Scrap­ping Fica Bill would be cat­a­strophic for coun­try

Move would be ir­re­spon­si­ble, Trea­sury warns


THE Na­tional Trea­sury has warned against scrap­ping the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre Amend­ment (Fica) Bill, say­ing it would be highly ir­re­spon­si­ble and dis­as­trous for the coun­try.

This came af­ter a heated meet­ing of the stand­ing com­mit­tee on fi­nance yes­ter­day where the Black Busi­ness Coun­cil (BBC) and the Pro­gres­sive Pro­fes­sion­als Fo­rum (PPF) ex­changed heated ar­gu­ments with the EFF.

Three se­nior coun­sels, in­clud­ing ad­vo­cates Steven Budlen­der, Jeremy Gauntlett and Ish­mael Se­menya, said the Fica Bill was con­sis­tent with the con­sti­tu­tion.

It flew in the face of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s re­jec­tion of the bill, say­ing it would not meet con­sti­tu­tional muster.

How­ever, the three se­nior coun­sels as well as a fourth ad­vo­cate in Par­lia­ment, Frank Jenk­ins, con­tended that the bill was con­sti­tu­tional.

BBC pres­i­dent Danisa Baloyi and Mzwanele Manyi of the PPF said the bill should be thrown out be­cause it was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The meet­ing got heated af­ter EFF MP Floyd Shivambu ques­tioned Sello Rasethaba’s re­marks dur­ing the meet­ing.

Rasethaba, who is a mem­ber of the BBC, was ques­tion­ing the po­si­tion of busi­ness re­gard­ing the bill.

Baloyi said the re­marks made by the lawyers that the bill was in line with the con­sti­tu­tion and the re­al­ity on the ground was that banks had un­fet­tered pow­ers.

“Hav­ing lis­tened to the lawyers… it’s le­gal-speak. But the re­al­ity is that bank ac­counts are be­ing closed. We rep­re­sent 15 or­gan­i­sa­tions and our mem­bers’ ac­counts are closed,” she pointed out.

Manyi said they might even ap­proach the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to have the bill dis­missed. He said the stand­ing com­mit­tee should not con­fine it­self to the sec­tion re­ferred to Par­lia­ment by Zuma for re­con­sid­er­a­tion.

He said the whole bill needed to be scrapped, but mem­bers of the com­mit­tee said this would not hap­pen.

In his let­ter to Par­lia­ment, Zuma said the in­sti­tu­tion must look at the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of searches con­ducted with­out war­rants.

But Manyi was adamant that the bill in its en­tirety was prob­lem­atic and had to be scrapped.

Na­tional Trea­sury deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral Is­mail Momo­niat warned that scrap­ping the bill would be dis­as­trous for the coun­try.

He said it was clear from the le­gal opin­ion pre­sented by the three se­nior coun­sels that the bill was con­sti­tu­tional.

It would have been use­ful for the BBC and PPF to also present a le­gal opin­ion on the bill, he said.

Mo­mo­miat added that it was im­por­tant for all the stake­hold­ers to un­der­stand the con­se­quences of scrap­ping the bill be­cause there seemed to be a lot of mis­un­der­stand­ing.

In terms of the bill, he said South Africa would have to meet its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions in fight­ing the fi­nanc­ing of ter­ror­ism and money laun­der­ing.

‘NOT AN OP­TION’: Trea­sury di­rec­tor-gen­eral Is­mail Momo­niat warned that scrap­ping the bill would be dis­as­trous for the coun­try.

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