Pres­i­dent re­jects Bill over Labour Act clause

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Zva­maida Mur­wira Harare Bureau

PRES­I­DENT Mu­gabe has thrown back to Par­lia­ment the Spe­cial Economic Zones Bill af­ter ex­press­ing reser­va­tions on a clause that seeks to sus­pend the Labour Act whose ef­fect would have ex­posed work­ers to se­ri­ous abuse by their em­ploy­ers.

Par­lia­ment will now have to meet again next week to con­sider reser­va­tions ex­pressed by the Head of State.

The Spe­cial Economic Zones Bill be­comes the first pro­posed law to be re­ferred back to Par­lia­ment by the Pres­i­dent dur­ing the life of the Eighth Par­lia­ment.

A fort­night ago, the Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly, Ad­vo­cate Ja­cob Mu­denda, an­nounced in a Gov­ern­ment Gazette that he had sub­mit­ted the Bill to the Pres­i­dent for his assent af­ter it sailed through both the Na­tional Assem­bly and Se­nate.

The Clerk of Par­lia­ment, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, con­firmed that Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe ref­ered the Bill back.

“Yes, the Bill was re­ferred back to Par­lia­ment in terms of Sec­tion 131 (6) of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Par­lia­ment will have to con­sider is­sues raised by the Pres­i­dent when it re­sumes sit­ting. He has a right to do that if he feels that there is some­thing that needs to be con­sid­ered which he has done in re­spect of this Bill. The Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly will no­tify the House of the re­fer­ral and Par­lia­ment will sit on Oc­to­ber 5, 2016 to con­sider the is­sues raised by His Ex­cel­lency the Pres­i­dent,” said Mr Chokuda.

Al­though Mr Chokuda de­clined to di­vulge rea­sons for the re­fer­ral, a re­li­able source said Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe cited sec­tion 56 of the Bill, which he said was not con­sis­tent with sec­tion 65 of the Con­sti­tu­tion as it sought to sus­pend op­er­a­tions of the labour laws in spe­cial economic zones.

Sec­tion 56 of the Bill pro­vides as fol­lows: “The Labour Act [Chap­ter 28:01] and the In­di­geni­sa­tion and Economic Em­pow­er­ment Act [Chap­ter 14:33] shall not ap­ply in re­la­tion to li­censed in­vestors op­er­at­ing in a spe­cial economic zone.”

Sec­tion 65 (1) of the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides; “Ev­ery per­son has the right to fair and safe labour prac­tices and stan­dards and to be paid a fair and rea­son­able wage…(4) Ev­ery em­ployee is en­ti­tled to just, eq­ui­table and sat­is­fac­tory con­di­tions of work.”

“The Pres­i­dent’s rea­sons are very clear. He is clearly safe­guard­ing the in­ter­ests and rights of work­ers. His ar­gu­ment is that the clause that sus­pends the Labour Act is un­con­sti­tu­tional and he has ex­er­cised his power in terms of the law to with­hold his assent on the Bill. The Bill now stands re­ferred to Par­lia­ment in terms of Sec­tion 131 of the Con­sti­tu­tion,” said the source close to the de­vel­op­ments.

Sec­tion 131 (6) of the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides as fol­lows: “When a Bill is pre­sented to the Pres­i­dent for assent and sig­na­ture, he or she must, within twenty-one days, ei­ther:

(a) assent to it and sign it, and then cause it to be pub­lished in the Gazette with­out de­lay; or

(b) if he or she con­sid­ers it to be un­con­sti­tu­tional or has any other reser­va­tions about it, re­fer the Bill back to Par­lia­ment through the Clerk of Par­lia­ment, to­gether with de­tailed writ­ten rea­sons for those reser­va­tions and a re­quest that the Bill be re­con­sid­ered.

The sub­se­quent sub­sec­tion pro­vides for pro­ce­dure to be fol­lowed when a Bill has been re­ferred back to Par­lia­ment.

Sec­tion 131 (7) pro­vides as fol­lows: “Where a Bill has been re­ferred back to Par­lia­ment in terms of sub­sec­tion (6)(b), the Speaker must with­out de­lay con­vene a sit­ting of the Na­tional Assem­bly, which must (a) re­con­sider the Bill and fully ac­com­mo­date the Pres­i­dent’s reser­va­tions; or (b) pass the Bill, with or with­out amend­ments, by a twothirds ma­jor­ity of the to­tal mem­ber­ship of the Na­tional Assem­bly; and in ei­ther case the Speaker must cause the Bill to be pre­sented to the Pres­i­dent with­out de­lay for assent and sig­na­ture and must give pub­lic no­tice of the date on which the Bill was sent to the Pres­i­dent.”

The Con­sti­tu­tion goes on to pro­vide what the Pres­i­dent is obliged to do if not happy with the re­ten­tion of the Bill in the form in which he had re­ferred it back to Par­lia­ment.

Sec­tion 131 (8) pro­vides as fol­lows: “If a Bill that has been pre­sented to the Pres­i­dent in terms of sub­sec­tion (7) fully ac­com­mo­dates the Pres­i­dent’s reser­va­tions, the Pres­i­dent must assent to the Bill and sign it within twen­ty­one days and then cause it to be pub­lished in the Gazette with­out de­lay, but if the Pres­i­dent still has reser­va­tions about the Bill, he or she must within that pe­riod ei­ther-(a) assent to the Bill and sign it, de­spite those reser­va­tions; or (b) re­fer the Bill to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court for ad­vice on its con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity.”

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe

Dr Joice Mu­juru

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