President rejects Bill over Labour Act clause
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.”
Dr Joice Mujuru