This was omitted from the gazetted Bill entirely.